Saturday, February 25, 2012

Instant Yakisoba - Old Vs. New: Peyoung And JanJan

Without hesitation I would say that I'm a huge instant yakisoba noodles fan. Those shrink-wrapped rectangular containers where you drain out the water then flavor your cheap textured limp noodles with even cheaper flavored sauce. Most come with dried green laver (Aonori) or some sort of furikake, while in the last couple decades also commonly seen with an additional packet of mayo, often spiked with hot mustard or wasabi.

In Japan this instant noodle subgenre is known as "Cup Yakisoba." I love most all of them in its unapologetic junk foodness cheap flavor. Was a quick form of sustenance after a long afternoon of soccer practice in Junior High, or probably more often had as a snack that would tie my chubby arse appetite between the evening hours when school was out and actual dinner. Till this day a 3PM snack given the choice of it against a bag of ruffled potato chips wouldn't be a competition. Maybe only next to an instant Tanuki Soba that is topped with fake tempura cracker-disk... But I digress.

We're lucky to get a few brands to choose from here, usually a little over two-bucks when on sale. But the O.G. classic known to most Japanese is Maruka Shokuhin's Peyoung Sauce Yakisoba (ペヤングソースやきそば). Check out the special site for a factory tour.

Love the older vacuum formed plastic container with not so efficient drainage eyelets that you need to fold back individually. This was the norm before those fancy perforated laminate ply. It may be hard to get a sense of scale but this here Chou-Oomori (超大盛) extra large portion is the size of a phone book in all dimensions, containing two whole serving bricks of their standard Yakisoba Big laid side to side.

Comes with a larger packet of liquid yakisoba sauce, freeze-dried ingredients (mostly cabbage with few bits of mystery meats), small packet of savory Furikake sprinkles and another of a special spice blend.

I actually tend to prefer the taste of a dry powder sauced which is probably against the mainstream as the liquid variety are generally deemed as "better quality." But I like how the powder absorbs excess moisture, post hot water drainage. A soggy, diluted tasting cup yakisoba is never good eats.

I agree with Mr. Tontantin's assessment with Peyoung and gotta say the brand's milder but nuanced flavors that include the double sprinkle of furikake and their peppery blend is the always comforting, perfected balance of sweet, savory and spice that have passed the test of time. I'd love to keep a stock of them in my pantry but at the moment aren't part of the standard offerings at our local Japanese/Asian supermarkets.

On the other hand the popular Nissin's U.F.O. usually is. (An older commercial starring the '70's smash hit pop duo Pink Lady below.) The sauce in Nissin U.F.O. heavily leans on the sweeter yakisoba spectrum but the product overall of decent quality that I wouldn't mind picking up more than a few if ever on sale. But on to the new...

JanJan by Ace Cook (エースコック) is the relatively newer kid on the block. Tontantin's youtube review here.

Aside from the shape of the cup, the biggest gimmick they claim are the noodles where some sauce is actually kneaded into for a supposed more overall robust flavor.

The freeze-dried ingredients are contained within, a la Cup Noodles style. A packet of liquid sauce and some coarse ground black pepper accompanies.

I found the effects of the pre-flavored noodles to be surprisingly ineffective and was a bit disappointed. The sauce was flavored sweeter but probably not as sweet as U.F.O.

Was a good amount of mystery meat nuggets, very similar to ones found in Cup Noodle. The most memorable part was how well the coarse ground black pepper went with, a nice touch. But that, I have an entire grinder bottle at home and so doesn't really add to the value of the product much if you would ask me. But I'm thankful for the inspiration.

I did notice the shape of the container helping in retaining the noodle's heat which I would believe was at least one of the design's intention. But the downside to it was that it tends to collect (and doesn't dissipate) excess moisture. The meal was rather soggy and I'm guessing why the effects of the flavored noodles were mostly canceled out.

Was fun to try them both though, especially getting to revisit the nostalgic flavors of Peyoung. I thought JanJan could benefit from including both a liquid and powder sauce as how some manufactures offers theirs. That way you get the best of both junk flavor worlds.


K and S said...

great review!

caninecologne said...

Very thorough post! Interesting to know about these types of noodles. I remember first trying instant noodles back in the mid 70's. it was such a "treat" back then. it was rare for my mom to buy "convenience" foods since we mostly ate homecooked meals.

i liked how you slipped in that video of "pink lady"! blast from the past!