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How to Cook Ramen Noodles the Asian Way
Asian Style Ramen Cookery
Ramen noodles are my favorite go to dish whenever I need a quick meal yet don't want to make a fuss in the kitchen. And like most people instant ramen was a staple during my college years and I never grew tired of it. After reminiscing with a few friends about cooking ramen and sharing ideas and recipes about dressing up ramen dishes I discovered that no one was cooking ramen noodles the way I cook them, which is the Asian way.
My friends have always been cooking the noodles by following the directions on the packaging. And all complained of soggy noodles. I'm not saying that the directions are wrong. However, of all the Asian households and restaurants I've eaten ramen noodles in I have seen it prepared a different way.
The cooking directions on ramen packages calls for adding the noodles into boiling water and cooking for 3 minutes followed by taking the pot off the heat and adding the seasoning.
The Asian method starts with adding the ramen to the boiling water. But they only par-cook the noodles until the strands loosen up, which takes about a few minutes. Then the noodles are dumped into a colander and drained followed by a quick wash in cold water. This will essentially stop the noodles from cooking further and have an 'al dente' (slightly chewier) consistency. Another words you won't have soggy noodles. If you cook the noodles too long all of the starch will leach out onto the boiling water and will begin to absorb more liquid.
Next fill a pot with 2 and 1/2 cups of water (per package) and bring to a boil. Add the packets of seasonings that came with the ramen followed by the par-cooked noodles and bring to a boil again and then it's ready to eat.
Instant ramen noodles are not the most nutritious meal packets in the supermarket isles. One glance at the sodium contents is enough to raise your blood pressure. And most people eat 2 packages at a time, which I myself am guilty of. If you are concerned it is a good idea to add half of the seasoning. It's really easy to make ramen nutritious by adding vegetables. I like to add heart healthy extra virgin olive oil to my ramen after par-cooking and draining.
I spruce up my ramen dishes whenever I can. It's actually kind of fun to experiment. You can easily buy Chinese BBQ roast pork, chicken or dumplings at your local Asian supermarket. I know a friend who buys slices of rare roast beef at the deli and adds it to his ramen to give it a Vietnamese Pho style flair.
This is the original and the best ramen noodle from Nissin, the best brand of ramen noodles available in the markets.
Not All Ramen are Created Equal
I've had a good chance to sample a lot of different packaged ramen noodles in during my mid teens. Being fortunate enough to live near New York City's Chinatown I was just a block away from all the Chinese groceries selling all varieties of ramen noodles from different countries.
I must say there are a lot of inferior quality ramen noodles and I find most of them in Wal-Marts, K-Marts and other brand name supermarkets. I noticed that the better quality ramen noodles are sold by Asian groceries and supermarkets. Every city has at least one Asian market and chances are you'll find Nissin brand ramen noodles.
Nissin offers quite a few choices to choose but my favorites are the sesame oil and beef based instant noodles. I've tried the seafood and chicken flavors and found the flavors a bit lacking. Personally I avoid cup style ramen noodles. It may have something to do with the plastic cups which to me leaves a bit of the plastic taste in my mouth. Surprisingly, in Bangkok where I live half the year has whole wheat instant ramen noodles. And why we don't have any here in the US really boggles me.
However you enjoy your ramen noodles I always think it is a fun food, a comfort food of sorts especially when the days are cold and you just want something quick and satisfying. You can easily spice it up to make something different and unique or just eat it as is and it will still put smile on my face.