Tonkotsu Instant Ramen Showdown - Nissin Japan vs HK vs Itsuki

Hi there!  Today I'm writing about a three kinds of Tonkotsu instant ramen that can be found in Asian supermarkets in Canada for $2 - $3 per noodle serving.  All three varieties use air dried noodles so there is no deep frying of the noodles.  This means they are healthier in terms of fat content, but a good portion of the flavour of any ramen soup comes from oil / fat from the tare that is used to give the final flavouring to the soup.  In this comparison, we'll be seeing just how yummy the various tonkotsu soup stocks are.  I kind of expect the results to be fairly close as these will not be like a good tonkotsu, but they might be closer than you think.

A tonkotsu broth is kind of hard to characterize beyond the fact it must have a silky / slightly creamy mouth feel, have a hit of richness in flavour, but not necessarily meaty (it is made from boiling pork bones though), and that umami for depth.  I've had restaurant tonkotsu that had the right mouth feel, but were lacking in the richness department, so this isn't an easy thing to pull off.  In these instant ramen, there will be a mix of ingredients to simulate this and it can be pretty good.

Our three contenders are the Kyushu Tonkotsu stick ramen from Itsuki, Nissin's RAOH Tonkotsu, and Nissin Hong Kong's Tonkotsu stick ramen.  All three are from Japanese companies, although the HK version is made in Hong Kong for their market so it might be localized a bit more.

From left to right: Kyushu Tonkotsu stick ramen from Itsuki, Nissin's RAOH Tonkotsu, and Nissin Hong Kong's Tonkotsu.

Nissin RAOH Tonkotsu

I do like the RAOH noodle brand and enjoy the shoyu flavour a lot. The noodles in this brand are engineered the most out of the three kinds of noodles as they are not just mixed out of flour and rolled out.  These noodles go through a number of different rolling and combinations of dough substrates to provide a better chew and texture.  Their noodles are good and they always come in a disk form like fried noodles, unlike the stick noodles in the other two types.

The Nissin RAOH Tonkotsu has a nice bright and cheery green package with a nice looking bowl of noodles shown at the bottom.  The typical octagonal RAOH logo is displayed prominently in the middle.

Back of the package with cooking directions, nutritional information, and ingredients.

The noodle puck, a powdered soup base, and an flavour oil satchet are contained within.

The finished bowl of ramen with some roast pork for meat along with green onions.

The noodles in this tonkotsu are quite thin and they are ready after being boiled for one minute and 30 seconds.  This is quick.  You add the soup powder and oil to a bowl and then pour in some of your cooking water to mix it up before putting the noodles in.  The aroma of the broth was quite mild and the flavour was mild.  I felt the soup was thin with a slight creaminess to it that didn't have enough richness, but there was enough salt in this as it was mildly salty.  The noodles were good and firm with a nice chew despite their being thinner.  There is 6.2 grams of fat in this noodle which is quite low.

Nissin HK Tonkotsu

I've eaten various versions of these noodles for some time and they are usually a few in my pantry of some flavour (black garlic tonkotsu is good).  I think the noodles in this variety are the same from one flavour to the next and they are of a pretty standard gauge of stick noodle.  About a medium thickness.  On a side note, I do think the fried noodle versions of these noodles have a better flavour - probably because of the frying and extra oil, but the noodles in these can be much firmer as they are normal noodles. These are good noodles and you can't really go wrong getting these.

The Nissin HK noodle has a nice little picture of their local masot character delivering a hot bowl of noodle soup on a green background. A nice looking bowl of ramen noodles occupies the top half of the package.

Back of the package with English directions, ingredients and nutritional info.

The package contains two servings of noodles, two packages of soup base powder, and two oil satchets.  You pay more for these, but you are buying 2 servings.

The finished bowl of ramen with boiled egg, turkey breast, and green onion.

Stick ramen varieties are a little more finicky to cook as they release starch into the water and they tend to bubble up and over if you don't do it at a low boil.  These noodles only need to cook for three minutes and then they are ready.  The aroma from this soup was mild again and the flavour wasn't as strong as I thought from memory.  There was more creaminess in this soup but it still didn't have enough richness to the flavour to make it really stand out.  I also thought it wasn't salty enough, but drinking some of the soup changed my mind this and it also seemed to have a little more body than when I first tasted it.  The noodles were the normal medium thickness and had a nice bite to them.  There was 7.1 grams of fat in this one.

Kyushu Tonkotsu

Kyushu is the ancestral homeland of tonkotsu ramen.  Just putting that name on your ramen leads to high hopes. This is another stick ramen and Itsuki makes plenty of flavours too.  I've bought a few of these over the last year or two and tried a number of flavours.  I think their miso flavours tend to come out the best.  I've had the tonkotsu before, but I needed to try it again for this comparison.
Really nice orangy brown packaging that gives the appearance of depth and richness.  The tonkotsu Kyushu characters are prominent in the top half of the package while the bottom half shows a nice bowl of ramen soup.

Back of the package with cooking instructions, ingredients, and nutritional information.

You get two big packets of soup powder and two bundles of noodles for two servings.

Finished bowl of noodle shoup with roast pork and green onion.

The noodles for this ramen cook in two and a half minutes.  They are thinner than the Nissin stick noodles and a little shorter in length.  The noodles were good and had a nice chew to them.  The aroma from this soup was mild again.  The soup had a pretty good flavour to it and a mildly creamy mouth feel.  This soup had the most salt in it out of the three varieties which might explain the harder hitting flavour profile, but it also had the least amount of fat at 2.5 grams.  At the end of the meal I felt this soup was okay, but like the Nissin varieties, not awesome.

Conclusion

I have to say that this showdown between these three tonkotsu instant noodles was a little eye opening for me.  The soup aromas, textures, and flavours were actually very similar between the varieties.  I would have to say that the Nissin HK might have edged out the Itsuki Tonkoksu in terms of the soup base, but it is hard to judge as it is a combination of texture, smell, and flavour.  The Nissin RAOH would come in third, but might have had the best noodle.  I would also need to recheck to see what the Nissin HK Tonkotsu fried noodle version tastes like again and check to see how these fare against the Marutai Tonkotsu varieties I enjoyed and reviewed here.  In the end I felt that these three varieties were okay, and that there were more flavourful ramen soup varieties from each of these food companies.


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