Building A Better Ramen

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Ramen, the noodle soup consumed in mass quantities during college years—and these somehow still financially lean adult years—exists as both a bargain bin dinner and a deeply flavored menu item all at once. True satisfaction lies in slurping through a bowl of your own creation—always starting with Maruchan, the crown jewel of packaged noodle soups.

Maruchan packaging contains a block of dried noodles and a packet of chicken “flavor.” Throw that death-by-sodium packet into the trash, it is of no help where you’re going. Instead, opt to create your own spice combination using whatever has been sitting in the kitchen cabinet for as long as you can remember.

Start with salt and pepper, then grab the onion and garlic powders. There’s probably poultry seasoning in there; grab that, too. Do you have a chicken-flavored bouillon cube? If so, crush it and add it to the mix. Combine all those seasonings, measured with your eyes and instinct, in a small bowl and set aside.

Bring at least two cups of ice cold water to a boil. Here’s where the fun begins. Stir in a teaspoon of peanut butter and a sustained squirt of sriracha chili sauce. The combination creates a Thai-chili-peanut aura throughout the soup.

All top ramen recipes include some form of protein—this could be any leftover meat nearing its expiration date in your refrigerator, including one of those supermarket rotisserie chickens. Other great options for ramen protein include bacon, sliced hot dogs and any type of sausage, cold cuts, shrimp and just about any frozen vegetable taking up space in the freezer. Even the bone of a leftover steak can be utilized here—the grizzle and fat brings another layer of unctuous flavor. A good rule of thumb is to fry your protein in a skillet with butter before added it to the boiling water. Frying begets browning and browning begets flavor. When a sufficiently crispy coating forms, slide it into the boiling water, along with drippings from the frying pan.

After allowing your chosen ingredients to boil together for about five minutes, add the dried noodles. About 30 seconds after dropping in the noodles, crack an egg into the mixture and cover with a lid, letting the concoction boil at a high intensity for about one minute. Then, turn off the heat and let sit, still covered with the lid, for a minute to a minute-and-a-half. This keeps the yolk runny while cooking the egg whites.

Find a bowl—a big bowl—and pour in the entire creation. Find the yolk, break it and mix it up so that the egg yolk becomes one with the broth. Garnish, if you’re into that sort of thing, with chopped green onions and a generous squeeze of sriracha. Grab a spoon, and chopsticks procured from Chinese takeout weeks earlier, and eat with your face directly over the steaming bowl.

Slurp away and dream up tomorrow’s ramen vision quest.

The Cultured Pigramen, noodles, soup