When I was a freshman in college I spent Thanksgiving break with my Uncle Mike and Aunt Julie. I jokingly told them that I was hoping to get a case of ramen noodles for Christmas. They laughed, but lo and behold: Julie came back from Costco the next day with TWO big multi-packs of ramen for me: one chicken and one beef! I was set for weeks!
However, if Julie had shown up to my graduation with a gift of ramen, I would have been less thrilled. In fact, if she had told me at that point that I would one day be eating ramen again voluntarily, I would not have believed her. I’d had too much of a good thing.
Now time has passed, and as an adult I realize that ramen can be much better than the crap I nuked in my dorm room way back when. Recently having a really good bowl of ramen at Sapporo in New York has inspired me to experiment with the possibilities again.
Ramen means noodle soup. It doesn’t necessarily have to be instant. That said, my local Asian market has a whole aisle of instant ramen noodles, many much tastier than the Maruchan or Nissin brands you can buy at the grocery store. Be careful: some of them are SUPER spicy! Recently I went in after work and looked for varieties marked “vegetarian.” I found several and chose one from Taiwan that was “Steam Mushroom Flavor.”
It was $2.59 for 4 servings. I also picked up a pound of tofu for $1.29 (the cheapest in town). When I got home, I prepared my ramen in the microwave and then added:
- about 1/8 pound of tofu: $0.16
- about 1/4 can of corn: $0.15
- about 1/4 cup frozen spinach: $0.07
- a handful of sliced mushrooms: $0.33
Then I microwaved the bowl for another minute or so, until the veggies were lightly steamed. Then I added
- a dollop of chili sauce: $0.02
Granted, that is a lot more than the $0.25 or whatever for the plain ramen straight from the grocery store. However, the benefit far outweighs the cost here, because I actually got some protein and vitamins with my ramen, plus extra flavor and textural variety. And that’s still pretty darn cheap for a meal: cheaper than eating out anywhere.
If you try this at home, use whatever veggies happen to be taking up space in your produce drawer. Just about anything would be good.
Then pop in your favorite movie from college…
OR may I recommend Tampopo? It’s a Japanese “ramen western” with different vignettes: all related to food and all hilarious. It’s one of my all-time favorites.
I’m glad to have ramen back in my life. What’s your favorite way to eat ramen? Leave me a comment.