Friday, June 15, 2012

Sarah's Fancy Stir-Fry Ramen

So, due to popular demand, I am going to cook for you guys today. Better yet, I am going to teach you guys how to turn this:
 Into this:
Making ramen exciting is a particularly handy skill when:
  1. You're a poor, starving writer
  2. Any money you do get is going towards buying a couch before the big sale ends
  3. You're eating instant ramen all the time anyway
  4. You have that faint hope that your ramen tasted different for once
I'm sure we've all been there at least once. Am I right? *crickets chip* Yeah . . . I'm totally right. So let me teach you guys how to spice up instant ramen!

Sarah's Fancy Stir-Fry Ramen
In order to make this delicious meal for two people, you will need:
  • 2 packets instant ramen
  • 2 hard boiled eggs (peeled)
  • Delicious veggies of your choice
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Rice vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 green onion stalk (chopped)
  • Fresh ginger (minced)
  • Sesame seeds
Yes, you may notice the distinct lack of measurements in that ingredient list. This is because cooking this dish consists mostly of winging it. But don't worry, everything will turn out okay.

Right-o. To start with, we're going to make shoyu eggs, as seen on the excellent Japanese food blog, Just Bento. Why eggs in a noodle dish? They add protein and I love them.

To make these babies, you're going to need some soy sauce and your hard boiled eggs. In this case, I have 2 eggs and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Heat the soy sauce in a small pan. Once it starts foaming, add the eggs and roll them around with a spoon so they get evenly coated in the soy sauce. When they're done, they'll look something like this:
Yum! Remove from the pan and chill in fridge. This will let the soy sauce set a little bit and make the eggs easier to slice later.

Next, pull out your delicious veggies. In this case I'm using ½ cup frozen corn and ½ cup canned bean sprouts, but I'm also a huge fan of Asian stir fry frozen veggie medleys. Pretty much anything can work though--peas, carrots, brocoli, edamame, water chestnuts, cabbage, etc. Just sauté the veggies of choice in a little butter until they're all warm and delicious. Set aside.
Now it's time to get the actual noodles out of the way. If you're feeling particularly skilled, you can do this while you're sautéing the veggies. If not, well, it's not big deal. Just place the ramen noodle bricks in boiling water, cook until done, strain, and set aside.
For a quick recap: at this point we've made shoyu eggs, sautéed our delicious veggies, and cooked our noodles. Next comes the sauce, which will tie the entire dish together. You will need all of this stuff:
Top row: sesame seeds, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
Bottom row: ramen seasoning packets (chicken flavor), minced garlic, chopped green onions, and minced ginger.

Okay, so it looks a little intimidating (and expensive), but it's not that bad. Really. The bottled ingredients will last you quite a while and the fresh ingredients are A) not that expensive, and b) add a kick that their powdered counterparts lack.

So to get this started, add the garlic, ginder, and a dollop of sesame oil to your pot. When making this sauce I usually adjust ingredients based on taste, so unfortunately I'm not going to be much help when it comes to measurements. The thing about most of these ingredients is that, while having more or less of one will change the flavor of your sauce, it won't ruin the dish. Don't be afraid to experiment--too much or too little of something never killed anyone.

Anyway, I like to cook the ginger and garlic in the sesame oil until they get soft and a little browned. This seems to help the flavors come out and make them taste delicious. . . but I really have no idea what I'm talking about. Just do it.
Once that's done, it's time to add the rest of your ingredients. Start off with a splash of soy sauce and rice vinegar. You want to have enough liquid to cover your noodles, so make sure to at least cover the bottom of your pot. Mix in some sesame seeds and the two ramen seasoning packets until everything is well combined. Add the green onions and give them the opportunity to soften a little. This is a good time to taste test and adjust the levels of sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar to get the perfect flavor.
When everything is to your satisfaction, add the cooked veggies that you set aside earlier. Get them all nice and covered in sauce, and then add your noodles. When you're mixing everything, make sure to get the noodles completely covered in sauce. You should have little to no liquid left over and your noodles will visibly change color when they are properly sauced (feel free to compare the color in this next image to the image of the cooking noodles above).
Almost done! Dish out your lovely creation into two bowls. Cut the shoyu eggs we made earlier up into pretty slices and place along the side of your bowl. And look at that, you're done!
Now doesn't that look delicious? Of course it does! Alternatively, if you're feeling particularly ambitious, you can pan fry up some chicken tenders in a little sesame oil and soy sauce, slice them up like the eggs, and have another element to your noodles.

So, how do you guys feel about instant ramen? Is it one of those foods that you avoid like the plague? Have you ever had the opportunity to eat real ramen in Japan? And, most importantly, do you have any alternative ramen recipes worthy sharing? Tell me in the comments!