At the grocery store last weekend, I noticed a pair of new, horrible-looking food products, so naturally, I had to buy them. I thought it would probably be awhile before I got around to sampling them, but when I got home from class today I had no idea what to eat. So my lunch became a two-course feast made up of the following:


Nissen Chow Mein Original Style Chicken Flavor


Rice-A-Roni “Asian Fried” Heat & Serve Rice

Both of these creations are meant for microwave cookin’. Of the two, the Rice-A-Roni is more clearly meant for lazy Americans. I mean, yeah, microwave chow mein is pretty bad, but this Rice-A-Roni stuff is worse. You’re supposed to cook it in the bag, first of all. Without adding any water.


Let us consider rice for a moment. What could be simpler to cook? You take a pot, pour some water, add rice, and wait a few minutes (unless you’ve decided you’re too busy and want to make “minute” rice). Is it really necessary to dumb down the process even further?

I don’t know what it says about us as a country when a company can make money selling rice that you microwave in a bag. I don’t want to know. What I do know is that this stuff smells awful.

Really, really awful. It smells neither “Asian” nor “fried.” If “death” was an element on the periodic table, and some company managed to create a synthetic, crappier version of that element, I think the result would smell similar to Rice-A-Roni “Asian Fried” Heat & Serve Rice. I ate three forkfuls, all of which have no doubt already fastened themselves to my DNA. Don’t buy this stuff. Don’t even look at it when you walk past it at the store.

By the time I made the Nissen Chow Mein Original Style Chicken Flavor, all I was hoping for was something that would cleanse my palate — if the chow mein hadn’t been handy, I might have settled for hot sauce or dirt. And that’s sort of what I thought I’d be getting when I opened the package:

There are three ingredients here, which Nissen refers to as the “Noodle Cake,” the “Vegetable Packet,” and — gulp — “Liquid Seasoning.” You are supposed to pour the “Vegetable Packet” in the space between the “Noodle Cake” and the container, add a cup of water, and microwave it for six minutes. Six minutes! I really didn’t think there was anything you could microwave for six minutes without completely destroying it. I kept expecting it to blow up while it was cooking, but no — six minutes works just fine. What the fuck this stuff is made out of, I have no idea. I’m actually getting a little queasy thinking about it.

Then there’s the “Liquid Seasoning,” which looks every bit as foul as it sounds. It’s blacker than squid ink. I think it’s (please God let it be) soy sauce — especially since I’ve probably had about a liter and a half of water to drink since eating Nissen Chow Mein Original Style Chicken Flavor, and I’m still thirsty.

But it isn’t so bad. On a camping trip, or during a nuclear holocaust, it’ll do in a pinch. As I said to Leah, “it tastes like sodium.” I had a small nostalgic flashback to the earliest days of my adult bachelorhood, when I had Top Ramen for dinner a minimum of two nights a week. I finished it all, meaning that in the Asian Edition of GROSS-OFF, Rice-A-Roni beats the ever-loving hell out of Nissen.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go eat an apple or a bottle of vitamins or something.

About the Author

Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Popdose and Dadnabbit, as well as an entertainment writer whose work can be seen at Rotten Tomatoes and a number of other sites. Hey, why not follow him at Twitter while you're at it?

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