Ramen Noodles - They are Everywhere- Are they becoming an American Staple or What?
Have you seen the oodles of Ramen Noodles on the shelves....mind boggling....so cheap & with shelf space at a premium, I just don't get it. Do you buy them? If so, what is your favorite flavor & brand & what do you do to doctor them up?
I have come across Ramen Noodle Salad recipe before, but them being in a salad just gives me the willies so I shy away from making them.
But you can hardly go wrong for the price, so maybe we could just see what all we could put in them to get a flavor boost. By the way, if you have eaten the salad, how was it? Does anybody mix & match flavors?
Not entirely on point, and it may not change anyone's choices, but it's probably good to at least know that these instant noodles tend to be very caloric (since they're usually deep-fried, hence the crunch) and astonishingly high in sodium content. And reading the nutrition label distorts the story, since they tend to call a "serving" HALF the packet (as though anyone ever ate half a packet of ramen noodles). Just saying.
...which is why I read the labels on all "new" packages of ramen noodles I'm checking out. The sodium content and servings-per-package are not the only things to keep an eye on; the saturated fat content of some are pretty up there. BTW I find that most do NOT use the 2-servings-per-pack subterfuge, only some.
rcaller - are you talking about the noodles themselves, or the dish, which includes noodles and the seasoning package? I don't have any packages in front of me, but I seem to remember looking at nutrition info for the noodles themselves and thinking that they weren't that bad, but that the seasoning packs were high in fat and sodium.
The seasoning packet has most of the sodium, but the noodles have a lot, too, and the noodles, just plain, are extremely calorie-laden because of the deep-fat-frying. I'm not disputing their deliciousness or versatility or convenience - they're just not the innocent, plain-grain (or rice) noodles I once thought they were. So if you're pretty conscious of your own dietary intake, or considering feeding a lot of them to kids, you should be aware of this. Just google around "ramen noodle nutrition" or "ramen noodles without seasoning" - there's lots of info out there. (My brother, who lives in Japan, told me a possibly apocryphal story about a college kid who lived on nothing but packaged ramen for 8 months and then kicked the bucket.)
Here's an ameliorating point from my own practices - I may use the seasoning package and everything else (many packages nowadays come with multiple packets of stuff - seasoning, dried veggies, oil, other stuff, even pepper; all in their own little pack within the overall package containing the noodles) but generally don't drink all the resulting soup. I fish out the reconstituted veggies etc along with the noodles, which are flavored with the full complement of the included seasonings & etc [and any other stuff I may have put in if cooking the ramen in a pot - see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8000... for example] but often leave much of the soup behind or drink a limited amount of it and therefore do not take in all the sodium, fat, etc etc listed in the table of ingredients at those times.
I would suspect many others do the same too.
My usual/local Chinese grocery store has a wall of floor-to-ceiling shelves about 30 feet long containing all sorts of ramen or instant noodles and packaged noodles (the all-in-one type with seasoning packets) of Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, Japanese, Taiwanese, (Mainland) Chinese, Hong Kong, Korean origin or derivation, with many made-in-USA types as well.
(Note that these noodles EXCLUDE the other varieties of fresh and dried noodles, egg/wheat or rice or other grains, that are simply noodles alone - without the sauce/seasoning/etc packets - and those, of course, occupy a great deal of shelf space and refrigerator space (for the fresh ones) by themselves.)
I haven't had this in a very, very long time but in college I used to boil the noodles without the spice packet, and saute hamburger with onion and cabbage and soy sauce, and then mix it all together. The first time I made it, my husband refused to eat it. The second time, he gave it a shot and never looked back. He called it "Garbage Chow Mein." Good memories; good stuff.
mamachef, I would have to change the name to something like "Goulash with noodles" to serve it to my German & Polish relatives. If I told them I was fixing a Chinese dish called "Garbage Chow Me-in, they would just roll their eyes & stare. Very set in their ways of eating, would not touch that with a ten foot pole. I was raised to eat just those nationalities of foods & never really tasted other types at all. That's why it is so much fun to be on Chowhound & see what all other people are eating. Even after all these years I am amazed at the varieties of food out there.
Thanks for yet another good meal.
Mamachef, same here. My parents and grandparents kept instant noodles for a quick and easy meal (more for the kids than themselves, I think). In college, my American friends taught me to doctor cup of noodle with tuna, cheese and cream for a tuna casserole type meal that made giving up the meal plan an extremely economical decision. My current roommate keeps them on hand for the same thing, though I haven't touched the stuff in years. There's a big difference between Japanese ramen and instant noodle ramen: not necessarily in a bad way. Each has its own place.
