Editor’s note: This story was originally published in July 2020.
A young friend said the other day, “Ramen noodles are pretty good if you chef them up a little.”
To be truthful, I’ve tended to regard ramen with a bit of a snobby attitude. But she was right; you can improve the wholesomeness profile on this beloved, handy, filling fast-food. There is no law stating that you have to use the seasonings packet, though my niece says, while rolling her eyes, “That is where all the yumminess is.”
Actually, there are a fair number of ramen enhancements to be found on the internet if you feel comfortable with hunting around electronically, and lots of ideas riff on Thai recipes, a perfectly logical approach.
This time of year, the garden makes its suggestions with what is ripening out there and will taste best picked moments before dinner. You might be among the many who are gardening for the first time this year, and with any luck are picking fresh vegetables, any of which could be added to a bowlful of ramen noodles and broth. Right now at this house, tender young zucchinis, fresh peas and chard offer themselves. You might have broccoli, scallions, green beans, cherry tomatoes, young kale, beet tops or even lettuce, which is perfectly good shredded and wilted in the hot noodles. Certainly stores and farmer’s markets have an array of fresh vegetables to use, and then later in the year when fresh garden vegetables are a happy but distant memory, frozen ones will work well.
Snappy peppers brighten the noodles. We had jalapenos, which are about all that my elderly Yankee palate can handle, though some in my household have a free hand with red pepper flakes—even at breakfast. Suit yourself. And somewhere along the line, I inherited a jar of pretty mild red Thai curry paste and decided to add that, too.
Stir fry the solid vegetables, shred the leafy ones, heat the ramen, drain it or not, and toss them with the vegetables, with or without the seasonings packet, add sauce or condiments to taste, or not. The instructions that follow are meant to inspire more than anything, so feel free to play with the recipe.
You’ve just “cheffed up” ramen.
Ramen Noodles with Fresh Vegetables
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small zucchini, diced
½ small onion, chopped
½ jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
Large handful of fresh peas, shelled or snap peas, chopped
Handful of chard leaves, stems chopped and leaves shredded
Water to cover
Package of ramen noodles
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the prepared zucchini, onion, pepper, peas and chard stems.
Sauté for about five minutes until the vegetables are crisp tender.
Bring the water to a boil and add the noodles.
Cook for three to five minutes, following the instructions on the package, or until done to taste.
Drain the noodles, or if you want soup, retain the cooking water, add the packet of seasonings or your choice of seasonings, and put the noodles into a bowl.
Add the sautéed vegetables and shredded chard leaves and toss all together.
Serve with preferred condiments.