The Art Of Ramen

April 30, 2008

A man bicycles down a dimly lit street, balancing three hot steaming bowls of soup as he navigates the various pedestrians and suicidal drivers all intent on their destination. Approaching the apartment building, he enters, climbs a few flights of stairs, and makes his delivery, picking up some bowls from the previous night’s dinner. Whereas in America we would have been expecting a pizza delivery, in Japan it’s not an uncommon sight to see Ramen soup delivery.

If you ever find yourself in an “Oriental Style” kitchen, see if you can find some Miso Ramen to eat. The soup is like a more complex version of Chicken Noodle Soup, served in a huge bowl (if they do it right). Hmm. Makes me hungry typing this.

However, in free association, most Americans will think instead of a small, hard brick of fried noodles sealed in a plastic wrap with a small foil packet of soup base. In 1958, Momofuku Ando of Nissin Foods invented instant ramen noodles (named the greatest Japanese invention of the 20th century in a Japanese poll, beating out karaoke and the Walkman (!)) which allows a meal to be prepared in 3 minutes or so. Liberal application of artificial flavoring and monosodium glutamate trick the brain into believing it has indeed had a complete meal. And at 15-20 cents per packet, it beats out mac and cheese and completely decimates spaghetti as the food of choice when you just have to go out and buy a new RAID array or Wii and discover you’ve stomped your food budget (again).

For such a simple meal, however, I’ve discovered that everyone has their own special way of preparing it. A friend of mine boils the water, takes it off the heat, stirs in the sauce and lets it cool. And liberally applies pepper to the resulting soup. 50% (made up statistic) of the people who make these noodles crush the noodle brick before boiling. Various additions and subtractions have been tried, with various levels of success.

My favorite noodle cooking process is to place the brick into rapidly boiling water, then following it with what my sister and I call “Korean Ketchup” (a very spicy red sauce with a rooster on it; you can find it at your local WalMart), about three tablespoons. Allow the water to boil the brick on medium-high heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take the pan off and drain, leaving about a quarter inch of water in the bottom of the pan. Return to the stove and set to medium heat. Open the flavor packet and sprinkle on the noodles. Stir rapidly to dissolve the packet in the water before it boils away, and coat the noodles with the resulting sauce. Remove from heat and pour on plate. You end up with a very strongly flavored, spicy, almost Yakisoba style ramen dish. Sometimes I add frozen fajita chicken, but let’s be honest, if I had the money for frozen fajita chicken, I wouldn’t be scarfing down ramen noodles. Goes excellent with disposable wooden chopsticks swiped from your local oriental meal establishment.

I’ve seen tons of recipes for ramen noodles, from Mexican Ramen and Cheese to an almost Rice Krispie Treat type Noodle/Sugar/Chocolate/Marshmallow recipe that tastes pretty good. Yes, the humble ramen noodle brick is so inoffensive and flavorless (by design) that it can be used as the base for nearly any food desired. So, the next time you snag a box of 15 cent plastic packets, try to come up with an exciting new way to cook them. Ramen is an art, not a science.

-Zoey

Comments

April 30th, 2008 at 10:47am

First of all, what are the odds of the "Korean Ketchup" tag ever being used again?

I cook ramen by boiling the brick whole, pouring out MOST of the water, and then stirring in the seasoning.

I had a friend who made hers by boiling the brick whole, pouring out all the water, and smothering it in butter and salt. This left her brother with 2 packets of flavoring per brick, so he always had ramen breath.

I don't know if this is a localized phenomenon, but I would commonly see kids gnawing on dry bricks of ramen in class back at RPI.

April 30th, 2008 at 12:28pm

The correct method to cook Ramen is to bring the water to a boil and then crumble the brick in the boiling water. Cook for five minutes and then add the seasoning, old lunch meat and square of slightly moldy cheese. Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.

Mary has some of that Korean Ketchup at her desk and she swears it is called cock sauce but I am not sure if I believe that.

