Ramen is a Bachelor’s Kitchen favorite. Not only is it cheap, it is filling. And what used to be a college dormitory staple has gone way beyond schools and have become a regular for those who are finding it hard to make ends meet.
But is it healthy? Well, it can be.
The simplest way to up the nutrition of this simple noodle dish is to add vegetables and proteins. That can turn this staple into a complete meal. But you can take it a step further without a lot of trouble.
In The Bachelor’s Kitchen recipe section, we have the Asian Noodle Bowl, a simple way to use the noodles as an ingredient that abandons the salty flavor packet and adds good protein and vegetables.
A stir-fry is another quick and easy way to make ramen healthier. On the blog Dumbed Down Food by Rick Brandt, a recent graduate from the University of Iowa, one of the most popular posts is Ramen Stir-Fry.
Here’s what you need: a small pot, a small frying pan, a package of flavored Ramen (chicken or beef preferred), a half cup of frozen mixed vegetables (small cut veggies are best), two eggs and a teaspoon of butter. The eggs, if you like them hard boiled, can be cooked ahead of time.
Start with the pack of Ramen and it’s flavor packet. Remove both from the wrapper, break up the noodles and put them in the small frying pan. Add enough water to cover them. Then add the frozen vegetable and put the pan over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the noodles and veggies are tender.
While that’s cooking, cook your eggs in the small pot or saucepan, if you haven’t already. Then chop them into bite size pieces. Drain the noodles and veggies, add the butter and the seasoning packet to the noodles and cook over medium heat for a couple minutes. Be sure to stir it a lot so it doesn’t burn. Add the chopped eggs and you’re done.
See? Even a busy, culinarily-challenged college student can do it.
The wonderful thing about instant ramen noodles is that they are versatile. Want a sandwich but you’re out of bread? No problem! How about a ramen noodle grilled cheese sandwich? Believe it or not, it’s the latest craze.
Cook a package of ramen according to the directions on the package. Drain the water and let them cool. Then add one egg and mix. Dump the contents of your pan onto a cutting board and spread them out until the pile is about a half-inch thick. Cut two bread-size squares from the pile and place each piece between two pieces of wax paper. Then put them into the refrigerator.
After about 20 minutes, the ramen “bread” should be holding together. Heat them in a pan for a minute or two on each side. Add three or four slices of cheese and stack the other noodle patty on top. Then finish it the way you would a regular grilled cheese. The cheese will melt into the spaces between the noodles.
Or, perhaps you prefer to bake it into a ramen frittata, packed with shredded cheese, bacon and tomatoes. Better yet, just smother it in chocolate and ice cream for a one-of-a-kind dessert.
In the book Rah! Rah! Ramen, +Sara Childs+ explores dozens of quick recipes for using instant noodles in the microwave. The dishes range from Macmen N’ Cheese to a spinach cannelloni soup to lemon curd ramen. Childs says she could come up with plenty more.
“If you look at it as just a basic ingredient, you can keep adding with your imagination and take off on it.”
At its heart, ramen noodles are just wheat flour and palm oil. It’s what food historians call a “platform food,” on which you can build any flavors. On top of everything else, ramen is cheap.
But that’s not all. Ramen often brings out memories, of college days, of childhood, of young love and of hard times. And it leads to creativity, like ramen beef stew, ramen tuna casserole and ramen burritos. These creations might not be in the same league as restaurant quality noodle dishes, but they bring the art of cooking down to an “everyman” level.
Now when you open a pack of ramen noodles, you can let your imagination soar. Look upon this humble food as the vehicle for your own personal gourmet cuisine.