…because some thoughts are worth remembering
It’s cheap, it’s quick, it’s instant ramen! It’s fueled many students and startup entrepreneurs alike. Even Alec Baldwin fondly recalled a moment when he discovered you can drop an egg into the ramen and a snack transformed itself into a meal.
Yes, we’re all too familiar with some of the variations: throw in frozen veggies or canned sliced bamboo shoots, add a touch of sesame oil, sprinkle sesame seeds, garnish with green onions.
Cook it al dente and drain the water, then add the soup mix for a yakisoba-like experience.
No hot water? No problem. Carefully open the ramen package, take out the soup powder, then crush the noodles. sprinkle in some of the soup powder and mix… it’s salty snacks time!
Leave it to David Chang of Momofuku Noodle Bar to come up with an Italian twist: cacio e pepe. A relatively modern tradition of Rome, this spaghetti with pecorino cheese and freshly ground pepper recipe can be a little tricky with pecorino cheese clumping. The Cook’s Illustrated version is a good one to try. I tried David Chang’s recipe using instant ramen noodles. I modified his recipe for 1 portion (because making cacio e pepe for two with instant ramen felt a little sad, but cacio e pepe for one sounded luxurious):
Cacio e Pepe (modified from David Chang’s recipe) for one:
Place 1 cup of water, 1 Tbsp of butter and 1 tsp of olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper into a small sauce pan (or a small omelet pan will do as well). Bring to a boil, then stir. Add 1 cup of finely grated pecorino cheese (I recommend using a microplane grater). Then immediately add 1 pack of the instant ramen noodle (save the seasoning pack for later…like when you realize you don’t have any home made chicken stock or chicken cubes in the cupboard). Loosen the ramen noodles, and turn off the heat (if you are cooking on a gas stove, keep the heat on low). Keep stirring until the noodles are all loosened up. Put the lid to steam for 3 minutes. (You can peek and stir). For me, all the water got soaked up. It’s ok to have a little left, but you can also drain it.
It served as a quick starch for left over slices of roasted lamb crusted with garlic and rosemary and microwaved frozen beans. How’s that for Grunge Gourmet? Yup, I’m coining the term now. One question remains: chopsticks or fork?
Would Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen, approve? I hope so. He had a vision to feed the hungry Japanese people after the war when food was scarce. His vision extended to how he managed his company. A visit to the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum will reveal that not only was he furious about understanding customer needs and continuing to optimize the manufacturing process for different features and how extensive their market research was (e.g., localizing seasoning packets for different foreign markets, adjusting noodle size depending on what cutlery they used to eat, etc.) but you can also view the 4-character proverbs he used to align everyone in the company with his vision. He famously said, “Peace will come to the world when the people have enough to eat.”
It is no wonder David Chang named his restaurant after him.
I raise my bowl of Cacio e Pepe ramen to the original Mr. Momofuku.
Photos: (top) Ramen at Momofuku Tei near the museum; (bottom) Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum