Budget Cooking – Ramen Noodles

Everyone out there is likely familiar with the ramen-style noodles that have swept through the United States in the last many years. They are available in most groceries under many names such as Maruchan Ramen [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maruchan] and Top Ramen [https://www.nissinfoods.com/products/TopRamen]. From a start with a fascination with Asian food all the way to being consumed in masses by college students and latch-key kids, these noodles have become a household staple for young and old, wealthy and poor alike.

They can be cooked on the stove top or in the microwave, as a noodle soup or simply as noodles. The directions tell you to measure your water, add the noodles, cook until done and add the flavor pack.

Before you turn up your nose at that twenty cent pack of noodles as common or crass, are you aware what else can be done with them? With some simple and handy additions, you might bring a world wide range of cuisine to your table.

In each of these suggested dishes, cook your noodles as directed leaving out the flavor pack, drain and turn out into a bowl.

Thai Noodles
Add half of the flavor package, a tablespoon of peanut butter, a pat of butter, and red chili flakes to taste. Stir until the butters have melted. You have a simple satay noodle. It can always be expanded with other spices, vegetables, and meats into a more glorious dish.

Noodles Con Carnes
Dice some leftover beef to stir into your noodles. Add some Ro-tel and all or part of the flavor package. Stir it up and allow the bowl to sit for a few minutes so that the flavors can mingle. Add hot sauce if desired.

Chicken Curry Noodles
Curry powder is the key ingredient here. Whether you prefer yellow (my favorite), red or green curry, add some to your noodles with a pat of butter and stir. Add some diced, cooked potatoes and carrots and leftover chicken to make a hearty and tasty meal.

Spicy Noodles
Grab your favorite hot sauce (Sriracha, Raspberry Chipotle, Hatch chili sauce, whatever you like) and add as much or as little as you like to the noodles. Stir in a pat of butter and all or part of the flavor package if desired.

Cajun Noodles or Dirty Noodles
Cajun spices are a unique flavor treat. Add some Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning to taste with a pat of butter and stir. Adding leftover meats or sausage, diced, to the dish will give it some heft. You can turn it into “dirty noodles” by adding cooked chicken or beef liver, diced or mashed as you prefer.

Italian Noodles
For a carbonara style dish, add diced ham, green peas, and a pat of butter to your unflavored noodles. A bit of garlic (granulated or roasted) and basil (dry or fresh) will add the right touch to that essential Italian dash. This can be made up as a soup if you prefer.

Egg Drop Noodle Soup
Prepare the package of noodles as directed for a soup. While the the bowl of noodles and broth is still steaming hot, crack and add one chicken egg. Stir break up the egg and you will have a lovely egg drop style soup. The egg can also be left whole to poach, rather like a nabiaki udon.The water for these two variations must be nearly boiling to ensure that the egg is properly cooked. A goose or duck egg will add additional flavor, but might be harder to come by. check your local farmers market for availability.

Each of these suggestions may be used with multiple packages of noodles to create side dishes and even quick meals for two or more people.

In many cases you will have a partial or whole flavor pack left over. Save these and use them as flavorings in other dishes, soups and stocks. The sodium content is a trifle high, so be careful you don’t over salt when using them. The beef and pork flavor packs are excellent additions to beans, and chili dishes.

I have used ramen-style noodles in some pretty odd concoctions, too. Cooked noodles, cute to pieces about a half inch long, were folded into a cookie dough. The cookies are known as “Cat Poop Cookies” and the noodles made it look like the “cat” had a bad case of “worms”. They tasted great, but most guests at that party could not get over the visual of a “litter box” filled with “poops”. Hey, they dared me.

Please drop us a line and let us know if you tried and enjoyed any of these suggestions, or if you have some ideas of your won to share.

–Ann Cathey

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