JungMann, to me the difference is the texture. Americanized Ramen seems mushy to me, almost impossible to get al dente which is how I want them. I like to shop the Asian stores for those. I'd have eaten that "tuna noodle" casserole back then....I'd have eaten almost anything back then.
I never saw ramen until I left home; it wasn't something my mom was familiar with, and if she had been she might have read the label and seen the sodium content and nixed it anyway. Who knows. Mom the uncook was inconsistent like that.
I think you can get a somewhat bouncy instant noodle depending on the amount of water you use and how long you steep it, but to me, the difference is more than just texture. Those seasoning packets are salt bombs, which is the primary reason I avoid them. Japanese ramen has a subtler, more complex and deeper flavor that can't be recreated with dehydrated vegetables and meat.
Oh, now you're not kidding. One of my favorite daytrips is over to Japantown Centre in San Fransisco, where my goal is to get either cold soba with scallions, dashi, sesame oil and seeds and a quail egg. OMG, I really can't think of anything better than those delicioius buckwheat noodles, all springy and curly and delicious, with the dressing that happens when everything mixes together. They also make a fantastic Udon bowl - deep, rich broth with those wonderful fat noodles intertwined with, I think bok choy or choy sum; topped with the best tempure I've ever had: Prawns, onions, yams, mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus, green beans....oh, what a meal.
Getting hungry here. :)
What about the noodles in salad gives you the willies? I've been making it for about 30 years, since my mother cut a recipe out of the LA Times. Shredded cabbage, broccoli slaw, carrots, jalapenos, green onions (any of the items above). Toasted almonds and sesame seeds. Shredded chicken or not. I've probably made that more than any other single recipe in my cooking career. Terrific brown bag lunch, pot luck salad, or summer supper.
tcamp, please forgive me if you thought I was putting down the noodle salad recipes. Was not my intent at all.
You are so right about its popularity...potlucks, picnics, funerals, you name it. I am going to search the net for a recipe right now & make that dish as soon as I can get to the store. I don't want to mention why those noodles in there gave me the willies...some folks might have a delicate stomach. Some things are best left unsaid. I will try to find the LA times one so I can make it just like yours. Thank you.
Oh, I'd say they've been an American poverty staple for a while - the old joke was that ramen, Jolly Ranchers and beer were the punk rock food pyramid. They're more nourishing than the other easily available packaged foods at that price point - at ten cents a bag or so they're certainly cheap and the Extreme Couponing people seem to be able to get them practically for free.
yes, they are everywhere, as evidenced by the plethora of CH posts covering the topic:
I rarely buy ramen, and rarely doctor them up, but once every few months it's good for a snack. I just tried MaMa brand from Thailand, and boy, they make great ramen. You get a wet seasoning pack instead of dry, plus a little sachet of hot chili powder. I tried the pork flavor this week, think it was 39¢ or something. I'll buy those again.
This is pretty close to the recipe I use...I generally put in peanuts, because that's what I have around. And I add a small amount of soy sauce and sesame oil. You can adjust the sugar amount to taste. I have to admit, it's pretty good!
I buy the noodles and doctor them up on occasion. You can do lots of stuff with em. On another thread, I mentioned that I like me, and a few people chimed in with their ways of using cheap ramen packs. Here's the permalink:
I especially like how Kaimukiman suggests using them in a stir-fry.
I also made a fairly elaborate ramen for a competition just earlier this week, using the noodles from the packet. The challenge was to come up with a starter on the fly that showcased mushrooms. Mine was designed in such a way that parts of it could be withheld so it could also be served to vegetarians. Here is the recipe, just cut and pasted from the webpage. It's a lot of work, but several of the techniques can be scaled back and used to good effect for everyday home cooking.
" ***Note – All measurements are approximated. Sometimes badly. The recipes, to the best of my recollection, are how I actually made the dish in competition, not necessarily how I would make them given another chance***
Mushroom Ramen With Pork Belly)
Mushroom ramen broth
Quick-pickled beech mushrooms
Tempura button mushroom
Garnishes: mung bean sprouts, sesame seeds, cilantro, nori sheets, sesame oil
For the ramen broth (some of the mushroom broth went to the second course):
- Approx 10 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
- 5 ounces button mushroom trimmings
- Tablespoon oil for sautéing
- 2 ounces dried shitake mushrooms
- 1 medium to large piece of dried kombu (maybe 2 ounces?)
