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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cooking for Guys - Ramen

Everyone knows what Ramen is, it's that square packet of noodles and a small pouch of seasoning. At least for most that's what it is. I first really found out what Ramen is from the movie "Ramen Girl", it's sort of an anti-love story. The main character moves to Japan to be with her boyfriend who moved there for work, it's not a big part of the movie but it is a big part of her motivation. He then takes off for another job, leaving her behind in the apartment, basically telling her he doesn't know when and if he'll be back. This eventually ends up with the girl going to a Ramen shop and finally becoming the apprentice of the Master. The movie is mostly a chick flick, but the cooking, and the view of Japanese custom and lifestyle kept me watching. After watching this movie I started to learn about Ramen, and even how to take it from the pack to an actual meal.

One of the first things I learned is that the seasoning packet contains so much sodium and salt that it gives you 1/3 of the daily recommended value for the day. So usually the first thing I do when I open the pack is to throw away the seasoning packet. Then I get started with creating dinner. Second thing I figured out, is that Ramen isn't much different then angel hair pasta, they are both thin wheat noodles, Ramen noodles can be bought in a 5 pack for about $1 to $1.25, a one pound box of angel hair noodles can cost about the same. A pack of Ramen is 3 ounces, by using angel hair pasta, you can get 5 1/3 portions of this size. Angel hair pasta may take an extra 2 or 3 minutes to cook, but the rest of the preparation is the same, so if you want, just buy the angel hair and use that, and you don't have to throw away the packets any more.

Now on to the cooking part.

Tonight I was in the mood for some Italian food, so I took a can of tomato soup, started heating it by the directions on the can.. I added some garlic salt, and some Italian seasoning to the soup. Then when it started to steam I put the Ramen noodles into the soup. When it started to bubble a bit I lowered the heat to medium and let it cook the Ramen. When it was done I added some Parmesan cheese, and had a nice bowl of quick and easy pasta.

Another Ramen creation I made was when I was in the mood for Cajun food. I cooked the Ramen and drained the noodles with a colander. While the Ramen cooked I chopped some onions, I had some shrimp in the freezer so grabbed a couple of them, grabbed some cajun seasoning, and garlic. While the Ramen drained I put some oil in the pan, added the onions and cooked them for a couple of minutes. Then I added the garlic and cajun seasoning, and finally the shrimp. I let the shrimp cook for a couple of minutes and then added the Ramen. I stirred it up good to mix the seasonings and to make sure the shrimp was done cooking, then added a bit of Louisiana hot sauce to add a little bit of a kick, and even though it was noodles and not rice, I had a substitute Jambalaya. You can add chicken if you want, a little bit of ham, some diced celery. In fact I was told by a cook from Louisiana, that basically Jambalaya is a stew that you can put anything you have or like into it.

If you like stir fry, get out your fry pan or wok if you have one. Chop up some vegetables, onions, peppers, carrots, celery, even broccoli or cauliflower, whatever you have, already cut up, or frozen is fine. Even a mixture from a bag of frozen stir fry veggies. Pick your choice of meat(s), I like to use left over or frozen chicken, or shrimp, but you can use any meat, look at the variety in a Chinese menu, and those are just the "Americanized" Chinese foods. Then finally the sauce, could be as simple as the packets from your last trip to a Chinese restaurant, you know the soy sauce, and duck sauce, or you buy another type of sauce in the ethnic section of the grocery store. Again start by cooking the Ramen and draining it. Then put some oil in your pan and heat it up. Don't use olive oil as that will start to smoke, basic veggie oil, corn oil, or peanut oil. Take the meat you have and cook it until mostly done, you don't want it fully done because you are going to finish with the veggies and noodles later. Take the meat out and set it aside in a bowl or on a plate, I'll use the plate I am going to eat it on (remember to wash the plate when you return the meat to the pan, you don't have to scrub it, just run it under hot water to clean and sanitize it). Add the veggies, things like the onions and garlic first, followed by carrots and celery, then the peppers and broccoli. Cook each set of added veggies for a minute or two before adding the next. Then add the sauce to the pan, and cook it in to the veggies. Make sure you have enough sauce that it is still wet. After a minute or two you put your meat back into the pan (remember to wash the plate or bowl) and finally the noodles. Stir it up good to mix it together. If you want to you can add some sesame seeds or a little bit of hot sauce to finalize the dish right before eating it.

These are 3 quick ideas to build on for the nights you need something to eat and think you don't have anything to make. You can make Ramen Alfredo, or Ramen butter noodles (both are the same, except you add some Parmesan cheese and a bit of milk or cream to the Alfredo, just cook the noodles in the butter, and salt and pepper,and let it soak in a bit). It can be as easy or complicated as you want to make it. Use your leftovers, or check what's in the freezer. Any thing you can do with spaghetti or most other pastas, can be done with Ramen.

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