Main Course/ Product Review

REVIEW| Target’s Archer Farms Ramen Soup Starters

Ramen has officially gone mainstream. Target is offering “premium ramen” under its Archer Farms brand in four varieties – pork, beef brisket, mushroom and chicken teriyaki. {Record scratch} Chicken Teriyaki?! The new offerings use “ramen” as an Asian noodle soup catch-all and actually include rice noodles along with the ramen and udon options.  If you know your way around a bowl of noodles, the rice noodle/beef brisket combination is really meant to mimic pho, not ramen.

archer farms ramen starters |dailywaffle

Armed with a Cartwheel deal for 10 percent off, I decided to go with the pork ramen soup starter and udon noodles. The noodles ($1.79) and broth (3.79) are sold separately and are intended to be microwaved together. The idea is for about $5.50 you’ll get a bowl of premium ramen.

On the nutrition front, the ingredient lists on the noodles are straightforward – water, wheat flour, salt and turmeric in the udon. The broth ingredient list is remarkable in that every ingredient is recognizable in plain English. That said, it has a whopping 990 mg of sodium in a 1 cup serving.

archer farms udon montage | dailywaffle

 

Let’s just get to it – this “ramen” is not good.  Effectively, they’ve munged together a couple of different Asian cuisines and the result is nothing like you’d expect a good bowl of pork-based ramen broth to be. Anything resembling authenticity has been sacrificed for acceptability.  I can only think that any tasting panel that tested this product didn’t have any previous experience with ramen.

The package suggests topping the soup with a soft cooked egg, fresh cilantro or sriracha, but I think most people will be eating this as quick lunch microwaved in the office. It’s unlikely you’re going to bring extra toppings and condiments with you. And to be honest, it’s not really going to help.

It’s described as a “miso-seasoned broth with cooked seasoned pork and vegetables,” but the miso is impossible to detect beyond color and general saltiness.  The pork broth is heavy on Chinese 5-spice and oddly, is slightly sweet.  To its credit, the noodles maintain some integrity in the microwave. The broth does have actual chunks of pork in it, but they’re fatty, and not in an appetizing way. It’s true, real ramen will often have a slice cha shu in it, and it can be fatty, but not like this. The carrots have a slight crunch, unlike most prepared soups, which is nice. But that’s all about I can say for this “ramen.”

Points to Target for trying, but this soup isn’t ramen, and I’d be bummed out if anyone held up this pork broth as an example of “premium” ramen. You’re better off eating the 25 cent package of instant ramen.

 

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