May 1st, 2008 at 8:45am

I spent a year stationed in Korea. The people of Korea are yet another culture that is in love with their Ramen noodles. Right off all the bases there were "Ramen Houses" that catered to drunkenly soldiers trying to find their way back to the post after a long night on the town. The RHs didn't even open until about midnight and they remained open until the trumpet blasted on the post signalling first formation sometime around O-Dark-Thirty. These noodle houses had Americanized names, the two most popular and competitive near Camp Red Cloud, the post where I was stationed, were not coincidentally the nearest in proximity to the front gate of the base. These two shining examples of the free market alive and well in South Korea were geographically located across the street from one another. One was called "Pop's" and the other was, you guessed it, "Mom's". They both spoke of the other like he or she was the devil. Pop was famous for making his Ramen extra spicy and throwing some chicken in the mix while Mom, well Mom had three cute-twenty-something "daughters" who brought out the bowls and set them on the table giggling the whole time. Both Mom and Pop for whatever reason unwrapped a slice of the packaged cheese we sell here for sandwiches and dropped it on top of the steaming noodles. I am told this was only done in the noodle houses that catered to Americans so perhaps sometime in the last 60 or so years that the US has had troops present in Korea a rumor was started that Americans like cheese on everything. At any rate, the charge for this tasty treat was a buck fifty or 1200 won. For two more quarters or 400 more won you could get a bottle of "cider", which tasted exactly like 7-up and worked wonders at preventing hangovers. Before I left Korea I went to Pop's and got him to give me an unopened brick of the Ramen he used (I was interested in the cider too but Pop assured me it would never make it through US customs). I have been able since to find the Ramen here in Texas at some of the Asian groceries (am still searching for the cider). The noodles are my favorite and while a little more expensive than the standard Ramen fair if you ever want a treat you should give it a try. I promise no "Korean Ketchup", (which is actually Vietnamese but that is a very clever name!), will be needed to spice it up. The included silver package of "flavoring" will be more than enough to make your eyes water. Check it out some time. http://www.koamart.com/shop/1-1028-ramen_bags-shin_ramen_spicy_noodles.asp

May 2nd, 2008 at 11:35am

Man I really want some Ramen right now...and I thought I had enough in college to last me for the rest of my LIFE...

 

      

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Comments

April 30th, 2008 at 10:47am

First of all, what are the odds of the "Korean Ketchup" tag ever being used again?

I cook ramen by boiling the brick whole, pouring out MOST of the water, and then stirring in the seasoning.

I had a friend who made hers by boiling the brick whole, pouring out all the water, and smothering it in butter and salt. This left her brother with 2 packets of flavoring per brick, so he always had ramen breath.

I don't know if this is a localized phenomenon, but I would commonly see kids gnawing on dry bricks of ramen in class back at RPI.

April 30th, 2008 at 12:28pm

The correct method to cook Ramen is to bring the water to a boil and then crumble the brick in the boiling water. Cook for five minutes and then add the seasoning, old lunch meat and square of slightly moldy cheese. Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.

Mary has some of that Korean Ketchup at her desk and she swears it is called cock sauce but I am not sure if I believe that.

May 1st, 2008 at 8:45am

I spent a year stationed in Korea. The people of Korea are yet another culture that is in love with their Ramen noodles. Right off all the bases there were "Ramen Houses" that catered to drunkenly soldiers trying to find their way back to the post after a long night on the town. The RHs didn't even open until about midnight and they remained open until the trumpet blasted on the post signalling first formation sometime around O-Dark-Thirty. These noodle houses had Americanized names, the two most popular and competitive near Camp Red Cloud, the post where I was stationed, were not coincidentally the nearest in proximity to the front gate of the base. These two shining examples of the free market alive and well in South Korea were geographically located across the street from one another. One was called "Pop's" and the other was, you guessed it, "Mom's". They both spoke of the other like he or she was the devil. Pop was famous for making his Ramen extra spicy and throwing some chicken in the mix while Mom, well Mom had three cute-twenty-something "daughters" who brought out the bowls and set them on the table giggling the whole time. Both Mom and Pop for whatever reason unwrapped a slice of the packaged cheese we sell here for sandwiches and dropped it on top of the steaming noodles. I am told this was only done in the noodle houses that catered to Americans so perhaps sometime in the last 60 or so years that the US has had troops present in Korea a rumor was started that Americans like cheese on everything. At any rate, the charge for this tasty treat was a buck fifty or 1200 won. For two more quarters or 400 more won you could get a bottle of "cider", which tasted exactly like 7-up and worked wonders at preventing hangovers. Before I left Korea I went to Pop's and got him to give me an unopened brick of the Ramen he used (I was interested in the cider too but Pop assured me it would never make it through US customs). I have been able since to find the Ramen here in Texas at some of the Asian groceries (am still searching for the cider). The noodles are my favorite and while a little more expensive than the standard Ramen fair if you ever want a treat you should give it a try. I promise no "Korean Ketchup", (which is actually Vietnamese but that is a very clever name!), will be needed to spice it up. The included silver package of "flavoring" will be more than enough to make your eyes water. Check it out some time. http://www.koamart.com/shop/1-1028-ramen_bags-shin_ramen_spicy_noodles.asp

May 2nd, 2008 at 11:35am

Man I really want some Ramen right now...and I thought I had enough in college to last me for the rest of my LIFE...

 

      

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