Rationing with Ramen

As week four of quarantine quickly turned to week five, then six, I found that even as a foodie I was running out of ideas to make the monotony of cooking more fun. While the banana bread trend was able to distract me for a moment, brainstorming, preparing, and creating three meals a day was becoming a chore and I needed to spice things up a bit – quite literally. With a 12-pack of beef flavored ramen noodles, a random assortment of produce (that was just a day shy of going bad), and half full sauces filling the fridge, I decided to embark upon a new challenge – creating an upscale noodle dish within the limits of the ingredients I had.

I started off with a makeshift mirepoix; sautéing it off in sesame oil, a splash of soy sauce, and some aromatics, and then adding vegetable broth to bring it to a simmer. I then turned to creating a marinade for the chicken with rice wine vinegar, lime juice, and lots of spices (cue ginger, of course). As the chicken grilled off, I added in carrots, peas, corn, and chopped spinach to my broth to add color and texture. Tasting along the way, I quickly realized that my spin on ramen was missing something, heat and sweetness, so I stirred in a tablespoon of sriracha and a dash of honey into the pot, soon after adding the cubed grilled chicken. I let the noodles start to soften and began frying a sunny side up egg as I chopped and diced my favorite part of any ramen dish – the toppings. I subbed the pre-packaged beef seasoning packet for fresh mint, cilantro, Thai basil, avocado, and green onions which beautifully contrasted the yellow of the egg and red of the broth. It smelled fragrant, looked colorful, and tasted rich. 

I would have tweaked little things here and there, like less carrots, more honey, and a soft boiled egg. Nonetheless, by utilizing the remaining herbs and vegetables that were accessible I was able to produce a filling meal that inspired me to continue defying my overused “I have nothing to cook” phrase. While most of these ingredients were not “traditional” ramen ingredients and you may not have everything you may think that you need, throughout these remaining days, weeks, or months of quarantine, push yourself to discover innovative ways to cook with what you have leftover in your fridge and your pantry. Construct something different than what you usually do and put those miscellaneous flavors together to create something unique and fun – even if it doesn’t turn out perfectly! Trust me, it will make week seven taste a little bit better.

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