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Review: Rilakkuma Instant Noodle Cooker

When I joined Weight Watchers nearly a month ago, I told myself that despite the fact that I might lose weight slower, there were a couple of things that I just couldn’t give up. One of those things was ramen. Now, growing up, I had no idea what the heck “ramen” was because in my house, we just called it saimin.

Eventually, when I reached my mid-twenties, I learned that saimin is a dish local to Hawaii with a milder soup base and moderately thick noodles. While there are dozens and dozens of Japanese ramen shops around the island of Oahu, there are also saimin shops and believe it or not, despite both looking almost exactly the same they are distinctly different and one can sometimes have a craving for saimin, but not ramen and vice versa.

If you want ramen, you go to places like Ezogiku, Kiwami, Tenkaippin, or Goma Tei. If you want saimin, you go to Zippy’s, Boulevard Saimin, or Shiro’s Saimin Haven.

Rilakkuma Ramen Cooker

Since I am the unofficial Queen of Bento Box Hoarders, I find myself browsing other parts of J-List for things to use up my credit on. For some reason, I decided I wanted to try this Rilakkuma Microwave Instant Noodle Cooker, even though I am extremely anti-microwave when it comes to instant ramen. I suspect once when I was a kid I tried it and it tasted horrible, because I can’t recall ever having eaten a microwaved bowl of instant ramen in the last 20 years or so. You couldn’t pay me to eat a Cup-O-Noodles.

Actually, I guess I could force myself to eat one if the reward was right, but I’d bitch and moan about how disgusting it was for at least a few weeks afterwards.

Sapporo Ichiban

It’s quite possible that me and my whole family called this “saimin” because it doesn’t actually say ramen on the package. I didn’t actually know what ramen was until after 1997, when I moved to Honolulu for college. If you’ve never tried instant ramen before, all you need to know is that Sapporo Ichiban is the only brand that deserves to exist on store shelves. It comes in Original, Shrimp, Chicken, Beef, and Miso. Original is basically a “shoyu ramen” flavor.

I’d eaten some packages of Mum’s and Top Ramen when utterly on the brink of starvation as a teenager, but now that I have a job and do my own food shopping, I can take precautions to ensure that me and my family never have to eat crappy brands of instant noodles.

The noodle cooker comes with a very large bowl, a cute Rilakkuma cover with a steam vent and an opening for pouring out excess water should you only want the noodles. Inside, there’s an optional little “rack” for you to use when steaming vegetables with this cooker. Since I was making noodles, I didn’t use the rack.

In addition to me being a total snob about my brand of instant noodles, my 25 years of experience cooking my own packets of Sapporo Ichiban have taught me that no matter how good this brand tastes, overcooking it leads to a disgusting bowl of goop. Cook it to perfection and leave it on the table for five minutes and your instant ramen eating experience can be ruined. The noodles must be at a perfect consistency, just al dente and not completely cooked through, which you can tell by a light tinge of the noodles. That way, by the time you put it in a bowl, get a drink, and sit down, it’s done just right. It must be eaten ASAP.

Cooked Noodles

I filled the bowl up to just under 500 mg because by now I’m able to determine by eye how watery I want my soup. The side of the bowl is marked with a line for 500 and 600 mgs. Since I was doing this at work where we have a rather powerful microwave, I started off with 2 minutes. It wasn’t done very well, so I put it back in for another 1:30. This led to the perfect noodle consistency I mentioned and I took my bowl back to my office.

I should note that there’s a little tab on the lid and a little tab on the bowl. You need to make sure the two tabs are on the same side or the lid doesn’t snap on quite as securely as it’s supposed to. The tabs should be on the same side, but not align.

After I took the bowl back to my office, I added the soup base powder. The instructions on J-List said to add it after, so that’s why I didn’t put it in while cooking, despite the fact that I always do that when cooking it in a pot.

Original Flavor Sapporo Ichiban

I mixed it all up and chowed down. Things looked good, as my internal Noodle Consistency Meter was pointing to a delicious lunch.

Mmm ramen!

Ohhh yes! Perfection!

Another plus to the cooker is that it reduces dishes. I hate having to wash a pot, a bowl, and a utensil with the stovetop method, but since I’ve been doing it my entire life, I see no real reason to stop now if I have a stove nearby.

I am fully aware that nuking food in plastic sounds disgusting to some and I agree to a certain extent, so I still plan to use a pot for my Sapporo Ichiban cooking at home. However, when one is at work, there aren’t many options to go by and this microwave cooker did the job so well I couldn’t tell the difference between this and stovetop. I plan on stocking the cooker at my office in a plastic bag with a Sapporo Ichiban packet for days when I don’t have time to pack a lunch and don’t want to spend 10 bucks to eat.

Priced at $16.00, I’m not entirely sure I would buy it on my own, but if you have some credit handy or don’t mind the price, I’m pretty happy with my purchase.

