Friday, January 27, 2017

Survival Cooking with Sable: Best Damn Instant Ramen

Hey people, and welcome back to Survival Cooking! Last time I shared my simple hummus recipe, which required near-0 cooking skill to prepare. This time, I’m going to share a recipe that can go from very simple to moderately complex. The best damn instant ramen you’ve ever had (probably).

That's a Level 3 ramen right there. Not pictured: the delicious fried enoki mushrooms I forgot to add before I started eating.


Survival Cooking with Sable: Entry 2 - Best Damn Instant Ramen
Instant ramen is a stereotypical staple for college/university/low-budget types and is generally stigmatized for being cheap, easy, and boring. I’m going to share a few ways to punch up the taste and nutritional value of your boring store-bought noodle bricks and take them from "technically food" to "wow that was a good meal."

Ingredients
Our base ingredients are:
  • 1 Instant ramen packet (for the love of all things sacred, buy an Asian brand! NOT MR. NOODLES!)
  • 1 egg
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce


Additional ingredients are:
  • Carrots and/or celery and/or bell pepper (any firm veggie you can top a soup with)
  • Mushrooms (white, cremini or enoki)
  • Meat of choice, or shrimp
  • Panko breading (ideally for pork or chicken)
  • Fish sauce or other flavoured sauces (hoisin, black bean, whatever you prefer)


Directions/Variations

Level 0 / Unadorned ramen - Follow the directions on your noodle packet, simple as that! Most instant noodles will tell you to boil for 3 minutes. When you set the noodles to boil, add a few drops (seriously this stuff is strong) of sesame oil; this improves the flavour and helps stall the starch-froth that’ll bubble up while the noodles cook. Add your flavour packet and a splash of soy. Done.

Level 1 / You’re trying some protein – Follow directions as usual. When you’ve boiled for 2 minutes, crack an egg into the pot and let it boil with the noodles for the last minute. Gently agitate to be sure the egg doesn’t cook to the bottom of the pot, but be careful not to break the yolk. After the last minute, take the pot off the heat and give it a minute or two to cook with its own heat.

(Yes, crack an egg right in there. It’ll cook, don’t worry. I call this “lazy poaching.” It’s not pretty but the eggs come out soft and perfectly poached texture-wise. If you’re scared of raw eggs, hard-boil an egg and slice it, serve on top of your bowl of noodles.)

Level 2 / Egg’n’veggies – Follow directions as above. Top with sliced fresh veggies of choice. If using mushrooms, boil briefly or pan-fry to cook them. If you’re going more fancy, consider boiling your noodles and egg+veg in separate pots. Drain the noodles into a bowl and use the water with the egg to make your broth. Or use water boiled in a kettle or hotpot, really you just want fresh water that hasn’t had noodles cooking in it. This gives a clear broth without all the extra boiled-off starch from the noodles.

Level 3 / MEAT! – Follow directions as above, including veggies/mushrooms and separate pots approach. You may opt to skip the egg if you’re using meat, or only use half a hard-boiled egg for presentation purposes. Depending on what meat you’ve selected and how you want it prepared, consider doing the following (ideally try to match your broth flavour packet to whatever meat you’re using- beef for beef, chicken for chicken, shrimp for shrimp, “soy” or “original” pair best with pork):
  • Pseudo shabu-shabu: if you have very thin slices of beef, cook those suckers right in your broth while it boils.
  • Panko-breaded: thin porkchops or chicken cutlets work best here; coat in flour, egg, then panko and shallow-fry. Serve these on top of your noodles when everything is assembled.
  • Pan-fry: works for everything; pan-fry anything from beef to shrimp and serve on top of your noodles.
  • NOT MEAT!: pan-fry or deep-fry tofu and serve on top.


Level 4 / The Master Chef – all as above but using fresh noodles and probably making your own broth. You show-off.

Level 5 / Actually just restaurant ramen – You’re cheating. That’s takeout, isn’t it?

My sweetheart dredging (breading) some thin-cut pork with panko crumbs.


More variations: I wouldn’t go out of my way for these but if they’re something you happen to have in your fridge (you probably have an Asian housemate if that’s the case), give them a try. Consider adding the following flavours to spice up your store-bought flavour packets:
·        Fish sauce: add a dash (and seriously just a dash, this stuff is potent) of fish sauce to shrimp-flavoured broth
·        Black bean sauce: semi-sweet and peppery, good for pork or beef
·        Hoisin sauce: not my favourite but sticky and sweet, nice for dipping breaded cutlets in, maybe not directly in your soup
·        Lemon?: I dunno, tried chicken broth with lemon once and it was alright?
·        Cheese??: A former housemate insisted beef ramen with cheese grated on top was the best. Not sure how I feel about it.

Goes with...
Really just itself. This is a full meal for most people so I can’t really suggest any sides. Beer maybe? Now you’re living the college dream.

Budget: $15 - <$2
Depending on how fancy you’re going and whether you need to restock on veggies, or eggs, or are investing in a bottle of fish sauce, this is still a pretty inexpensive meal. If all you need are the noodle packets, import brands like Sapporo Ichiban sell for around $1.15 CAD.

Leftover Rating: 0-0.5 (2-3) / 5
Noodles in broth make sucky leftovers, it’s a fact. If you make a LOT and can justify separating broth, noodles and toppings into their own containers, then that might bump this up to a 2 or 3 out of 5. Still much better fresh.

Conclusions
  • Potentially one-pot recipe (if you’re too lazy to transfer to a bowl)
  • Can be Vegetarian friendly (technically not Vegan unless you make your own broth, double check the ingredients in the soup base if you’re a strict Vegan)
  • Quick recipe (even if you’re getting fancy and frying breaded cutlets, you’re looking at max 15 mins)
  • Requires stove-top
  • Easy to moderate prep (may need basic knife skills, may need to dredge and pan-fry meats)
  • Very basic versions are super cheap, more ingredients still very affordable
  • Versatile/everyday ingredients don't require special shopping trips
  • Self-contained and hearty meal

So give that one a try and let me know what you think! As always, feedback is great. Hit me up here or on my DeviantArt page or on Twitter @SableGear0


Until next time!