ZenPop Ramen + Sweets Mix Pack Review – January 2019
ZenPop Ramen + Sweets Mix Pack is a monthly subscription service from ZenMarket that sends popular and unique Japanese noodles and snacks handpicked by their staff in Japan.
This box was sent to us at no cost for review purposes. Check out the review processes post to learn more about how we review boxes!)
About ZenPop Ramen + Sweets Mix Pack
The Subscription Box: ZenPop Ramen + Sweets Mix Pack
The Cost: $24.50/one-time purchase (save with longer commitments)
The Products: 2-3 bowls of noodles, 6-10 Japanese sweets + snacks
Ships to: Worldwide for free!
ZenPop Ramen + Sweets Mix Pack January 2019 Kansai Review
With a new year, we have a new design for the thank-you note! Every box begins with a nice thank you from the creators, as well as a coupon. We have a new design for the note for the new year!
Each box also features an info sheet that explains special instructions, ingredients, and common allergy warnings for food items.
January’s “Kansai” theme refers to the southern-central area of Japan’s main island. It features prefectures of Mie, Nara, Wakayam, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo and Shiga, and is known for their distinctive dialect “kansai-ben” and unique foods. Let’s dig in!
Kyoto Se-Abura Shoyu Ramen
Japanese ramen is often categorized into four classes: shoyu (soy sauce), miso (fermented soybean paste), shio (salt), and tonktosu (pork), which uses a meat broth base. For this ramen, there was already broth powder seasoning in the noodles, but I was given an additional packet of ‘sauce,’ which I later realized was simply fat.
I first tasted the noodles without the fat packet and was quite happy with the broth taste of almost sweet and salty soy sauce. There was also a bit of the beef broth flavor and smell. I decided to include only a bit of the fat because well, it looked a bit unhealthy to add since it’s just more oil, and I wasn’t a fan of such strong beef bone taste.
Chibo – Supercup Yakisoba
Yakisoba is a Japanese noodle stir-fry dish. The noodles are made of wheat flour and flavored with a sauce similar to Worcestershire sauce. It usually includes cabbage (I like to put chicken as well). This multi-step yakisoba was fun to make—draining the noodles with the built-in drainer was a thoughtful step!
After draining the noodles, I put in the sauce, stirred, added nori (green seaweed, has a bitter taste), and dried bonito flakes. This tasted amazing! There’s nothing like hot yakisoba to warm you right up, and I really enjoyed this noodle pack.
Takoyaki is a ball-shaped Japanese snack made of pancake batter and cooked in a special molded pan. It is typically filled with diced octopus, tempura scraps, green onion, and topped with a special sauce (Worcestershire, sugar, and ketchup), mayonnaise, dried bonito flakes, and nori. These puffs were soft and chewy, mimicking the doughey texture of the real snack! There was quite a strong taste of the sauce. These light corn puffs perfectly recreate the savory and umami-rich takoyaki flavor and are quite addictive! (Note: some unaccustomed to the flavor may not enjoy the sour flavor)
Okonomiyaki Taro – Retail Value $0.18 (¥20)
Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake that uses cabbage, bonito flakes, green seaweed, and green onions (the name means “as you like it”, or “anything you like”, so technically you can make the pancake with whatever ingredients you prefer). The sauce is the same as takoyaki sauce. The strip is made of grilled surimi fish and squid, flavored with the traditional okonomiyaki sauce. I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of this snack, as I would prefer the hot and soft dish than a crunchy fishy one, but points for the recreation!
Mikan Gummy – Retail Value $2.25
The mikan, or citrus unshiu, is a winter cousin of the mandarin and one of the sweetest citrus varieties with a very tender texture. The seedless fruit juice is often extracted to make hard candy or gummies, in this case. These gummies are filled with fruit juice and have a wonderfully soft, chewy texture. They even contain 2400mg of collagen to make your skin extra bouncy!
Mini Yokan Matcha Flavor – Buy 10 pieces for $32.69
Yokan is a thick, jellied Japanese dessert made of red bean paste, agar, and sugar. It is usually sold in block form and eaten in slices. Though the ingredients are minimal, it is one of Japan’s most popular desserts in the hot weather. This yokan includes matcha and is sweet yet with a distinct green tea taste, with a soft and chewy texture. Due to its rich taste, the yokan is often enjoyed with green tea, which I tried, and was a delightful snack!
Glico Carmel With Toy – Retail Value $2.50
The design of the caramel box refers to the neon Glico Man you see at the Dotonbori district in Osaka at night. There’s a wooden toy also included—there are 10 wooden toys in the series, and I got the pink crocodile. There are heart-shaped caramels inside the candy box, which had a slight hint of Japanese yogurt flavor, as well as a chewy, warm caramel flavor. I wish I had more, the size portion and taste was lovely.
Black Thunder Kinako Flavor – Retail Value $0.51
Kinako is roasted soybean powder, similar to a very strong, earthy taste of matcha. It’s a common topping in Asian desserts, such as rice cake (popular for celebrating the new year) or shaved ice. Black thunder is a popular Japanese chocolate bar, filled with cookie bits and dark chocolate biscuits—with the addition of kinako flavor, the milk chocolate pairs very well, and there’s a nice earthy and deep flavor along with the bittersweet chocolate biscuit.
Kobe Roasted Chocolate Creamy Milk Flavor – Retail Value $2.45 (¥269)
Made in the Glico Kobe factory using specialty cacao that has been home-roasted for an extra intense flavor. The chocolates are sweet, creamy, and are quite unlike other chocolates I’ve tasted, and are a wonderful treat to share. The characteristic flavor of the chocolate is the rich milky flavor, instead of sugar reaching your taste buds first.
Verdict: I enjoyed ZenPop’s group of items that come from various prefectures of Japan, especially the traditional snacks such as takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and yakisoba. The mikan gummies were so soft and juicy, and the yokan was an amazing couple with green tea—great curation to start off the new year!
Excluding the two-ramen bowls, I calculated a retail value of $13.10. If I estimate $3.50 for the ramen bowls, it totals to $20.10 which is a bit lower than the original price, so hopefully next month we have a bit more value!
To Wrap Up:
Can you still get this box if you sign up today? Unfortunately, you have to sign up by the last day of the month… but subscribe for the February box here!
Next month’s theme is “Sweet or Salty,” since ZenPop will be satisfying both our sweet and savory cravings with sweet potato chips and truffle oil chips, with wonton salt ramen and curry udon!
Value Breakdown: This box costs $24.50 + free shipping, which means that each of the 9 items in the box has an average cost of $2.72.
Keep track of your subscriptions: Add this box to your subscription list or wishlist!
What do you think of January’s ZenPop Ramen + Sweets Mix Pack?