This is my first review of an instant noodle product, and it's a lulu (or maybe a 螺螺*).
Several years ago I discovered Liuzhou Luosifen, a spicy rice noodle soup with a rich, tawny snail-based broth, thanks to Oakland's Guilin Clissic Rice Noodles. Surprising as that discovery was, I was just as surprised to discover a DIY instant version, in the form a large packet from Liuzhou company "Luobawang" staring up at me from the sidewalk bin of a Chinatown grocer. I snapped one up, and after admiring it on my mantle for a few days and with my kibitzer-in-chief away for rhe evening, I steeled my nerves to tackle it.
This was no 10¢ packet of Top Ramen. The $2.99 package weighed in at 280g (10oz) and inside were eight separate ingredient packets. In addition to the packet of dried rice noodles, there were separate packets for the snail soup base, sour bamboo shoots, pickled long beans, chili oil, vinegar, peanuts and dried bean curd skin (the last two for garnish). Once I figured out which packets were which (there was no English on the small packets) the instructions (in English on the main packaging) were concise and clear: (1) Pre-soak the dried noodles for an hour in cold water, drain and set aside. (2) boil 500ml of water, add (in order) the soup base, sour bamboo, pickled beans, and the pre-soaked rice noodles. (3) simmer "until the rice noodle can be cut off by chopsticks" and (4) pour into a bowl, add vinegar and chili oil to taste, and garnish with the peanuts and dried tofu.
The trickiest part was the done-ness of the noodles, since cutting off noodles with chopsticks is not my forte; I used the bite test, testing continuously until I had them just right. The end product was a very tasty and filling bowl of noodles. I don't think the broth was as rich and deep as the restaurant versions I have had, but I made the mistake of adding some of the (very potent) chili oil before tasting the broth, so I can't fairly describe the subtleties its character. Overall, though, it was a good bowl of soup for three bucks, and I'll be buying more of the fixin's.
Product: Luosi Rice Noodles, by Luobawang
Place of Purchase: Komi Foods, 898 Stockton St., San Francisco
*Luo luo, "snail snail."