Monday, April 4, 2011

Ramen

"Health food may be good for the conscience but Oreos taste a hell of a lot better."
-Robert Redford
As a child and young adult I enjoyed Ramen. It's a quick and easy meal. Later while working in Manhattan I was introduced to Noodle Houses which serve delightfully flavored bowls of noodles with your choice of toppings. Now I can bring these two experiences together thanks to Ramen Hacks: 30+ Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Instant Noodles.

The article describes many (30?) excellent ideas for enhancing ramen. One secret is having a great broth base. I ordered noodle soup at a Japanese fusion bistro and was shocked to find it had zero flavor. Perhaps a clean, simple taste is popular in Japan but I like my broth to be complexly flavored. Here's some things to add instead of the highly salted packets that come with Ramen.
  • Miso paste
  • Chili bean sauce
  • Thai curry paste
  • Japanese curry powder
  • Fish sauce or Oyster sauce
  • Harrisa (a Tunisian hot chilli sauce common in North African cooking)
  • Vinegar (especially flavored vinegars)
  • Ponzu (a Japanese citrus-based sauce)
And ...
  • Spices like white pepper, sichuan pepper, or chili flakes added to the finished dish, or a cinnamon stick, star anise, and coriander seeds added to the simmering broth (remove 'em before serving!)
  • Fats like toasted sesame oil, chili oil, or an animal fat like pork, chicken, or duck.
  • Citrus juices—a quick squeeze of lemon or lime right before serving brightens flavors.
A great broth will excite all 5 flavors - sweet, sour (vinegar), bitter (citrus), salty and umame (meat protein) as well as having a bit of heat (chilli).

And ... don't forget to add toppings like eggs, meat and vegetables.

The article concludes with ideas for using Ramen as a noodle base (or topping) for other dishes. With care you can make stir-fried and cold noodle dishes. Stop cooking the ramen just before it's completely done, then drain it. It'll continue to soften from the residual heat, as well as cooking further when you stir-fry it.
* Create Pad Thai by stir-frying semi-cooked ramen with fish sauce, peanuts, vegetables, and a touch of lime and tamarind paste

Other ideas include ramen salad, ramen spaghetti, ramen tacos, and much more.

Bottom Line

Ramen is a great emergency food. It keeps "forever" if you can keep it safe from bugs and mice by storing it in airtight containers. And it just needs hot water to cook.

But please don't think of Ramen as a health food. There's 400 calories if you eat a whole bag and nearly a day's worth of salt in the seasoning packet.

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