Saturday, October 22, 2016

Nissin UFO Squid Noodles and Nissin UFO Salty Pork

I tried two kinds of Nissin UFO bowl noodles recently.  One was a squid flavour from China, and the other was a salty pork noodle from Japan.  Unlike your regular instant noodle bowl, UFO bowl noodles come in flattened bowls which look like the pie pan shaped UFOs of popular lore.

Nissin UFO Squid Noodles
If you wished for seafood, you'll get that in spades in this bowl of noodles.  These noodles are from Nissin China and are part of their UFO line of noodle bowls.  Nissin is a big company with many subsidiaries in many countries.  Chinese versions of their products seem to be closer to Japanese tastes than in many other countries from my experience.  The company does localize flavours, ingredients, and even the texture of the noodles.
Nice gold foil lid is clearly revealed after you peal off the plastic layer.  Before, the bottom and side were coloured a pale blue from the plastic wrap.
Another view.
The ingredients and directions in Chinese.
Once I peeled the foil lid to the plastic bowl back, a very pungent, fishy aroma wafted out.  Pretty amazing considering that everything was sealed.  If you're used to these aromas, then you're going to find it tasty, if not, it might be overwhelming. 
There were 4 items inside the plastic bowl other than the noodles block.
Inside the bowl where a teeny fork, a package of freeze dried vegetables, a small package of mayonnaise, and a generous package of the squid sauce.
  1. When you open the lid, you only open it half-way or a little less.  
  2. Then you open up the package of dehydrated veggies and sprinkle them in.  
  3. Now you pour in boiling water and let it sit for 3 minutes or so with the lid closed down.  
  4. Then you peel back the foil lid a little bit on the opposite side that you opened.  It will reveal an area that lets water drain out between some plastic tines built into the noodle bowl.  This isn't as nice a method as the one on the Japanese version I'll review below as more veggies could flow out with the water.  These UFO noodles are lo mein or just sauce with noodles and no soup.
  5. Once all the water is drained you open the sauce packet and squeeze the sauce on top.  What I do is then close the lid again and shake the noodles around with the sauce to mix it up.  I think it is easier than trying to stir.
  6. Now you can take the lid off completely and stir it some more.  The mayonnaise can then be added now and the noodles are ready to eat.
Looks good, but the presentation is always a little messy with the mixing of the noodles with the sauce.
These noodles were rounder in cross-section than the regular noodles from cup noodle and a little thinner, but I think they were denser and a little chewier.  They were good noodles.  The dried ingredients like carrot, green onion, and cabbage added some color to the dish.  The flavour of the sauce was fishy with a squid flavour undertone.  I enjoyed it but I think you need to be seafood fan for this.  I know I wouldn't mind have this once in awhile, but not a one of my go to ramen.

Nissin UFO Salty Pork Noodle Bowl
This is an anniversary edition of a salty (shio) pork flavour instant ramen bowl.  The Japanese packaging is usually fancier than the foreign editions of nissin noodles, but the price point is also higher in Japan.  UFO bowl noodles are not a soup noodle, and they are a yakisoba style noodle where it is noodles mixed with sauce only.

Very attractive packaging, with the golden noodles showing on a brilliant dark blue background.  The plastic wrap around the bowl is the branded packaging.
Bottom of the bowl.  You can see the wraparound packaging is done nicely all over.
Once you peel off the packaging you have a very plain white noodle bowl and a foil lid that is very utilitarian.  It is covered in directions and a packet of spices.
A styrofoam bowl versus the plastic bowl in the noodle reviewed just above.

