Instant noodle bowls are always fun to look at, aren’t they? For a product that prides itself on simplicity of cooking, those marketers do put in a lot of effort into suggesting ways to turn your sixty cent cup of noodles and salt into a five star bowl. The slice of hardboiled egg, the pieces of chicken or beef, the shrimp that hasn’t been shelled for some reason, the slice of pork loin. Look, if I have the time or energy to hard boil an egg or cook up some chicken or some pork, I’m probably going to be eating better than the bowl of rice noodles that took three minutes steeping in boiling water. In fact, I might throw out the noodles and just eat the pork loin.
Now I love bean noodles, or “cellophane noodles” as some of you know them, and not just because I’m a guy and they share the same color and consistency of boogers. Mung Noodles are made from starch, in this case bean starch, and are great for a variety of dishes such as stir fry, hot soups, and strangling your annoying neighbor. What they can’t be used for is poisoning your annoying neighbor with the gluten allergy, since mung noodles are gluten-free. They also contain zero fat and cholesterol and 140 calories per cup, as well as 25mg of sodium, or less than 1% of your daily recommended amount. Mung noodles are great as a low-carb, zero fat alternative to angel hair pasta, and you will be the talk of the town once they hear about your interest in crazy ethnic diets.
Crystal Noodle is a brand of instant noodles by Long Kow Foods, specializing in freeze-dried offerings that are low in fat, gluten-free, and contain zero-added MSG (not to be confused with no MSG), and I have the feeling that some of you have already changed the channel. Two of their bowls, Mushroom and Sesame Paste, were recently listed as discontinued in my local Wegmans store, so I just had to pick them up and see how these products were so good that apparently no one was buying them. First case, price. Both of these bowls cost $1.29 each, and that is after they were discounted 50% due to the discontinued label. $2.58 is expensive in the world of instant noodles, where bowls are practically given away to anyone willing to stock up. Quality doesn’t mean a whole lot when your major market means pandering to college students who don’t have a lot of money because they spent it on booze and weed, and need something cheap and easy to cook while drunk and baked.
The Spicy Sesame Paste from Crystal Noodle is, at its heart, miso soup with bean noodles. The ingredient list is made up of a lot of powders (garlic, onion, etc), pastes, spices, and starches. Our friends at Food Facts gave the product an F rating, noting the presence of MSG (naturally occurring), soy sauce, yeast extract, disodium guanylate, and disodium insolate. They also applaud the dish for containing low calories, low cholesterol, naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, being an excellent source of Vitamin A and fiber, and low in saturated fat. There is, however, the added sugar, controversial ingredients, and high sodium. Spicy Sesame Paste contains two servings of 560mg of sodium each, or 46% your daily recommendation if you eat the whole thing.
As a dish, this is pretty tasty. If you like miso soup, you will be right at home here. The bowl is chock full of bok choy (Chinese cabbage) and small chunks of other vegetables. It isn’t so spicy that you’ll need a glass of water, but you’ll feel a tingle in the back of your throat. The bok choy is freeze dried and maintains a small bit of crunch, although it is rather typical of what you’d expect from a vegetable packet. If you haven’t had a chance to try this dish out, I wholeheartedly recommend doing so before they are no longer available (assuming Crystal Noodle is completely discontinuing it).
This has no bearing on the product, but as a side note when I added the boiling water to the bowl, the plastic shrunk or melted or something down the middle, leading to the image you see below. I have never seen this happen in any other instant noodle, including the other Crystal Noodle soups I’ve purchased before, and it looks rather bizarre.
I give Crystal Noodle’s Spicy Sesame Paste a 4/5. I’ll be sad to see it go, especially since it is so cheap.