- handful of bonito flakes
- 1/4 cup miso
- The bottom half (white end) of a bunch of green onions
- A generous thumb’s worth of fresh ginger
- 1/3 cup of neutral oil – I used safflower
- About 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
- Generous splash of mirin
- Salt to taste
Sauté the cremini mushrooms until deep brown. Place the sautéed mushrooms in a pressure cooker with the dried shitakes and the un-seared button mushroom trimmings. Add about 5 cups of water and cook at full pressure for 30 minutes. Release pressure and strain the broth. Discard mushrooms (or if you were as short of mushrooms as I was, keep them to add later to the quinoa in the second course)
Meanwhile add kombu to 8 cups of water on the stovetop. Slowly heat, but don’t let it boil. Keep the kombu infusing in water that’s just below a simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the kombu. Bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and add bonito flakes. Let the bonito flakes infuse for a couple minutes. Then strain the broth. You’ve now made dashi.
Meanwhile, combine the green onions, ginger, and neutral oil. Blend thoroughly.
When all 3 components are made, combine the dashi with 3 cups of the mushroom broth (save the rest of the mushroom broth for the second course). Add miso and green onion-ginger oil. Emulsify thoroughly with an immersion blender. Season the broth with soy sauce, mirin, and salt. Ramen broth is complete – now keep it hot.
For the quick-pickled beech mushrooms:
- 5 ounces separated beech mushrooms
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/3 cup white vinegar (I would have used rice vinegar if I had it)
- 2 tablespoons of mirin
- Tablespoon of coriander
- Tablespoon mustard seed
Combine water and salt (about 1-2 tablespoons – you want the final pickling solution to be just shy of seawater-salty). Add the coriander seed and mustard seed – it would probably be better if you toasted em first, but I didn’t do that. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add vinegar and mirin. Mix and then add mushrooms. Let infuse for a few hours.
For the pork belly:
- 1 1/4 pound slab of pork belly
Score the fat cap of the pork belly and season both sides with salt. Grill on a very hot charcoal fire. Flareups are fine – let em happen. Blacken the surface of the pork belly on both sides (fat side especially), more charring than you’d normally go for on a grill, but not burnt to a cinder. Rinse the pork belly under water, rubbing the surface to remove some of the excess char. Then put it in a pressure cooker with 1/2 cup of water and more salt to taste. Cook at full pressure for 40 minutes or so until tender. Remove the pork belly and slice it. Let the liquid sit for a bit, pour off most of the fat, and reserve for the next course.
For the egg:
- one medium egg per serving
Cook the egg sous vide at 147 deg F for 70 minutes or longer. Hold in sous vide water bath until service.
For the tempura button mushrooms:
- One half of a medium sized button mushroom per serving
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup rice flour
- oil for deep frying
Heat oil to 350-375. Mix the flours with about 2 cups very cold water to form a thin batter. Don’t overmix. In about 3 batches, dip the mushrooms in the batter and then deep fry until batter is crisp, about 90 seconds.
For the Ramen noodles:
- The noodles from 3 packs of instant ramen
Discard the packets from instant ramen noodles. Boil noodles until cooked. Strain. Cover. Seriously, ramen noodles are a bitch to make from scratch.
To plate and serve:
Put the ramen noodles in a bowl. Carefully crack a sous vide-cooked egg into the bowl next to the noodles – don’t worry if a little bit of the white stays in the shell. Re-emulsify the ramen broth if necessary, then pour the hot ramen broth over the egg and the noodles (the broth firms up the egg white just a bit while leaving the yolk molten). Put the mung bean sprouts and pickled beech mushrooms on top. Then a slice of pork belly. Then, on top, the tempura mushroom. Stick a piece of the nori sheet into the side of bowl, upright. Sprinkle the whole thing with a few sesame seeds, cut cilantro, and a scant drizzling of sesame oil. Serve with chopsticks. "
cowboyardee..wow, the lowely ramen has risen to new heights. Thanks a bunch for all those recipes...wonder if there is a "Ramen" cookbook out there somewhere, I can already tell you Chow people will "doctor" anything, given the opportunity. By the way, how did you do in the competition?
Ah, sorry - I misread your post. It was a two-man competition. I lost the overall competition by 5 points out of 600 total. But I won on the 'flavor' aspect of the scoring, and this particular dish won the first round.
More details about the competition are here, if anyone is interested:
"Do you buy them?" Yes...and no.
We often buy ramen noodles, but only for the noodles themselves. The flavor packs are throwaways, or I use them when backpacking.
For "ramen noodle" the dish, I've used David Chang's recipe, which is multi step. It's a bit involved, but the finished product is excellent. It's like the difference between making chicken noodle soup with canned chicken and bouillon cubes, and making from scratch.OK? Yes. Easy? Yes. Better with elbow grease? Hell Yes.
If you really like ramens, and if you and cooking inclined, take the time to make Chang's recipe. It's not hard, and the ingredients are easy to find. It'll take longer than the "ramen package", but then the final product is literally a thousand times better.