Build Your Repertoire with Bricks of Dehydrated Ramen Noodles
Ramen Randomized, Instantly
Instant ramen noodles, those little bricks of dehydrated pasta sold with flavoring packets that bloom into soup when added to boiling water, were born in 1958 when Momofuku Ando invented and mass produced the cheap convenience food.
It’s often necessity that fuels the noodles’ popularity throughout the world, with instant ramen serving as the culinary staple of choice for broke, starving (and frequently stoned) students everywhere. For similar reasons, they’re one of the most popular items sold in prison commissaries. For under a buck you can have a hot, filling meal in less than five minutes, although desperation-level munchies drive many to snack on the dry noodles with the seasoning pouch used as a condiment.
According to the World Instant Noodles Association (yes, instant noodles have their own trade group) as many as 290 million servings of instant noodles are consumed every day. While China consumes more instant noodles overall, Korea leads the world with per capita consumption.
Ramen’s lowbrow status might cause you to stride right past the brightly colored displays of noodles in the market, but there’s a lot of fun to be had with this shelf-stable pantry item. The noodles are neutral enough to go with most any food and flavor combination. Just be sure to deposit the salt- and chemical-laden flavoring packet directly into the trash before beginning. (Stop right there. See below)
Don’t Pitch that Packet
Now wait just one minute. Undergrads are starving in dormitories all over the world, and you’re going to throw away a perfectly good soup base? Sure it’s loaded with salt and MSG (a harmless, naturally-occurring ingredient, by the way), but those, in a seemingly infinite number of varieties, make them flavor bombs that can be redeployed in so many other ways:
- Mixed into dips
- Sprinkled over popcorn, french fries or tater tots.
- Scrambled with eggs or tofu
- Folded into chicken or tuna salad
- Whipped into mashed potatoes
- Massaged into ground meat for burgers, meatballs or meatloaf
There’s a seemingly endless array of varieties on the market, but if you’re only using the noodles, it really doesn’t matter which brand you buy. You can also forego the fancy noodle cups filled with freeze-dried ingredients. Just purchase plain old ramen noodle bricks, the cheapest you can find.
Despite a lot of internet hype and fake news, the noodles themselves are simply made from wheat flour and water. (No, they’re not covered in cancer-causing wax that takes three days to digest.)
When rehydrated, instant ramen noodles have a distinct chewy texture and yellowish hue that does not come from eggs, as you might assume, but rather kansui, aka lye water. This alkaline solution of potassium carbonate and baking soda is what gives them their distinctive flavor and bouncy texture.
Before packaging, instant ramen noodles are par-cooked in boiling water, then flash fried in oil. The frying process pulls the water out of the noodles and dehydrates them for a long shelf life.
Since ramen noodles have been precooked, the most important tip to keep in mind when substituting them for other pastas is that they cook ultra-fast. For the kugel and carbonara recipes here, boil the water, place the brick in the pot, then stir just until it breaks up and the noodles unfurl. Drain immediately. Never walk away from a pot of boiling ramen—they can go from al dente to mush in a matter of seconds.
When it comes to adding cannabis to ramen noodles, their porous absorbency, made possible by flash frying, makes them perfect vehicles for infused butter or oil.