In ancient Greece, an oracle was a person who doled out insight handed down by the gods. Take that concept and apply it to noodle soup and smartphones, and you have Noodler (free, iOS and Android)from New York City-based illustrator Michele Humes and Seville, Spain-based technology generalist Joshua Sierles .
After opening the app, the user “consults the oracle.” With a tap on the bottom of the screen, a new combination of broth, noodles and toppings populates, accompanied by a cute illustrated bowl of the prophesied recipe. If the user clicks on the illustration, buttons pop up offering options to cook the recipe, add to favorites or go back. Selecting “cook” brings up even more choices: broth recipes, descriptions of the chosen noodle, and how to make or where to buy various toppings.
The app is loaded with information delivered in bite-size, illustrated pieces. Never heard of narutomaki? Noodler will tell you: It’s a fish sausage named for Japan’s Naruto whirlpools. Does the only chicken broth in your larder come in boxes? Noodler explains how to improve store-bought broth by infusing it with lemongrass and ginger or adding a squeeze of lime and a splash of fish sauce. Not into meat? You can check the list of vegetarian proteins and find 15 options, such as omelet strips and soy sauce eggs. Meat and seafood receive more attention, though, with 35 ingredients including shredded duck confit, kielbasa and shrimp tempura.
Noodler is at once a dictionary, a cookbook and, as one Apple reviewer noted, a Magic 8 Ball. It seems best suited for those who are comfortable in the kitchen, but even folks with merely a passing interest in food are likely to find consulting this oracle mesmerizing. After continuous browsing, the combinations began to feel almost repetitive, although Noodler says it can produce more than 3 million “chef-curated” bowls.
This oracle is not willing to cede its powers of divination: The app doesn’t allow ingredients to be filtered out of or into recipes (say, to accommodate for gluten intolerance or a dislike of Brussels sprouts). Users also can’t click on an ingredient and see all the recipes it’s in, which seems like an obvious thing for a recipe-driven app, but — perhaps — would make the app less an oracle and more a Homeric poet.
After favoriting a few recipes, I set my sights on a bowl of ginger-infused chicken broth with instant ramen, hard-boiled eggs, braised collard greens and pickled jalapeños (a lack of jalapeños forced me to improvise with other pickled peppers). Inspired by another suggested bowl, I topped the soup with crushed peanuts.
The soup was slurped to the last drop(yes, even the instant ramen noodles); Noodler can now boast more than 3,000,001 bowls.
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OPERATING SYSTEM: iOS, Android
CREATOR: Michele Humes
USER RATINGS: Apple, (26 ratings); Google Play, (9 ratings)
REVIEW’S BOTTOM LINE: Noodle soup is in your future.