As part of my irregular reviews of "real" food, I decided to give this pasta-based entree from Nissin a go after one of my commenters said that the noodle-based packaged foods in Japan tend to be better than the rice-based ones. Though I'm not a fan of noodles, I don't "hate" them, and this carbonara beckoned to me with the promise of the bacon, egg and cheese... okay, it's more like the real deals are diamonds and this is offering a cubic zirconium, but even fake bacon is better than no bacon at all. Also, it's called "Spa King". Anything with "king" in it gains automatic awesomeness points. This is, after all, how "Burger King" stays in business. ;-)
All of the separate components await assembly. I guess they must be kept separate or they may combine into a mutant off-spring if prematurely mixed.
I found this 277 gram (9.7 oz.) meal packet at Seiyu supermarket for 198 yen ($2.36). That may sound like an impressive amount of grub, but it's actually only 6 oz. (170 grams) of food. The rest is plastic and foil, which rather makes me feel guilty for buying this given all of the associated material waste.
The various squiggly thing and goo packets squirted into the plastic tray.
Taking off the wrapping reveals quite a few separate packets including what look like somewhat scary cooked noodles pressed into an unappealing wad of carbohydrates. The blue packet is some sort of oily substance that you squeeze over the pasta first followed by the red and silver packet of sauce and finally the tiny bit of powdered cheese. After you squeeze all of the components into the tray in the proper order, you're supposed to put the cover back on before heating. Since it's just a sheet of plastic, you just sort of lay it back over the top of the mess. The instructions recommend various times depending on your microwave's power and I went for 3 minutes at 600W which seemed about right.
It looks pretty good when it's cooked, though there isn't as much sauce as there appears to be here.
This smelled like canned white sauce. It's hard to describe it as anything more than that. The flavor was very heavy on the ham flavor, slightly peppery, rather salty, with hints of egg and cheese. It definitely could have used a stronger cheese element, but I really have no complaints. One of the biggest surprises is that the pasta is chewy and neither under nor overcooked. It's pretty much perfect, though it does come out in a mass that you have to fight to untangle after heating.
The Spa King's carbonara has a lot less bacon/ham product than one might hope for.
The "good" news about this is that it tastes pretty good for what it is and it has about 20% of the daily requirement of protein. I find that somewhat impressive for a dish that is pretty much a wad of pasta covered in various types of goo. I had this with some leftover chicken breast on the side to supplement the protein content of the meal (and a huge carrot for a vegetable). The bad news is that it has 1300 mg. of Sodium and ones daily recommendation is 1500 mg. So, 87% of the salt and 20% of the protein. It provides 370 calories, which isn't bad either.
Clearly, this isn't the best option for a meal, and it is designed to be something you have for lunch as a stand-alone entree. It tastes better than average though, is relatively cheap, and wouldn't be a bad occasional quick meal. I personally think it would serve one best as a quick side dish to some sort of lean protein, but then I'd recommend eating only half of it in such a case.