An ode to ramen:
I guess you could say I have a long, and lovingly uncomplicated relationship with package ramen.
Like many, growing up as a kid it was “that thing” that you just barely knew how to make on your own, (or were allowed to). Memories related to this time of my life were always associated with the Nissin Top Ramen brand, beef, chicken, “oriental” (what does that even mean?), and occasionally Shrimp (because you just knew that Pepto pink on the package stood for “Living on the EdgeTM” - basically whatever our single county grocery store had on hand, and that you weren’t sick of from eating too much last time.
There were many hallmarks to my childhood ramen eating career, recalled most notably are:
4-7 years old: Frozen peas/corn/ in ramen (aka: “the parental special”)
7 years old: My neighbor across the back fence asks “Why don’t you eat yours with cheese?” - TOTAL game changer, but harder to clean pot. Also, cheese wasn’t always to be come by, so there’s that. The final technique I settled on was to cut the slices medium girth, not grate, and add them on top near the end of the boil so as to melt the cheese, but not obliterate the pot.
Authors note - Top Ramen is best had in the pot, or when feeling sophisticated at a ratio of 20 in-pot eatings, to each “I’m fancy oh look I managed to fit this thing in a bowl without spilling broth all over the freaking place”
7-14 years old - It was around this time that I discovered the joys of just eating the package plain. (especially when there was no cheese to be had). When I was feeling extra suave, I’d open two or three packets to dump the flavor into one bag for a special flavor burst. Maybe I just wasn’t getting enough salt? This trick did not play well with the shrimp flavor, oriental+beef yielded most favorable results. The coup d’ état was to hide the open ramen bags back in the cupboard with the closed sides facing out. There it would eventually be consumed by either: humans, animals, or be thrown out stale and abandoned 3-6 months after the fact. Oh to be young, and unconcerned with hantavirus.
Somewhere around this time, I discovered the miracle of solution concentration, where you put the water to boil, temper the noodles, and then pour off the excess water before adding the flavor packs - I suspect this had something to do with the eventual decline of my dry-package preferences
14-18 years old - Having moved to the BigCityTM, prospects were looking up, and cheese was more plentiful - I found myself tapering off the dry-flavor strategy, however I would still grab a pack dry every few months only to find myself getting halfway through it and guiltily hiding it under the bed (for later, I’d console myself, for later).
18-21 years old - I have the fortunate circumstance of signing my life away to student loans and discovered that in dorm life, ramen is sold and consumed in exceptional quantities of the instant-styrafoam variety (they’ve gone to mostly coated paper now, yay). This both puzzles and horrifies me. I didn’t have a stove/hotpot, so my consumption dropped off precipitously in favor of other scrounging (at least until I could move out of the dorms). I think to date, I have consumed a total of maybe one case worth of the styrofoam stuff during desperate times - for an already wasteful plastic product, it gives me the willies each time.
21 - Ethan shows me Ethan Ramen - aka Top ramen drained/semi drained, and mixed with crunchy peanut butter. As @AllHat mentioned, mind blown. As a side note, I’m pretty sure I remember eating ramen while reading Strega Nona growing up - it’s funny how food provides us anchors to time and place (nice avatar!).
25 years old - Despite the miracles of peanut butter and the masterminds at Nissin, my Top Ramen fixation tapers off. This totally has nothing to due with moving to Portland where they have these places called “restaurants” that serve “actual” ramen. However… upon a bike tour to SanDiego in 2015, a friend introduces me to a new, and tantalizing grocery store unicorn so called “Shin Black Ramen”. Hiding from the rain in the vestiges of a wind blown camp in Big Sur, a new chapter of ramen bliss awakens.
26 years old - The year of the Egg. Despite my trip to Big Sur - living in NE Portland allows hard-won access by bike to places that go big on “fancy” packaged Ramen. Notable forages include Fubonn (Jade District, SE Portland), and Uwajimaya (Downtown Beaverton, and special shoutout for it’s proximity to MAX public transit options). Nissin is near-dead to me, I find myself eating out, and when I can obtain the rare 5-pack or two, I practice the heck out of my egg game. Due to the likes of (rhymes with “Oxer Ramen”) I am in hot home pursuit of the perfectly yolky, yet so-substantial ethereal egg. If I could combine their egg with the broth & chashu of (rhymes with “Uzu”) in Beaverton, I would die a happy fellow. (There is exactly one place in all of PDX that I will stomach waiting 30+ minutes in line for, (rhymes with “Uzu”) is that place, though now I’m getting off topic…)
30 years old - This is a special year. This is the year that I have slightly more access to a car, and that I decide “screw it, I’m going to go big on ramen” Let’s call it “making up for childhood lack of options”. Despite enjoying Nissin early on, I feel I have some serious ground to make up as far as variety, noodle quality, and flavor pack add-ins. Most importantly, the opening of SF SUPERMARKET on SE Foster fosters an access to varieties and options previously unheard of in PDX (though Fubonn is a close second, their prices aren’t as good).
Present day - Future - I’ve come back big on peanut butter mix now that I’m using better noodles. Unfortunately I’ve ruined myself on the hot stuff packaged ramen (Shin Black, etc) so I usually find myself adding in some extra hot-sauce (da-bomb is an excellent bang for the buck and goes a looooong way). When I’m not peanut buttering it up, I am still working to get the perfect egg consistency (I’ve challenged myself not to look up how to actually accomplish this - gotta keep it interesting somehow). When I am preparing with broth, semi-adult me has gotten much better at mixing in greens, so I find that stocking up a ton of different frozen veggies makes it super easy. Frozen veggies are on hand, and I like to supplement these with fresh garlic/scallions as often as I can get them.
My favorite method for ramen with eggs is adding one or two about 1-2 minutes before the cooking finishes, to the side of the pot, quick stir on top of the noodles so the egg doesn’t stick, and then it’s just about right when pouring out the excess water.
My favorite method for adding frozen veggies to ramen is to add after cooked, and flavored - I like to use the coldness of the veggies to dial in perfect-ready-to-slurp temp broth for immediate use.
Authors note/opinion: “Fancy” ramen is loosely defined as anything better/more expensive than Nissan Top Ramen, measured by noodle thickness, additional flavor packs included, and size of ramen package, Nissan does actually make higher quality noodles but they’re not often found in most supermarkets. Where Nissin averages 10c-40c per packet, “Fancy” ramen is typically a bit closer to $1 per packet, unless you get those styrafoam instant-cups in which case you enjoy turning your money into literal trash.
If I had to guess, I’ve eaten about 100-200 packages of fancy ramen (primarily in the last year), and something around ~10,000 packages of the Nissin Top Ramen Variety. I still love how you can get them by the case at some of the larger stores for $5 or less!
I’ve included some photos because… ramen!
SF Supermarket - Where Dreams Come True
Good Shin alternative ramen (spicy)
A whole isle!!
Eating health*ier is easy when you already have veggies
Boo styrafoam (packaged ramen in general, so plastic intensive )
The ramen that re-ignited it all
The daycare across the street was free-piling unused toys, so I like to joke that I now run a ramen cart (har har)
Thus concludes my opus to instant ramen.
Authors note: Things I will be trying with ramen inspired from posts in this thread: Ranch, Butter, Ketchup - I don’t think butter and ketchup were mentioned, but the discussion on ranch got me on a roll…
TLDR: I might be a bit obsessed with ramen.