There was just one sauce packet inside the bowl and the meat and veggies were already mixed in with the circular noodle block.
Directions to make the noodles:
  1. THIS IS IMPORTANT.  Open the lid half-way or a little less from the side opposite the black label.   
  2. Now you pour in boiling water and let it sit for 3 minutes or so with the lid closed down.  
  3. Peel back the black label on the opposite side that you opened.  It will reveal a drainage area with round holes in it.  The holes let the water out, but not the noodles or freeze dried ingredients.
  4. Once all the water is drained you open the sauce packet and squeeze the sauce on top.  Close the lid again and shake the noodles around with the sauce to mix it up.  I think it is easier than trying to stir.
  5. Now you can take the lid off completely and stir it some more.  The noodles are now ready to eat.
Cool drain reveal
The shaking scatters stuff around, but mixes the sauce and the noodles well.  I then sprinkled the black and chili pepper spice mix on top for some added zip.
These noodles were rounder and thinner than what was found in the regular cup noodles.  I think these noodles have a chewier or firmer texture and they are pretty nice to eat.  The sauce was relatively mild and I think there was a bit of garlic to it along with salt.  The two kinds of black and chili peppers added a little heat to jazz up the flavour profile nicely.  The dehydrated pork was in little sliced bits, not like the blocks of ground pork in the cup noodles.  This was an interesting change (wish there was more pork), but it went nicely with the more generous amounts of cabbage (a fried yakisoba staple).  Eating these noodles was no chore at all and I'm glad I have another one of these in the cupboard to enjoy a little later. 
You can see the pork pieces and cabbage up close here.

More Japanese pop culture and ramen posts

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pokemon Go and Seeing the World Around You

I have to say that I probably don't get out as much in the evenings after working all day.  One of best things about Pokemon Go is that it did get me out of the house more and I went to places that I would not normally go in the evening just to catch Pokemon.  I wandered around Princes Island Park in Calgary in the evening, saw some great cityscapes, and saw the University of Alberta Campus and the Provincial Legislature at night when things are lit up.  The multi-coloured fountains north of the legislature are pretty fantastic and the building itself is very nicely illuminated.  I didn't know the legislature had stained glass windows too, but I do now.  Buildings you saw during the day might have been dull, but they take on a new life when lit at night.

Click here to see my post about the best Pokemon Go Locations for Calgary and Edmonton.

Calgary Skyline from Princes Island at night
So, it is true, hunting pokemon in augmented reality is fun with side-benefits like seeing your city and getting fit by walking to hatch eggs.  Also, when I visit Tokyo next, I'll definitely be visiting parks like Shinjuku Goyen in Tokyo to see if I can get the Japan only Farfetched and the Pokemon Center Stores there will be also some pokestops I have to hit.  And when in Paris, you'll need to catch a Mr. Mime.
Princes Island Lagoon in the afternoon
Princes Island Lagoon at dusk
Peace Bridge in Calgary
Alberta Legislature late in the afternoon
The big fountain at the Legislature
These fountains light up at night and are pretty cool.
University of Alberta Science building.  Is that a prehistoric pokemon plesiosaur?
Theatres at the U of A lit up a night.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mini-Shrines in Tokyo

Depending where you are in Tokyo it can look either traditional with old narrow streets or very modern with skyscrapers and gleaming sidewalks.  One of the things I like about the city and Japan in general is the mix of both tradition and modern in everyday surroundings.  Walk around the corner and you meet a samurai and a businessman in a suit talking to each other.  Just kidding, the samurai is probably a cosplayer, but you get my meaning.

In some very modern surroundings, you can find Shinto or Buddhist shrines tucked in inconspicuous locations.  You could almost walk by them or not know that they were there if you weren't looking for them.  Often, the shrines have been moved from their original location, especially if you find that they are on the rooftop of a new building.  It kind of reminds me of Hong Kong where you can also find little shrines to the prosperity gods tucked in an alley or in a corner of the lobby of a modern skyscraper.

Here are a few of these little shrines I saw on my last trip to Tokyo. 

Yuraku Inari Shrine in Yurakucho near Yurakucho Station
This is a tiny Shinto shrine tucked in behind some utility building.
From a distance
A little closer.
The foxes are a dead give away of a Shinto shrine.
A Shrine on the Street in Omotesando
Was just walking by and saw this tucked in on a corner.  I didn't get any details.  There was another one like this on the main street outside the Shinagawa Prince Hotel where I was staying too.  It was like big building, shop front, shop front, shrine, shop front, pachinko parlour, parking lot...

