Thursday, July 21, 2011

Grownup Ramen

Good evening everyone. To our fellow midwesterners, we are somewhat out of the heat! Today was in the low 90's with next week being in the mid 80's. Finally a break from the soul-sucking heat (I may be a little dramatic there...) Nevertheless, I'm glad that the humidity finally broke and we can get some 'normal' July temperatures.

Anyhow, back to cooking! Like any normal college student, part of the college experience and a quick and easy meal anytime of the day was ramen noodles. So popular, in fact, that grocery stores in college towns sell them by the 10-12 pack for next to nothing. Granted, they aren't the best for you - don't even peek at the sodium levels, you'll die of a heartattack right in the store! Being a former student and alumni (Go Iowa State!) I used to gobble up ramen like my fellow cohorts. I could only boil water at that point and the fact that I didn't have to when cooking ramen was great! Now that I've been out of college for almost 2 years, I still get cravings for ramen, but I've always wanted to try a variant on the old standby. Tonight, I'm going to attempt it, without resorting to the classic noodles, water, and spice packet.

The Recipe: Homemade Ramen Noodles
Original Recipe Found In:

What You'll Need:

7 Ounces Shiitake Mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Inch Piece Ginger, peeled, minced (or 1 teaspoon pre-minced ginger)
1 Finely Minced Hot Chile Pepper (with or without seeds, depending in how spicy you like it - we choose a non-spicy version of this recipe, so no peppers will be our version)
1/4 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
1 X 5-ounce Package Japanese Curly Noodles or Chuka Soba
1 cup Reduced-Sodium Beef Broth
4 cups Baby Spinach
1 tablespoon Butter
2 Scallions
1/4 cup Cilantro Leaves

We are adding a new ingredient to our repertoire: Chuka soba, otherwise known as Japanese curly noodles.  I was kind of worried that we wouldn't find these noodles at our local grocery store.  But one quick browse down the Asian food aisle and they were quite easy to find.  They came in one standard size - more than likely can be used for recipes like this or if you wanted, using it for a base of a wok recipe.

Chuka Soba - fun new food of the day!

To begin, heat a large skillet over high heat and coat with a layer of cooking spray.  Add the mushrooms and cook for one to two minutes, stirring once or twice until the mushrooms start to soften.  Obviously don't cook the mushrooms for too long - the mushrooms might become rubbery.  Add the garlic, ginger (and chili pepper if your stomach won't engulf in flames) and stir to coat.  Next, add the noodles and broth, cover, and reduce heat.  Simmer for four to five minutes until the noodles are tender.  

Noodles in pre-simmer mode

After the noodles are softened, add the spinach and butter and cook for one to two more minutes until the spinach is wilted.  Add the scallions and cilantro until throughly heated.  Toss the noodles, mushrooms, spinach, and scallions and enjoy!

The End Result:

This dish has a lot of flavor and you can pick out the Chinese five spice and ginger.  And that's about all that's good about it.  I kept looking at the recipe, seeing if there was another liquid ingredient that I was missing.  Nope, one cup of beef broth is all it needed.  In the end, we added a half cup of water and it needed more.  The noodles didn't soften, like they were supposed to and the entire dish got really dry.  It had the potential for something really delicious.  Unfortunately, more liquid should have been added when the dish was simmering and it would have made the dish a heck of a lot more delicious.

Thanks Maggie. This was certainly another live and learn recipe. Maggie likes to take chances and try dishes that are really out there. Sometimes, it's a hit and she creates a great flavor combination. Others, it's a disaster or it falls flat. While tonight was no disaster, it certainly doesn't warrant a return attempt. Even had the liquids been higher, the flavor was still just 'off'. Maybe because the original recipe is trying to 'renovate' ramen instead of simply making a better dish? After all, ramen isn't exactly known for its culinary prowess. If you are craving ramen - buy the .50 package in the grocery store. Save your cooking time for something more worth while.

That's all we have for you this week. As always, thanks for sharing another week of recipes with us. Stop in on Monday evening for another entry of 'Around The Culinary World'. We'll also have two new recipes to share. Will Maggie learn from so many 'failed' dishes and stop trying the recipes that are really out there - or does she get even bolder and try something more extraordinary? We'll find out next week! Until then,


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