Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ramen Noodle Day is Janaury 11

Actually, its Momofuku Ando Day, the man who invented ramen noodles (and cup a noodles). 

Still a young man when he witnessed Japan’s post-WWII food shortage, Ando later experimented with ways to provide shelf-stable instant ramen (noodle) meals.  He famously felt that "peace will come to the world when the people have enough to eat."

Momofuku Ando was a true visionary who looked to technology with an open heart to solve a global problem.  His innovation, to flavor and pre-cook noodles via flash-frying, made a quick meal that fit his vision: tasty, inexpensive and easy to make. By the microwave era, he had developed his cup of noodles complete with its own reheating vessel. 

Ramen noodles are still seen as a satisfying solution for hungry families because they are cheap (about 20¢ package) and provide a feeling of fullness. Despite being, on balance, a good deal, families struggling on food assistance have noted that they get tired of a ramen noodle diet, something any student on a tight budget can appreciate.

The truth is the nutritional value is questionable and the flavor packets do not add much since they are, like bouillon cubes, high in sodium and other additives. Some note a slightly artificial taste.  As a result, those that can toss the flavor packet and add in other flavor ingredients. Many of the add-in recipes combine inexpensive proteins and accessible vegetables with ramen noodles that fit into almost anyone’s budget.  I believe that one of the keys to our nation’s hunger issue is to increase the number of cooks in the kitchen who know how to make simple, inexpensive, nutritious meals like these.  The instant quality of ramen makes it a good first step for inexperienced cooks with limited kichens.

The celebration of chef-chic ramen bars over the past few years has spurred a re-imagining of these noodles.  Everyone from Martha Stewart to Alton Brown to David Chang (whose restaurant empire Momofuku is named for Ando) and more have contributed to the world’s ramen cookbook. 

To succeed in convincing people to cook more, keep it simple and make it delicious.  We all deserve to eat pure foods.  Here are three easy and cheap recipes that you can learn, teach to someone else or use to guide a new cook in uncertain circumstances from processed to pure foods that really satisfy.  These recipes serve two as a side, one as a main dish.

Spicy Peanut Ramen Noodles
Cook the noodles according to package instructions, leaving out the flavor packet.  Once drained, stir into the hot noodles ¼ cup peanut butter, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, a sprinkle of dried chili flakes and sliced cucumbers.  Cooked or canned chicken, chopped unsalted peanuts and sliced scallions are other tasty add-ins as are leftover cooked vegetables like broccoli or zucchini.  If you have a fresh lime, squeeze a little on top before serving. 

Mac N Cheese Ramen
Cook the noodles according to package instructions, leaving out the flavor packet. 
Once drained, stir into the hot noodles 1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese and ¼ cup milk.  Stir vigoriusly to melt the cheese.  Many people like to add chopped tomatoes, thinly sliced red or green peppers, cubed ham and/or hot sauce. 

Chicken Noodley Soup
Heat a can of low-sodium chicken broth and add a peeled and sliced carrot and sliced celery stalk.  Simmer until vegetables are tender 5-10 minutes.  Add ¼ frozen peas and noodles, leaving out the flavor packet.  Cook three minutes until noodles are tender. Remove soup from heat.  Add in sliced leftover meat like chicken or pork.  Firm tofu is nice too.  Just slice it in bite-sized pieces and gently heat it in the hot soup.  A dash of soy sauce is nice if you are adding pork or tofu.