First things first! The lucky winners of my mix CD giveaway and five new best friends are: Jessica, Erin, Amy, Leah, and Tristina! Please email me your addresses so that I can send you one of the most awesome mix CDs in existence.
Today’s recipe is a throwback from my carefree, Bohemian-eque college days, when I was first living on my own in an apartment with two friends. This was in the pre-Recession, pre-crazy-gas-prices days, and I somehow made it through the week by spending only $15 on groceries. I ate a version of this ramen several times a week, and it allowed for such variation I never got bored of it. Friends would come over and I’d add another package to the pot. Anthony and I would eat this late into the night while we watched Stephen Chow movies on VCD. It morphed something eaten out of necessity and convenience to a form of comfort food. Even now, when Anthony is sick, he requests this ramen.
A top-notch bohemian ramen has five basic parts:
- 1. Vegetables
- 2. Protein
- 3. Spices
- 4. Condiments
- 5. Oh yeah, the actual ramen
The most important thing to remember is that this recipe is flexible, adaptable, and versatile, meaning you do not have to have all or even most of these ingredients for this to be awesome. I knew I was going to be making this ramen so I stocked up on my favorite soup additions first, but I’ve made this with whatever I can scrounge around in the fridge. If you have a supply of spices and condiments, a few straggler vegetables rolling around in your vegetable drawer and at least one egg, you have the makings for a fantastic pot of ramen.
1. Vegetables: the photo I have listed white onion, celery, garlic, ginger, snow peas, baby bok choy, carrots, cabbage, and green onion tops. At minimum I’d suggest and onion of some sort and a bulky veg like carrots or broccoli, but you don’t have to stop with these listed here. Anything that will fully cook in about 15 minutes will work: cauliflower, bell pepper, peas–anything you have in the bin. The most important vegetable addition I use in dried shiitake mushrooms.
2. Protein: I usually add an egg but small shrimp, tofu, and thin strips of beef would all be delicious. See also: fishcake.
3. Spices: my favorite addition is five spice powder, but ginger or curry powder would also be delicious.
4. Condiments: mirin (a Japanese cooking wine), tamari soy sauce (a mellow, low-sodium Japanese soy sauce), sesame seeds, ponzu (a citrus-y sauce), gomasio (ground sesame seeds and salt), furikake (a seaweed and spice mix), toasted sesame oil.
5. Ramen: sometimes you can’t be choosy and your only selection is Maruchan or Top Ramen. If you live in an area with a lot of Asian grocery stores you can do a lot better, but don’t sweat it if you can’t. Go for the simplest flavor: a straight pork, beef, chicken or seafood mix. Avoid, at all possible costs, any of the other flavors.
1. First you’ll want to head some oil on medium in the pan. Peanut oil pairs well with Asian food so I use that, but any neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola, is just fine.
2. Next, add your onions, celery, and dried spices and sizzle away for about three minutes. Add a splash of mirin and let bubble for two more minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, and stir for 30 seconds before adding the water.
3. Add the amount of water as indicated on your ramen package. I made this batch of ramen for two, so I doubled the water.
4. Now you’ll begin to add your vegetables. What you need to keep in mind is the relative cooking times of the vegetables you add. I’ve helpfully numbered the order in which you’ll want to add the above vegetables. The dried shiitake mushrooms always need to be added first thing so they have time to soften. Also, choose the smaller bits of mushrooms so you know they’re guaranteed to cook fully. After mushrooms, hearty vegetables like carrots and broccoli go in. Five minutes in you can add the snow peas and bok choy bottoms. Ten minutes in, add the thinly sliced cabbage and bok choy tops. Add the tender green onion tops at the very end before serving.
5. After about fifteen minutes of vegetable simmering time, add your ramen noodles and cook for another minute or two, loosening them up a bit.
6. If you are adding egg then while the vegetables are simmering break an egg or two into a bowl, add a bit of tamari, and stir as you would for scrambled eggs. Pour this in now while stirring in an imitation of egg drop soup. Tofu can be added when you add the snow peas, thinly sliced beef can be added with the noodles or even right before serving. I’ve never cooked shrimp but I’m guessing it would be added near the end. For a poached egg skip the soy sauce and the stirring and add one on top of each bowl.
7. Add the spice packet(s) at the end and stir to combine.
8. Each person can choose their condiments individually, but my favorites are a few drops of toasted sesame oil, some furikake and a slice of steamed fish cake, which Isobel adores and enthusiastically refers to as “pink snack.”
Bohemian ramen can be thrown together in under 30 minutes and is perfect for those days when your soul cries out for soup. This is better, far better, than any soup you can buy in a can. The overpowering saltiness of the broth is tamed by the additions of vegetables and protein and given some shiitake mushrooms and a bit of patience the flavor is vastly improved from the original. Perhaps best of all, you can eat this when your cupboard practically bare and so is you bank account. I leave you with three pictures of Isobel eating a steamed fish cake, which took me years to acquire a taste for. She’s going to be a ramen master. I can tell.