Rooftop of the Matsuya Department Store
It was pouring rain and I was in a sheltered spot on the department store roof where I could rest in some nice chairs.  This would have been a rooftop cafe on a nicer day, but it was pretty empty.  There was a big bank of vending machines, and this Shinto shrine across from them (komainu, lion-dog guardians, much like the lion guardians found in Buddhist shrines).  These shrines are there to bring good fortune to the business and they can represent some other event too, like being spared from fire or earthquake, etc.
A very nice shrine in appearance.
Shrine On The Roof of the Aqua City Mall in Odaiba
This is a dramatically situated little shrine with its red picket fence and view of the Fuji TV Building behind it.  Very cool to see this shrine here on a man-made island on top of a mall.
Very well defined, small grounds.
This is a pretty good blog post about rooftop shrines I found.

More Japan Pop Culture Posts

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Future Battlefield, Tanks Versus Aliens, Excerpt From HARM

I just posted an excerpt from my short story HARM, which is about the first combat use of a HARM (Humanoid Assault Reconnaissance Machine) mech against the alien Blue Newts.  The story is about the final production prototype machine being sent in to support a company of conventional battle tanks and infantry to stop an enemy advance.  I have a short story, a novella, and a novel all set in this same Exocrisis Blue universe.  For more information, please visit my Publications Page.
Photo by kanegen.  Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.
In this scene I wanted to show how conventional forces could fight advanced alien war machines.  The conventional forces are composed of main battle tanks, quadrapedal combat walking robots, and powered infantry.  There is no air support as the anti-aircraft lasers used by the aliens have been very effective.  In fact, the pilot of the mech which shows up too late to affect the battle was a shot down close air support pilot.  I was aiming for realism with extrapolated tech on both sides of the battle. 

Follow this link to read the excerpt over at my writing site. 

Nissin UFO Garlic Black Pepper Instant Yaskisoba

I finally had a chance to sit down and enjoy this very garlicky yakisoba fried noodle from Nissin.  Nissin has a line of UFO yakisoba noodles which replicate the fresh fried yakisoba noodle experience.  Yakisoba is usually fried in a pan or hot plate with fresh ingredients like cabbage (a must) and mixed thoroughly with a sauce then served on a plate.  I usually having their instant ramen, but I'm trying their yakisoba noodles which are slightly thicker and chewier.  These noodles are called UFO as their original packaging resembled the pie pan type UFO shape, but Garlic Black Pepper Yakisoba I'm trying is part of their Big line which comes in larger rectangular boxes.
Very nice packaging.  Looks really tasty.  Nice bright bold yellow and black colours.  Notice the word Garlic at the top in a ghostly white print.  I like the cartoon drawing of a pepper mill and a head of garlic at the top too.
Angle shot of box.
Look at the black pepper on noodles.
A look at the bottom of the package. Almost looks like some kind of survival kit or something with the bright yellow and black.
Making the yakisoba is similar to their instant ramen.  You lift one corner of the lid, pour in boiling water up to the fill line, then let it sit for 4-5 minutes (longer to have it less al-dente).  You then drain it out of the black tab in the opposite corner.  Lifting the tab reveals a series of drain holes for the you to pour all of the water out without losing the freeze-dried ingredients and noodles. You can then lift the lid and empty the sauce packet in.  You can then shut the lid again and gently shake the noodles a bit to spread the sauce around.  You then peel off the top, give the noodles a final stir, and then shake the black pepper packet on top.  Voila, garlic and black pepper yakisoba with cabbage and pork.
Closeup of the plastic wrap packaging.
Once you remove the plastic wrap you see the foil lid underneath with the preparation directions.  They pack a lot of print on here.  A little packet of pepper is glued to the top.
You basically peal the top back starting at the 1 all the way to the 2 line.
You can see the big block of noodles inside.  Make sure you remove the black packet of garlic sauce inside before filling it with boiling water.  When I first opened the box there was a strong smell of fried noodles.
The resulting mix of sauce and pepper with the cabbage and pieces of pork.
The yakisoba was actually quite tasty with an aroma of garlic and pepper.  The garlic sauce was pretty garlicky, so if you have a loved one, make sure you both eat garlic, or you're persona non grata.  I kind of wish there was a little more cabbage, but I would definitely have this again (good thing too as I have another package for later).

More Ramen and Japanese Pop Culture Posts