College Kitchen: Ramenpalooza

Everybody eats it. This time let’s eat it right.

Samuel Linder

 

Ramen needs no introduction: You love it; itâÄôs cheap. What it does need, however, is a giant warning sign on the label, reading âÄúThis $#&t Is Awful for You!âÄù Or perhaps more explicitly, âÄúDonâÄôt Use the Seasoning Packet!âÄù

 Salt has been linked to a plethora of physical ailments when overconsumed, and as Americans, we overconsume as a national pastime. Nearly everything we eat is chock full of added salt, and while some sodium chloride is necessary, too much is downright dangerous. Ramen packages try to trick you with strange serving sizes; most companies claim that a single package is two servings (with 35% of your daily salt). Now be truthful here, whenâÄôs the last time you ate half the ramen? Exactly. Which means that every time you eat ramen you are ingesting 70 percent of your maximum daily salt in a single dish, and your heart and kidneys are silently weeping.

 DonâÄôt get me wrong, itâÄôs absolutely okay to oversalt yourself every once in a while. But the fact of the matter is that the animal-flavored powder packets arenâÄôt even delicious enough to merit such a splurge. This doesnâÄôt mean you shouldnâÄôt buy ramen, because it is still a fantastically cheap way to get a lot of excellent nutrition. It simply means that you should personalize your bowl of noodles, add a little flavor and fun while keeping ramen fast and easy. Thankfully, A&E is about to give you a whole lotta ways to do just that.

Ingredients:

One package of ramen noodles (throw the flavoring package into the trash, or give it to someone you donâÄôt like)

2 cups water or stock

Instructions:

Bring two cups of water to a boil in a saucepan then throw in the noodles. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two until just soft, then turn off the heat and begin to add whatever your heart desires.

Alternatives:

Make a ridiculously better ramen by cooking it in stock or broth. Beware the potential hyper-saltiness of store-bought broth, however. If you have a lot of time on a Sunday you should make your own veggie broth and freeze it in individual ramen-sized portions (a sandwich Ziploc works great) using the following method: Put a mixture of onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, celery, radishes, beets, greens and everything you want on a roasting pan and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes at 450 degrees then put it all in a big pot filled with water. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower it to a simmer (tiny constant bubbles) and simmer for 45 minutes to two hours. Strain out the veggies (their taste and nutrition all transferred into the broth, so you can probably just chuck âÄôem), cool the soup in the fridge and portion out into baggies to freeze. When itâÄôs time to use the broth, simply dump it into a pan and heat back into a liquid, a liquid which will make your ramen something truly special.

With or without broth, the best addition for a classic ramen is simply your own mix of delicious spices.

Indian mix: two teaspoons garam masala, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon coriander, ½ teaspoon turmeric, ginger powder, garlic powder, cardamom, salt, pepper

Italian mix: 1 teaspoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon oregano, salt, pepper whisked well and stirred into the cooked noodles. Melt mozzarella or parmesan on top in the microwave.

Chinese mix: 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, ginger powder, garlic powder, hot peppers of any sort (powdered, whole, or dried and chopped)

Hearty German: 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, salt, pepper, ¼ cup sour cream.

Additions:

Things that you can throw in at different times to add a little taste and nutrition to the meal (use with any of the previous spice mixtures):

An egg, cooked any way, thrown in at the end of cooking.

Crumbled sausage, precooked and tossed in at the end.

Veggies of any sort: cook beforehand (or chuck in raw) by any method you choose. Sauté garlic, onions, carrots and/or bell peppers with spices and throw in at the end.

Harder vegetables and roots (potatoes, parsnips, squash, etc.) should be boiled or baked before adding.

A can of beans, sautéed or simmered to heat through. Once theyâÄôre hot, add to the ramen after the noodles are done cooking.

A little milk, soy milk or silken tofu for creaminess and thickness.

A can of tomatoes thrown in at the end and allowed to heat through.

Now donâÄôt your tongue and heart feel better already?