Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Volume 5, Number 28: Ramen Ramblings

I discovered ramen noodles a little over 20 years ago. I don't remember for sure why I tried them, but I suspect the reason was that I was looking for something with microwave cooking directions on it (so I could cook it myself and thus not have to hassle my mother; also, I strongly preferred using the microwave for cooking back in those days).

I don't know what attracts me to them more--the texture of the noodles, or the fact that a package of ramen costs less than a postage stamp. Anyway, I like them so much that, for the past 10 years, I have had them every Saturday afternoon for lunch (long story short, it's become a personal tradition).

What really surprises me is that there isn't a great deal of variety in flavors for ramen noodles. The most commonplace flavors, by far, are "chicken" and "beef", followed by pork, shrimp and "oriental" (which is this sort of soy/gingery flavor I could never understand).

Maruchan (one of the top ramen noodle manufacturers in the world) makes several other flavors:
  • Lime Shrimp (my undisputed favorite, and not easy to come by)
  • Roast Chicken (I like it better than the regular chicken flavor)
  • Roast Beef (I also like this better than the regular beef flavor)
  • Mushroom (I hate mushrooms)
  • Creamy Chicken (tried it, didn't like it)
  • Curry Chicken (curry = too spicy)
  • Picante Beef (picante = too spicy)
OK, I just named 12 flavors. Why is that not a wide enough variety of flavors?

I'll tell you why: Because I've imagined ramen noodles in other flavors (especially "fast foods," which college students also like). Ideas:
  • Pizza (Maruchan could base this off their discontinued Tomato flavor; mix in some spices and some "cheese" and "beef" elements and you might have something)
  • Lemon chicken (hey, adding lime to the shrimp flavor worked so well for Maruchan, so adding lemon to either the Roast Chicken or regular Chicken flavor would rock)
  • Pepper steak (inspired by another discontinued soup, Campbell's Chunky Pepper Steak--use a "green pepper"-like flavoring instead of that ultra-spicy stuff they put in the Picante Beef flavor packet)
  • Cheeseburger (college students like burgers, too)
  • Roast Turkey (hey, it's poultry like chicken; they have chicken gravy and turkey gravy, and there's chicken-flavor ramen noodles but no turkey-flavor ramen)
  • Taco (I realize Maruchan does have a "Beef Taco" flavor in their Yakisoba noodle line--I've already tried it; the trouble is, it was too darn spicy--just cut back the spices and add a "cheddar cheese" flavoring to the flavor packet and that might be a winner, too)
  • Fried Chicken (I'd like ramen noodles that taste like either KFC's blend of herbs and spices, or Zehnder's--that's a fried chicken restaurant in Frankenmuth, Michigan that I haven't been to in 20 years)
  • Orange Chicken
  • Sweet & Sour Chicken
  • BBQ Chicken
  • Sweet & Sour Pork
  • BBQ Pork
  • BBQ Beef
  • Prawn cocktail (they have prawn cocktail-flavored potato chips in the United Kingdom, so prawn cocktail-flavored ramen noodles can't be that much of a stretch)
  • Lobster (Ty Ling used to make this flavor before withdrawing from the ramen noodle market several years ago)
  • Crab (another flavor Ty Ling made, but no longer)
A quick update on my previous blog entry: I'm starting to like Meijer's Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. M. I had given it the "thumbs down" because I thought it tasted like cough syrup, but the last 2-3 cans I've had tasted a lot better. Maybe I'm getting used to the taste, or maybe something was wrong with just the first 2 cans out of the 12-pack I bought. I don't know.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Volume 5, Number 27: Holy Crap--More Reviews!

