It's as if Kmart decided to start carrying faux-fur coats, but from endangered species. Or McDonald's began selling mock caviar—from protected sturgeon.
Cup Noodle (aka Cup Noodles, as it is known in the US)—the cheap instant ramen of choice for undergrads and others hurting for a buck—has announced that it is going upscale, but in a way that may well have some questioning their choice. On April 11, the company is rolling out two new soup flavors for the Japanese market: "Luxury Thickness Shark Fin Soup Flavor" and "Luxury Broth Softshell Turtle Soup Flavor." The use of both shark fins and softshell turtles for food are considered by some as luxuries, and by others as anathema.
A photo posted by PKサンジュン (@p.k.sanjun) on Mar 27, 2016 at 7:32pm PDT
Real shark fin soup, of course, has long been considered a delicacy and is known not so much for its flavor—shark fins hardly taste like anything at all—but for its sinewy texture, thanks to all the collagen in those fins. Authentic softshell turtle soup is also considered a rare treat, and its price reflects this fact.
Recently, though, more and more people are staying away from both for environmental and blatant animal-rights reasons. So why would Nissin, the company behind Cup Noodle, want to branch out into "luxury" soups, especially if these soups are of a dubious moral nature? (Weirdly, softshell turtle soup has also been known to lead to a dire form of food poisoning.)
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As it turns out, the answer may be in the instant soup chemical mix. Rocket News 24 says the new shark fin flavor Cup Noodle "doesn't actually contain shark fin," but it does contain "shark-fin-like processed foods." What about the Luxury Broth Softshell Turtle Soup Flavor? The active ingredient in the Cup Noodle version is listed as "softshell turtle powder." Whatever that is.
So the jury is out as to whether any animals have been harmed in the making of these soups. Whether the public will believe that they are luxury items is also open to debate. Both soups retail for 230 yen (about $2), which is only 50 yen more than the standard Cup Noodle goes for in Japan.
Nissin, the manufacturer of Cup Noodle, is banking on its new products. They will be released in conjunction with the celebration of the company's 45th anniversary this year, and Japanese celebrity Beat Takeshi has been hired to promote the new Luxury line of soups; his golden image will appear on in-store promotions.
Cup Noodle is evidently excited to bring the rarified flavors of shark fin and softshell turtle to penurious penny pinchers throughout the Land of the Rising Sun. Parsimonious gourmands stateside may be out of luck, though—no plans to bring the new exotic soup flavors to the US have been announced as yet.