The humble ramen noodle dresses up nicely, thank you.
Almost 100 readers answered our call to submit their favorite ramen recipes. Each started with a block or so of the curly dried noodles that are ubiquitous in college students’ kitchens, the shopping carts of budget-minded cooks and, apparently, prison commissaries. Two of the entrants told us that they were behind bars.
Our winner is Seema Shintre of west St. Louis County, Mo., who flavored the noodles with fresh vegetables and a spicy coconut-peanut sauce to make her Zesty Curried Coconut Ramen.
We gave special weight in our judging to those recipes that minimized or eliminated use of the seasoning packet that comes with instant ramen.
The first two items on the packet’s ingredient list are salt and monosodium glutamate (MSG), which cause the sodium content in a single package of ramen to reach as high as 1,820 milligrams – more than three-quarters of the recommended daily value. (A package of ramen is listed as two servings, but we don’t know many people who eat less than a whole package.)
Our runner-up was Terry Jacobi who submitted an old magazine recipe for Ramen Vegetable Pancakes. The recipe calls for just half a teaspoon of the seasoning packet, with shredded carrots, zucchini and green onions adding a pleasant crunch to the soft noodles.
Honorable mentions went to Cindy Young for Ramen Dessert Pizzas and Bill Mueller for a Ramen Slinger.
Our colleague Joe Holleman called it perfectly when he referred to Young’s dessert pizza as “Ode to Elvis,” owing to the peanut butter and banana in the topping. The uncooked ramen base provides a distinctive texture, but graham crackers, cookies, toast or even matzo could be substituted.
And we recognize that no one is going to confuse the Ramen Slinger for health food, but then again, no one ever eats a slinger for their health.
Mueller’s self-developed concoction elevates greasy-spoon eating to an art form, as long as you’ll grant that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Finally, special note goes to a recipe that was submitted under the names Crunchy Ramen Noodle Salad, Ramen Slaw, Asian Slaw and several others. And submitted. And submitted again, no fewer than 50 times.
We nominate it as the all-time classic ramen recipe. In the unlikely event that you’re a ramen fan who has never seen it, you can find the recipe at stltoday.com/food.
Asian Cole Slaw
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
2 (3-ounce) packages ramen noodles
1 (14- to 16-ounce) package cole slaw mix
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
3/4 cup sunflower seed kernels
4 to 5 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Break ramen noodles into small pieces. Reserve the seasoning packets.
In a large bowl, toss together uncooked noodles, cole slaw mix, almonds, sunflower seeds and green onions.
Combine ramen seasoning to taste, sugar and vinegar until sugar is dissolved. Gradually whisk in oil. Pour over slaw until coated as much as desired; reserve any extra dressing for future use. If desired, let sit for a few minutes for flavors to meld
Variations: Use cider or rice vinegar; add chopped green or red pepper, chopped black olives, chopped artichoke hearts, chopped broccoli or diced cooked chicken breast in any combination according to your taste; brown the noodles in melted butter, then let cool before assembling salad.
Note: No nutrition information available for Asian Cole Slaw.
Ramen Dessert Pizzas
Yield: 8 servings
4 bananas, sliced
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 (3-ounce) packages ramen noodles
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup chocolate chips
Optional garnishes, such as shredded flaked coconut, chopped nuts, raisins
In a large skillet, combine bananas, honey and brown sugar. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring gently, until heated through. Let cool slightly.
Break each block of noodles in half at the fold, creating 8 flat noodle cakes. Discard the seasoning packets or reserve for a future use.
Place noodle cakes on a jelly roll pan or in skillets with tops. Spread the top of each noodle cake with peanut butter. Divide the banana mixture evenly over each cake, then top with chocolate chips plus coconut, nuts, raisins or any garnish of your choice. Cover with foil or pan tops and let stand for about 10 minutes, allowing chocolate to soften.
Per serving: 630 calories; 29g fat; 10g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 14g protein; 84g carbohydrate; 46g sugar; 6g fiber; 330mg sodium; 40mg calcium.
Source: Cindy Young
Yield: 1 to 2 servings
1 (3-ounce) packet ramen noodles, preferably beef flavor
1 (12-ounce) can chili (see note)
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped white onion
Hot sauce, optional
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add noodles and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in flavor packet.
One at a time, crack each egg into a cup and slide the eggs into the pan, on top of the noodles. Cook, basting with the cooking water, until eggs reach the desired doneness, flipping the eggs if desired.
Pour in chili, reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir gently to keep eggs intact. Cook for 2 minutes or until chili is heated through.
Transfer to one or two plates; top with cheese and onion. Pass hot sauce at the table.
Note: Mueller makes this recipe with turkey chili no beans
Per serving (based on 2, made with turkey chili with no beans): 655 calories; 33g fat; 17g saturated fat; 330mg cholesterol; 42g protein; 47g carbohydrate; 8g sugar; 4g fiber; 2,160mg sodium; 535mg calcium.
Source: Bill Mueller
Ramen Vegetable Pancakes
Yield: 4 servings.
1 (3-ounce) package ramen noodles, any flavor
1 medium zucchini, shredded
2 green onions, chopped
1 carrot, shredded
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Break noodles into 4 pieces and cook according to package directions. Reserve seasoning packet. Drain noodles.
Mix noodles, zucchini, green onions, carrot, eggs, flour and 1/2 teaspoon of seasoning from ramen packet; stir to combine.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Using half of the mixture, form 4 pancakes, pressing down to flatten. Fry until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove and keep warm; repeat, using remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining ramen mixture.
Mix soy sauce and lemon juice; pass at the table as a dipping sauce.
Per serving: 230 calories; 13g fat; 3.5g saturated fat; 105mg cholesterol; 7g protein; 22g carbohydrate; 4g sugar; 2g fiber; 480mg sodium; 40mg calcium.
Source: Terry Jacobi
Zesty Curried Coconut Ramen
Yield: 4 servings
2 (3-ounce) packs ramen noodles, any flavor
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper or to taste
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup shredded cabbage (see note)
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon sambal oelek or similar Asian hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon crushed peanuts
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Cook ramen noodles in 2 cups of water (package instructions call for 4 cups total for 2 packages; use only 2 cups). Discard the seasoning packets or reserve for a future use. Drain noodles, reserving cooking water. Place noodles in a large bowl.
Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat; add crushed red pepper and garlic. When garlic starts to brown, add cabbage, mushrooms and broccoli. Stir-fry until vegetables soften slightly and start browning on the sides. Combine vegetables with noodles and set aside.
In the same wok or skillet, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, coconut milk, curry powder, hot sauce and salt; bring to a boil. Add noodles and vegetables, toss well and turn off the heat. Add 1/4 cup reserved cooking water and stir, adding more cooking water until sauce reaches desired consistency. Add lime juice, toss, and let rest for 5 minutes so flavors can meld.
Sprinkle with crushed peanuts and cilantro; garnish with lime wedges.
Note: You can add any vegetable of your choice—the more, the merrier. If you want to make the dish spicier, add chopped hot chiles to the crushed red pepper and garlic, or add more sambal oelek when making the sauce.
Per serving: 420 calories; 26g fat; 15g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 9g protein; 39g carbohydrate; 7g sugar; 4g fiber; 840mg sodium; 60mg calcium.
Source: Seema Shintre