Last year, Cup Noodle maker Nissin made the bold move of officially calling one of its instant noodle ingredients “mystery meat.” So great is the company’s goodwill that this nebulous description of the ingredients didn’t scare customers off. On the contrary, a special Cup Noodle with extra mystery meat quickly sold out, and this summer you could even get mystery meat rice bowls at the Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama.
Since Nissin is the premier instant noodle manufacturer in a country that takes food safety very seriously, the ostensibly undefined nature of mystery meat didn’t really seem to bother most people that much. But while it’s tasty stuff, we just couldn’t help wondering what goes into the mystery meat.
Because of that, we were pretty excited when a cross-promotion for Cup Noodle and anime/manga "Great Detective Conan" (also known as Case Closed) promised to reveal the true nature of mystery meat.
Reading through the short manga, we quickly came to the climax, where a character uses his last ounces of dying strength to tell us that mystery meat is made of “…meat and soybeans!” Finally, the mystery is solved!
Wait a second. No, it’s not solved! We already took it as a given that mystery meat contained “meat.” What we want to know is: What animal does it come from?
And so we decided to go straight to the source by calling Nissin’s customer service line. As the company’s representative came on the line, we asked what kind of meat goes into Cup Noodle mystery meat, and braced ourselves for a lengthy round of obfuscating marketing double-speak to keep us from the truth.
Instead, the Nissin rep straight-up told us: “It’s pork.”
Could it really be this easy? We’d expected to have to use all of our cunning and guile to pry the secrets of mystery meat out of Nissin. But nope, turns out all we had to do was ask. “We mix pork and soybeans together with a vegetable extract, and then freeze dry the pieces,” the forthcoming Nissin employee elaborated.
In retrospect, we suppose we could have gone through the ingredient list printed on packages of Cup Noodle varieties that include mystery meat and found “pork” listed there. Still, it turns out that mystery meat isn’t 100% meat. Not that we’ve got anything against soybeans (chilled soybeans, or edamame, as they’re called in Japan, are one of the great summertime snacks to munch on while draining a mug of beer), but we’d have never guessed that soybeans were what kept mystery meat from being just plain old pork.
Of course, it turns out we didn’t have to guess, since all we had to do was ask.
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