When summer’s bounty comes at you faster than you can handle, the veggies will start to pile up. That’s why we need recipes capable of incorporating the myriad produce of the garden, farmers market, generous neighbors and other sources of seasonal food. The kind of evergreen dish that isn’t rattled when you swap a tomato for a turnip or split the hairs that separate a dandelion from a mushroom. Recipes that improve with diversity and always work no matter what you add.
When I was growing up, stir-fry was the veggie-disposal method of choice in my family. These days, I prefer to use a packet of quality ramen noodles — especially in the summer, when extra hydration is crucial.
The last time I made ramen, I started with a pack of Hot & Spicy Mama-brand noodles and added zucchini, fresh garlic, snap peas, shelling peas, bacon, an egg and a garnish of fresh basil, all from the farmers market. I could have added spinach, radish, kale, peppers, pea greens, carrots, broccoli or cauliflower as well as herbs like cilantro or chives. I would be hard-pressed to think of something that wouldn’t work in ramen.
As with a stir-fry, the order in which you add vegetables to ramen is crucial. Fragile herbs should go last, while durable ingredients like zucchini, which can take a little while to cook, need more time in the soup and should go in sooner. The same rule applies to proteins. Some, like meat or tofu, can go in sooner. The egg goes later, just before the delicate ingredients.
Sure, you’ve added egg to ramen before. Maybe it was your go-to move in college. But there are levels to this game, and getting the egg right is one of the trickiest parts. In my opinion, the egg should be cooked to the point where the white is solid but the yolk still runs. So, I lay the egg gently atop a raft of noodles, where it steams until the noodles absorb enough water that they sink, along with the egg, into the savory drink. The egg continues to poach a bit before I turn off the heat.
The crux of this operation centers around keeping that frisky raw egg on top of the noodles. It desperately wants to slide off and take a swim, but once it falls into the broth, it hides under the noodles, where it’s hard to monitor and manage and will probably overcook.
As the egg steams, add the herbs and other delicate vegetables such as pea greens or radish slices. Assemble your condiments, like jalapeno slices or some other form of heat, hoisin sauce, mayo or whatever else might juice it the way you like to customize it behind closed doors. As with a hot, sweaty summer romance, what happens in ramen stays in ramen.
This recipe is meant to be an example of how you can add seasonal produce to ramen. As long as the vegetables are fresh, it will be great. The instant ramen you cook it with should be high quality as well, such as Mama, Nongshim or Sapporo Ichiban brands.
Fry the bacon, either in strips or pieces. When it’s browned, add the zucchini rounds and fry until brown on at least one side. Add the water, noodles and flavorings. Turn the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Flip the noodles so the soft side faces up.
Crack your egg into a little bowl. This allows you to add the egg one-handed with a quick pour and eliminates the possibility of a broken yolk. Dump it with a flick of the wrist.
As the egg lands on the noodles, go to any length necessary to keep the egg on top. Use a spatula, tongs, chopsticks or some other tool to prevent it from escaping. If you can keep it up there long enough, the white will solidify around the softening ramen, and the egg will quit trying to run. As the egg cooks, add the peas.
Gently transfer the ramen to a bowl. Garnish with basil and serve.
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