Ramen: Not Just for Broke Drunks

Annie Chun's Ramen House

Annie Chun's Ramen House

I Paid: $1.99 per 4.7- to 4.9-ounce package (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4 stars

Marketing: 4 stars

In recent years, America has caught on to what other countries (most notably, Japan) have known for many, many years: Ramen need not only be the meal of last resort for hung-over, bankrupt college students. It can feature toothsome, satisfying noodles, richly flavored broth, and high-quality ingredients. On the first two counts, Annie Chun's new line of Ramen House meal kits scores reasonably well; you're on your own when it comes to anything beyond noodles and broth, though.

Ramen House offers three flavors: Soy Ginger Ramen, Spicy Chicken Ramen, and Spring Vegetable Ramen. The first had a distinct ginger kick; the second, a mild but perceptible heat; the third, a pleasant spinachy-carroty vegetal undernote. In all cases, the kits contain a sealed plastic packet of precooked, plump noodles that just need to be warmed in boiling water or the microwave, and a packet of liquidy bouillon that, similarly, is combined by the home chef with a cup of water to create the broth.

Like normal Cup Noodles cheap-o ramen, Annie Chun's Ramen House benefits greatly from add-ons and mix-ins: I tried mine with soy-maple marinated chicken, an egg, a shot of hot sauce, and various other bits and bobs and found that something approximating a full meal could be created. And unlike typical low-grade ramen, the broth wasn't harshly salty, nor were the noodles limp and tasteless.

The big question, however, comes down to value. If you can get two or three cheap ramen kits for a buck (or two), is it worth scaling up to $2 a kit for Annie Chun's? For college kids on a bender, probably not. For those of us who want to revisit the ease and flexibility of ramen with a bit less salt and more pleasing texture and flavor, yeah, probably so.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.