I really don’t know a lot of people who don’t have ramen stories. Usually it’s during college, or bachelorhood (or bachelorette!), and centered around those little instant-fried squares at $3 for a dozen. I don’t mess with nostalgia, but I leave those versions of ramen on the shelf and in fond memories.
Others roll their eyes at those stories and then go into lengthy, dreamy detail about the “best ever” ramen shops in Tokyo, or Chicago or L.A where they had “the real deal” ramen. And that’s great, too. Authenticity, though, that’s another thing I don’t touch if I’ve never been to a place. I’ll leave that version in Tokyo, where you can go find it and have your own story (and maybe me, too, someday).
What I do deal in is “tasty” and “good-for-you”. This version has both. There’s no fried noodles here, no. And the soup doesn’t go from package to mouth in under 5 minutes, nope. It is, perhaps, shamelessly inauthentic, too, borrowing flavors from Vietnam in the soup base and toppings, because the bright flavors give a little lift to the dense noodles.
Served with soft-boiled eggs and a side of roasted Chinese baby bok choy and mushrooms it makes a pretty complete meal, too (if not more culturally confused). Sometimes I even add a little kimchi because, why not add Korea to the mix? Eggs and kimchi are amazingly good friends.
So I’ll ask just ask that you put aside your nostalgia and authenticity for this one, and be reward with a genuinely happy tummy.
Sources for better-for-you ramen noodles
Hakubaku – Organic, dried noodles. Find in many major grocers, such as Kroger
Annie Chun’s - Fresh noodles, comes with flavor packet.Find in many major grocers.
Koyo Natural Foods - Baked, not fried, comes with flavor packet. Find at most Whole Foods.
Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
All natural, vegetarian
Special equipment: none
10 oz ramen-style noodles, cooked according to pkg directions (see notes above)
1 teaspoon neutral oil (grapeseed or peanut works)
1 stick cinnamon
2 cloves garlic, halved
4 whole cloves
½ medium onion, quartered
1 inch nob of fresh ginger
2 whole star anise
4 cups / 950 ml vegetable broth
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
2 scallions, sliced
2-3 chiles (jalapeno or bird’s eye, etc), sliced thinly
1 cup bean sprouts
In a medium saucepan, heat oil on medium for 30 seconds. Add garlic, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, onion and ginger and saute for 2 mins, until fragrant and some color appears on onions/garlic.
Pour in vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 mins.
Meanwhile, fill another small saucepan with water and bring to a boil. With a slotted spoon, slowly lower in eggs. Boil for 5 – 6 minutes (5 minutes for a very runny yolk, 6 for a semi-soft yolk). Remove and peel. Keep in lukewarm water until serving time.
To serve, divide noodles between bowls, ladle hot broth over noodles (strain if you wish) and top with basil, scallion, chilies and bean sprouts. Carefully halve your eggs and place one half in every bowl, yolks facing up.