When it comes to availability, no other instant ramen can compete with Sapporo Ichiban that’s sold at most American grocery stores. It’s also affordable: Take the Original Soy Sauce Flavor, the most basic version that costs less than a dollar per package, which has made it a mainstay in my pantry just in case I need a quick noodle fix.
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So it's no surprise that when Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef announced his foray into the instant ramen market, he partnered with Sapporo Ichiban. The first release features two broth flavors: Tokyo Chicken and Tonkotsu, which is a broth cooked with pork bone and aromatics.
I tasted both to see if they were worth seeking out.
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What Is Sapporo Ichiban Momosan Ramen?
Chef Masaharu Morimoto shot to fame as a contestant on Japanese cooking show Iron Chef in the late 90s and soon afterwards appeared on its spinoff Iron Chef America, which elevated his name to celebrity status. From there, the Nobu alum has built a restaurant empire which spans across major cities in the United States and even around the world.
Among his restaurants, the Momosan brand specializes in ramen and two of their signature ramens are Tokyo Chicken and Tonkotsu, which is how the instant ramen varieties came about.
The Momosan-branded instant ramen (available in two flavors, Tokyo Chicken and Tonkotsu) costs about $3 per package, which sounds like a bargain compared to the restaurant version of the same noodles that go for $16 per bowl at its Boston location.
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Is Instant Momosan Ramen Any Good?
Well, it depends what you compare it with. Unlike most mainstream instant noodles such as Maruchan and Indomie Mi Goreng, the Momosan noodles aren’t fried. They don’t curl up as much like telephone cords; when cooked, they don’t get mushy and are chewier than cheap instant noodles. They’re somewhere in between cheap, structureless instant ramen and the handcrafted, artisanal kind: They have a tiny bit of a bite but are still not spring-y enough to compare with freshly made noodles.
The seasoning comes in two packets, one being a powdered mixture of MSG, onion powder, soup powder, and speckles of dehydrated scallions. The other packet contains “seasoned oil” that smells and tastes like toasted sesame oil. Mix the powder with hot water or “noodle water” (my preferred route), and voilà—you have a quick ramen broth.
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Here are some detailed notes from tasting each broth.
- Tokyo Chicken. The Tokyo Chicken has a clear broth, similar to a shio broth typically flavored with salt. It’s thin, lightly sweet, and has notes of caramelized onion in the most subtle way possible. The specks of dehydrated spring onions add a bit of texture and complexity to the soup base. The savory, salinity-forward broth is comforting, which reminds me of oden dashi but less complex.
- Tonkotsu. This one was my favorite of the two, but I’m biased because I always gravitate towards thicker and creamier tonkotsu-style broth. It carries a flavor profile reminiscent of the ramen shop version but lacks the depth and richness of a tonkotsu broth simmered for a day over the stove. This can be quickly improved by adding a dash of milk (or even better, mayo) to the broth.
For toppings—the easiest way to level-up your instant noodles!—consider adding soy-marinated eggs (or any soft-cooked egg). The jammy yolk adds texture to the broth, contrasting with the chewy noodles; the lightly sweet, mirin–soy sauce marinade can help balance the salty broth. Freshly chopped spring onions, bean sprouts, and nori are nice toppings, too.
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The Final Verdict
So, is Sapporo Ichiban Momosan Ramen any good? Yes and no.
- SKIP the Tokyo Chicken. The broth reminds me too much of the chicken flavored Cup Noodle I used to have in college, which makes it hard to justify the inflated price.
- BUY the Tonkotsu. For $3 a bag, the Tonkotsu version does a better job mimicking an expensive bowl of ramen.