The Ethical Hedonist: Ramen — the Other White Noodle

As Katie Morris mentioned earlier this month in her blog post about slow cooker minestrone, dropping temperatures and encroaching finals mean ‘tis the season for soup. And lots of it.

Soup appeals to my cooking sensibilities, as it requires no measuring of ingredients, can be made with virtually whatever you have on hand.  What’s more, if you’re willing to break out a 50 cent package of Top Ramen, it can be finished in about the time it takes to boil water

Livening up a package of ramen noodles into a full bodied soup can be as simple as throwing in some vegetables and an egg or as fancy as frying up some pork and breaking out the sake. The incarnation pictured above falls somewhere in between.

This soup adventure began as most of my cooking does, by setting water in a pot to boil and throwing a sliced onion into a pan of hot oil — I used red, but yellow or white would work just as well. After caramelizing half an onion in a pan and then deglazing with a splash of sherry — steps explained in any good French Onion Soup recipe — I added my onions and the prepackaged soup base to the almost boiling water and then set about frying up a small brick of tofu and tomatoes in the remaining sherry and onion juices. From there, it was just a matter of cutting up a couple of extra vegetables until the soup felt full — and generally more nutritious than a package of high-sodium ramen noodles — adding the dry noodles and seasoning to taste.

The one real trick to making fancy ramen is adding your ingredients with an eye toward flavor and cooking time. The soup base in your ramen packet is a great place to start as it will add flavor and cannot be overcooked. Thicker and more flavorful vegetables like onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms are great secondary additions as they will also enhance the flavor of your broth and should maintain their structural integrity in boiling water for several minutes. Noodles and greens should come last as they don’t do much for the flavor of the broth and will cook down almost immediately. An egg can be added either just before the boil for a thicker consistency, akin to egg-drop soup, or anytime after your soup begins to boil for bits of soft-boiled egg mingling with your vegetables. Finally, season your soup to taste with spices you have on hand — I tend toward curry, ginger or coriander, though this time I used marjoram.

HILLARY KNOUSE drinks locally sourced, raw milk with her S’mores Pop-Tarts, every morning. Email your questions, concerns and dinner date offers to hkknouse@ucdavis.edu.

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