Following are diet soda reviews, followed by reviews of the TV shows I was looking forward to in an earlier entry:
  • Diet Faygo Chocolate Cream Pie: Thumbs down. I tried it because it's a flavor Coke and Pepsi don't make. I do see the appeal for dessert-flavored diet sodas--anytime you feel like a certain dessert, just take a swig of this stuff instead--but it just didn't blow me away as either a diet soda or a diet dessert. That means it lands alongside the spork and the XFL as things that are jacks of two trades, but masters of neither.
  • Diet Faygo 60/40: Thumbs up! Finally, a Faygo diet soda that I like! "60/40" is Faygo's version of Squirt, one of my all-time favorite sodas (and Faygo's regular version was also a favorite of mine). This time, the flavor blends well with the aspartame. (The "60/40" refers to the grapefruit/lime flavor--60% grapefruit, 40% lime.)
  • Diet Faygo Rock & Rye: Thumbs down. The regular version one of my favorite Faygo flavors. The aftertaste of the diet version, however, wasn't to my liking. (For those of you living outside Michigan who are asking just what "rock & rye" is--This blog does a decent job of explaining it. But I always say, "Like anything else, you have to taste it before you can decide whether or not you like it.")
  • Sam's Cola Zero Calorie: Thumbs up. You read correctly--I actually liked this better than Coke Zero (but I still like the Cherry and Vanilla Coke Zero's better than this one). I liked the taste, I liked how it went down, and most importantly, it didn't have much of an aftertaste. But it isn't going to win the Diet Soda Federation Inter-cola-nental Championship; that title belongs to Coke Vanilla Zero.
  • Diet Dr. Pepper: Thumbs up. Even though I wish they'd try the aspartame/acesulfame potassium blend instead of just aspartame, the aftertaste isn't bad at all and the taste is close enough to regular Dr. Pepper that I can buy this one again.
  • Diet Meijer Cherry Vanilla Dr. M: Thumbs down. I was hoping this one would be good because Dr. Pepper is among my favorite sodas; thing is, Dr. Pepper stopped making their Cherry Vanilla version in early 2009. So I was happy to see that Meijer (a local supermarket chain) was still making a Diet Cherry Vanilla version of their Dr. Pepper knockoff, in a rare case of the store brand making the "knockoff" even after the "national brand" stopped making the "original". I tried it, and while there wasn't much of an aftertaste, the taste reminded me... of cough medicine. Luden's Cough Drops is my guess. I'm going to try mixing it with Diet Dr Pepper and let you know what I find out in a future blog entry. But just on its own--sorry, no can do.
  • Diet Faygo Cream Soda: Thumbs up. The aftertaste from the aspartame is muted by the flavor of this cream soda (which, incidentally, is different from the flavor of A&W's Vanilla Cream Soda--not as strong, more refreshing taste).
Evidently, my favorite diet sodas have one of four flavors: Vanilla, grapefruit, Dr. Pepper-flavor (no cherry) or root beer.

Now. On to TV show reviews:
  • Detroit 1-8-7: Thumbs up. I still miss Life On Mars and like Michael Imperioli as Det. Ray Carling in that show better than as Det. Louis Fitch in Detroit 187, but I tend to agree with those who say it's the best cop show since Homicide: Life on the Street (an NBC series from the '90s).
  • S*#! My Dad Says: Thumbs down. It has its moments, but for the most part, it feels like "just another shitcom" with only one or two of the crankier and wiser pre-Baby Boom grandfather's wisecracks. I wanted more of him railing about the mess-ups of the Baby Boom and subsequent generations, especially those of his son; and furthermore, as much as William Shatner's improved over the years, when I read those wisecracks on Twitter, I always imagine either Christopher Lloyd or Harvey Keitel reading them, not Shatner.
  • Outsourced: Thumbs down. I made two mistakes: One was fearing that the writers, producers and directors of this show would make light of Corporate America outsourcing customer service jobs to India (thank goodness that didn't happen). The other was expecting them to not make the Indian characters look dumb (which, sadly, they did--the "no, this is Detroit, home of automobiles and black people" bit was one example, and the "Don't You Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me" bit just turned me off altogether). For Pete's sake, India has its share of engineers and doctors and I would have liked to have seen at least one Indian character who was only working in that customer service job because he was deemed either "underexperienced" or "overqualified" for the job he really wanted. Outsourced also resorts to using American pop culture as a crutch source for jokes, and to a greater degree than most "shitcoms" (the series is set at a company that sells novelties such as Green Bay Packer cheesehead hats, fake vomit, and so on). Hopefully this show will be cancelled quickly and NBC won't even consider outsourcing all its other sitcom jobs to India.
  • No Ordinary Family: Thumbs up. It is shaping up to be Life Goes On meets Fantastic Four*--Michael Chiklis (who played The Thing in both Fantastic Four films and starred in The Shield and The Commish before that) is the dad who can catch bullets, is darn near indestructible and can make huge leaps; his wife has super speed (although I didn't think she would be so crazy as to go running on the freeway); their daughter can read minds; and their son (who supposedly has some learning disability) has turned into a genius. I particularly loved the scenes where Chiklis' character tests his powers. I'm not so sure I would have introduced super-powered bad guys so soon in the series--I would have spent more time establishing the conflicts among the family members and their internal conflicts, and hey, I hope at least one episode deals with the property damage Chiklis' character has been causing--but yes, I'm interested in seeing where this series takes me. May ABC's execs not mess with it the way NBC's execs did with Heroes.
Update on the "Healthy Foods Fund": Since I resolved back on August 3 to cut out spending on junk food, I have saved $17.86 (roughly speaking, that's about 30 cents a day, but stretch that out to a year and I will have saved over $100 at that rate). My weight this morning was 179 pounds. (I feel like it's been hovering around 180 for some time, and I still have room for improvement, but I still believe that I can continue to lose weight; anyway, 179 is such a huge improvement over 191, after years of letting my weight creep up.)