Friday, February 11, 2011

Recipe Roundup 3: Crack Ramen

Remember in college, when ramen was a food group? If you had money, Maruchan Ramen was your brand. But if you were poverty-stricken like most of us, Smack Ramen was the brand for you. Well, in tribute to Smack Ramen, I've named this recipe Crack Ramen -- because the broth is like crack. Once you start eating, an addiction follows shortly.

I have a deep love of ramen, partly because all through high school my mom often brought us ramen for our daily breakfast in bed (I know, I know ... about twenty things are weird with that sentence. Just go with it). And, as you constant readers know, I love the films of Hayao Miyazaki, not least of all because of the noodle-slurping scenes in some of his movies. A few months ago, when master noodle-chef David Chang came out with his cookbook, Momofuku (named after his restaurant, which, in turn, is named after the inventor of instant ramen), and NPR ran a series on ramen, I became hooked on the idea of creating my own ramen.

Chang's ramen is served with a broth composed of a whole chicken and pork butt. Hmm ... not really my thing. So I began a culinary quest to create a broth that was vegetarian and could be made with readily-available ingredients. Unlike many of my recipes, this one took a few tries to come together. However, I'm really happy with the result, although it's not traditional ramen. It's got a chili-ginger-lime-flavored base, and it's a tangy refreshing meal. It's a nice light dinner or lunch.

どうぞめしあがれ !

(Omniglot tells me this means "Enjoy Your Meal" in Japanese, but if Omniglot is lying, pardon me, please).

Crack Ramen - Chili-Ginger-Lime Ramen with Marinated Salad


1 tsp. sesame oil
A large hunk of ginger, grated, to produce about 3 tbsp.
6 scallions, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
4 small limes. Squeeze 3 for juice. Cut the rind of the fourth and quarter it.
1 carton vegetable broth
rice wine vinegar
soy sauce

Marinated Salad
Suggested veggies per serving (but you could substitute your favorites):
Broccoli slaw (sold pre-cut at most supermarkets)
1 escarole
3-4 grated radishes
1/2 cucumber
2-3 sprigs basil
Rice wine vinegar
Chili sesame oil (optional)

Your favorite packaged noodles (you could use instant ramen without the spice packet, soba, rice sticks, or whatever strikes your fancy)


In a saucepan, heat 1 tsp. sesame oil. Don't let it get too hot (it will become brown). Add the grated ginger, chopped scallions and jalapenos to the oil. Saute for a minute or two. When the mixture is sizzling, add the juice of the three limes.

Pour in just enough veggie broth to cover. Simmer this for 3-5 minutes.

Add 4 tbsp. rice wine vinegar, and 1/2 -1 tbsp soy sauce. Don't go overboard with the soy sauce. It will make the broth bitter. Add about 3/4-1 cup of veggie broth and simmer about 5 minutes.

Place the quartered lime in the pot. Simmer 5 more minutes.

Add 2 1/2 cups broth. Return the mixture to a boil. Taste. If it seems bitter, add 2 tbsp. sugar. Remove the lime. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

While it simmers, make the ...

Marinated Salad

In a small bowl, with a fork, mix the juice of 1 lime, a couple of glugs of rice wine vinegar, and 2-5 drops of chili sesame oil. That's your marinade.

Toss all of your veggies together in a bowl. Pour the marinade over the top. Stick this in the fridge while the broth is simmering.


Cook your noodles according to package directions. Be sure they don't become too gummy, which can happen if you overcook Asian noodles.

To Serve

Spoon about a cup hot broth into a bowl. Drop in the noodles. Top with the salad. Eat with chopsticks and grab a spoon for the broth.

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