We all love good food, even better if we can make it ourselves. I love to cook, but not because I find it soothing, or because it connects me to some part of my heritage, or any of those reasons that people usually use to explain why they love cooking. But I do think the reasons for my love are fairly universal. Its simple, really: I love the self-sufficiency, being able to say “I made that,” of completing a task to great result. Humans enjoy working, being capable, a job well done. And cooking is really the height of that because the results are so personal, they literally sustain you.
Of course, one of the biggest obstacles for most people when it comes to cooking is the money. Budgeting for food, figuring out what’s truly essential and learning to make something delicious from the bare necessities, that stuff is really difficult. Right now I’m cooking every day, but without a job I’ve had to learn how to make do without all the fancy ingredients that I used to be able to afford. Basically what I’ve learned thus far is that budget cooking basically means cooking without recipes or, rather, learning to pull necessary techniques and ideas from recipes, without following verbatim their absurdly long and pricey ingredient lists.
Which I think has actually made me a better, more creative cook. I eat a lot of pasta these days, and believe me, it gets difficult to come up with ever new and creative ways to serve spaghetti. So I’m always looking for fresh ideas to appropriate the things we have lying around the house, which leads me to a stroke of genius I had two days ago.
I love Ramen. Really, I do. I think it’s underrated. And I live with two college boys, so we have a ton of it in the house. But once it becomes a daily lunch and not the guilty pleasure you eat in bed with the TV on (who me?), it loses some of its powers of titillation.
But then I thought of this recipe I’ve been wanting to try for at least a year, and I had an idea. The results were awesome, I have to say. The soup was the most perfect, creamy texture, and it tasted not at all like ramen, but like real soup! For the cost of about a dollar! Next time I’m going to play around with a few more ingredients, maybe throw some potatoes or a little lemon zest in there. The beautiful thing about it is you’re cooking literally the easiest thing in the world, ramen, so that leaves lots of room to add on, get creative, mix things around, and it still doesn’t add up to very much work.
1 package of chicken ramen
Fresh thyme, or any herb you have on hand, for garnish (optional)
First, and I can’t stress this enough, you really want to be using the pure ramen, just noodles and broth, no horrifying styrofoam peas and corn.That doesn’t mean go out and buy new ramen for this recipe, it means stop buying the kind with “veggies.” Its disgusting, and you’re fooling yourself if you think you’re knocking out one of your food groups for the day.
Anyway, boil the necessary amount of water for your ramen needs. While you’re waiting for the boil, beat an egg in a separate bowl. Once the water is bubbling nicely, add your flavor packet and stir it around a bit before turning the heat off completely.
Now, this part is a little tricky, but that’s ok because thus far all you’ve had to do is boil water, so I think you can handle a little extra effort. If there’s anyone around to lend a hand, this would be a good time to grab them. Once the flavor powder is fully incorporated, ladle some broth out of the pot and slowly drizzle into your beaten egg, whisking constantly. Seriously, do not stop whisking or you will have scrambled eggs only much, much more disgusting (powdery chicken water + half cooked egg, eugh). Add your noodles to the pot, then repeat the ladle + whisk action a few times (avoiding getting any noodles into your eggs).
After the third or fourth ladle, slowly pour the egg mixture back into the pot, whisking as you go. Turn burner on to its lowest heat setting. Stirring occasionally, let the soup heat back up, thicken slightly and finish cooking the noodles, but do not let anything bubble. Serve with some freshly cracked pepper and herbs sprinkled on top if, like me, you just bought the cutest little lemon thyme plant.
PS: This egg technique is incredibly useful in lots of different recipes, I believe it’s called tempering the egg. It warms your eggs so that they don’t get shocked into cooking instantly when added to something hot. For example, this is how you make carbonara sauce instead of “breakfast pasta,” as The Boy so charitably called it when I learned that lesson the hard way.