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Can French fry and instant yakisoba-flavored sodas surpass kimchi as Japan’s best strange ramune?

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Just because you can make something taste different doesn’t mean that you should.

Earlier while visiting Osaka’s Tsutenkaku tower and its new Tower Slider attraction, I stopped in a nearby souvenir store to check in on the soda selection.

A long time ago, I first stumbled on the fact that a company called Hata produces a line of unusually flavored drinks sold only at Osaka souvenir shops. Flavors that defied convention like corn soup and curry, as well as flavors that defied common sense like fried octopus balls and sesame chili sauce, were available, but it was the kimchi flavor that kept me coming back for more ever since.

But this time when I went in to get my kimchi soda fix, I was surprised to find a couple newcomers to the lineup: French Fry (or “Fried Potato,” to use the Japanese term) and Instant Yakisoba stir fried noodles!

Could one of these unseat the greatness that is kimchi, or will they fall flat? Let’s find out…

First, I should point out that these are “ramune” sodas, somewhat traditional styles of carbonated drinks often served at summer festivals in Japan. They come in an equally traditional style of bottle in which the gas inside pushes a marble against the opening.

Each bottle also comes with a little plastic plunger type thing to dislodge the marble and gain access to the sweet nectar inside.

However, since you’re fighting against the pressurized gas inside the bottle, don’t be surprised if foam starts gushing out upon opening. I can only get a clean open about 25 percent of the time myself.

▼ It’s especially hard to do while trying to keep everything in frame.

Back to the matter at hand, I decided to start with the French fry-flavored ramune because I had a pretty good feeling it was going to suck. I mean, how could a fried potato-flavored soda possibly be good?

When I opened the bottle and it exploded all over my hand, I was really surprised by the authentic scent of French fries that came out. It smelled exactly like a bucket of golden strips of potato had just emerged from the fryer.

The problem, however, was that this was a frosty drink and not a bag of piping hot fries.

In other words, the flavor was indeed there, but because it was a cold fizzy drink, the effect was like eating cold, damp, bubbly fries. Judging by the bottle’s label, this was intended to mimic McDonald’s fries, but I usually distinguish between them by the texture so I didn’t really get the sense of any particular restaurant’s fries.

Maybe a real French fry fanatic could get into this, but there was little for me to find enjoyable. The best I could compare it too would be ginger ale, but only if all of the worst qualities of ginger ale were amplified.

Next up was the RA.MU.NE. instant yakisoba flavored ramune. Again, the very specific details of the bottle’s label would suggest this was a parody of the popular UFO brand of instant yakisoba by Nissin.

▼ A pack of UFO instant yakisoba

Luckily, as an avid eater of this stuff, my senses were much more in tune with the distinct taste of UFO and its sauce. And once again, as it spilled all over the place I was greeted with that very unmistakable aroma.

It had a very robust flavor of seasoned soy sauce with a background of green laver. The similarity to actual UFO was actually pretty amazing. UFO tends to have a really strong flavor, and this drink was equally an assault on the taste buds.

But again, this was a cold drink so it was a bit of an odd match. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the French fries though, I guess because cold UFO isn’t quite as bad as cold fries. Overall, it was OK, but I don’t know if I’d go back for more.

What I have always gone back for more of, however, is Kimchi Ramune, the reigning champ of whacked-out ramune flavors!

In the end, it seems that the biggest problem is that flavors generally associated with hot foods come across as off-putting when experienced cold. Even though these are all uncharacteristically savory flavors for a soda pop, kimchi can normally be served cold so there isn’t as much a mental disconnect between the senses of taste and touch and the result isn’t nearly as jarring.

The garlic flavor also lends itself well to a tasty drink, and even though there is a spiciness to it, it tends to linger in the background as a faint aftertaste.

So it’s Kimchi Ramune that I’d strongly recommend as an enjoyable drink. In fact, I think it could hold its own on the general soft drink market, though the garlic breath it induces may be a problem.

And even though the other flavors didn’t quite work out for me, I still give Hata an A for effort. At least they’re out there making things happen, and while these may not be especially good drinks, they are definitely experiences.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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