I plugged it in to the Weight Watchers tool and was astonished to find out that it was only 4 points. After pondering this for a bit, I looked at the package again and saw that 1 serving is 1/3 of the package. I started to bust up laughing because who in the world eats only 1/3 of this package? Nice try, Sapporo Ichiban. If your ramen didn’t taste so good I’d raise a big stink about such a misleading nutritional label. Turns out, lunch today was a whopping 13 points, eek!

My weight this morning was 147.8 lbs!

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  • Rexy

    I’ve not tried Sapporo Ichiban yet, but I have had Maruchan ramen and that’s my childhood/lifelong ramen so far. I tried Top Ramen for the first (and only) time last year and it was awful.

  • I totally agree about overcooking the ramen – turns disgusting. Although I gotta admit..I’m not sure if I remember which one Sapporo Ichiban is..although it sounds really familiar. I’ve tried different kinds and I think I like korean or taiwanese ramen the best…

    And the lid of that cooker looks so cute, it’s just begging you to use him to make more delicious ramen..

  • falnfenix

    Sapporo Ichiban is easily the tastiest of the cheap packets of ramen…it’s not spicy and the beef flavor actually tastes beefy, rather than the powdered “beef” crap you get in Top and Maruchan.

  • Justine

    I tried Ichiban today for the first time after constantly hearing that it’s much better than Top Ramen/Maruchan, and it was like having a revelation! I had no idea powder-based soups could actually taste like soup and not water, haha. Anyway, I read somewhere that some ramen places don’t use the water they boil the noodles in since it’s really starchy and just use fresh water for the broth. I’m not sure if it changes the taste (though for me, it actually made Maruchan taste better) drastically, but it could help cut some calories!

  • RCFoodie

    So funny because i’ve pondered this for years- never really got to the nuts and bolts of why I grew up calling this stuff “Saimin” and then no one knows what i’m talking about up here in CA– (Folks are from Honolulu)… My daughter is a ramen freak, although she calls Maruchan ramen- and then I call it saimin. Yes, so utterly confusing. We’ve bought S&S at Marukai, trying to tell her it’s ramen, but she doesn’t like it! Says it’s not REAL ramen! Oh boy is she in for one when we head to our first stop at Zippy’s come June!

    Was going to ask you too– is it only locals who cook the soup base in the pot? I noticed you said you do it that way (I grew up doing it that way) and the directions I believe are different– add it after you cook the noodles. Just funny things I notice. Your camera takes amazing photos (well, you did the work, but you know what i mean.) They look great!

  • Japan comes up with the darnest things! but for whatever reason, your picture makes the saimin looks super delicious! I LOVE mum’s! I think it’s probably because it is fried, and I eat it right out of the package. I buy instant dried ramen for my hubs and little one. I don’t serve this very often but my hubs like to eat it right out of the package. But for my little one, sometimes I replace the broth with chicken stock, less sodium that way. I prefer the S&S ones too.

  • You must try Sapporo Ichiban! Try Original first, then Shrimp. Shrimp is my favorite! Chicken is really good too, but I think it’s hands down the saltiest out of all of them.

  • There’s a photo of it in the cooker! 🙂 I don’t usually like the Korean ones as everything they make it so SPICY!!

  • I actually rarely buy beef, but I agree, it does taste good. I usually buy tons of original, shrimp, and chicken. I think I’ve only tried the miso like twice.

  • Haha, maybe, but I’m so lazy, I just like to put the packet in with the noodles as it cooks and then pour it out of the pot into my bowl and eat. If I want fancy pants non starchy soup ramen, I’ll go to a ramen shop. 😀

  • LOL! Actually, S&S is saimin, not ramen. You have to tell her that no, it’s not ramen, it’s saimin and it’s a totally different taste. Saimin has a dashi broth that I think is always based on shrimp.

    As for the soup base in the pot, I have no idea if that’s a local thing only! Maybe us locals are just lazy “saimin” cooks.

  • I love eating Sapporo as dried saimin too, that was totally the snack of choice in elementary school and if you brought that, everyone was suddenly your friend.

    I’ve had Mums as dried saimin and totally didn’t like the taste. I should blog about dried saimin!

  • RCFoodie

    So I went to Marukai the other day and they had Sapporo on sale! So thinking of you… I bought myself 2– shoyu and chicken. Being a Maruchan buyer, i’m going to taste test. Hee hee! The photos you took looked so good. That is actually the real reason. I haven’t made it yet because the points scare me! I can eat the whole thing and this past weekend I was digging into my extras.

  • Ohh, let me know what you thought of it! Though, did you mean Original, not Shoyu?

  • Christine

    OMG. Sapporo? I always passed by that brand in the shelves because (being a total instant ramen snob myself) I thought it looked cheap and disgusting. I will definitely try it after this!

    I usually get the Shin ramen brand – really expensive but incredibly delicious and spicy. The noodles are soooo good, even after a few extra minutes of soaking.