Ramen has gotten a bit of a bad rap, and rightly so. Traditionally, college dorm ramen is designed to survive a nuclear holocaust — it’s full of preservatives, sodium, simple carbs and MSG, and although cheap and easy, it is a decidedly unhealthy food choice.
There are, however, alternative ramen choices for the Ski Bum Kitchen. I’ve known my fair share of ski/beach/ranch/travel bum poverty stretches, and in times of absolute crunch (whether it be financial or time), I’ve figured out how to make ramen an affordable, delicious and time-friendly meal. And believe it or not, ramen can actually be a healthy and impressively flavorful choice, too.
That being said, head down to your local health food store to check out some organic ramen alternatives to the old $.15/package deal. For less than $2/bag, you can find rice, soba or organic ramen noodle options. Select from the various flavor choices (I tend to gravitate toward pork, chicken and curry selections), and while you’re at it, go ahead and stock up on a few backup packages. You never know when the extra package of ramen soup might save you from seemingly otherwise starvation, especially after a late night out in Jackson, a town that sadly offers very limited late night food choices.
Head next to the produce section of the grocery store, where you’ll pick up the nutritional value for your noodle meal. Pick out your favorite soup-friendly veggies: mushrooms, kale, onion, garlic and peppers are surefire wins, as they are full of nutritional vitamins, protein, flavorful spices, immune-boosting benefits and color. Opt for locally-raised, humanely-treated chicken eggs to drop into the soup for some quick and easy protein punch (spending money on quality eggs is a MUST if you’re looking for real nutritional value out of this animal protein!).
Sprouts and cilantro are great garnishes, and if you’re feeling a bit of a mountain town manly ambition (and you need to make up all those calories you just burned on your epic mountain bike adventure), head over to the butcher’s counter to grab some thick-slab bacon with which to garnish your noodle bowl. This food choice obviously increases the fat content of this dish, but it’s a delicious addition. Make sure to have some chili or sesame oil in your Ski Bum Kitchen cabinet stock to spritz over your dinner, and then check out the following recipe as a guideline for creating your very own quick, easy, affordable, Asia-in-your-own-kitchen bowl of Ramen goodness.
Recipe: Healthy Ramen for Two
- 2 packages of rice, soba, or organic ramen noodle soup mix
- ¾ cup chopped mushrooms (whatever kind you prefer)
- Half bunch kale (whatever kind you prefer, pulled off the stalk and then chopped)
- White onion (half, diced)
- 3 cloves finely diced garlic (use more or less to taste)
- 2 free-range, vegetarian-fed, local (if possible) eggs
- Black peppercorn to taste
- Sriracha or curry (for the spice-inclined palate)
- Sesame and/or chili oil (to garnish)
- Other optional garnishes: cilantro, cooked bacon, and/or fresh sprouts
- Bring 5 cups of water to a boil (use more if you’re doubling up on veggies or like a more broth-driven soup).
- Once boiling, add your onion and the flavor packet from your Ramen packages.
- Turn your burner down a bit so that your liquid is just under a roiling boil.
- Let the onion cook for 2-3 minutes. If you’re using bacon to garnish your soup, start frying it up on low heat (don’t crisp it up, a little softer is better for Ramen).
- Add your mushrooms, kale, garlic, black peppercorn, siracha, and noodles.
- Cook the whole batch, stirring occasionally, for around 5 minutes (cooking time will vary based on your noodle choice). When the noodles are just under al dente, crack the eggs into the soup and quickly stir them in, breaking up the yolk. Your ramen will start to look a little like egg drop soup. Cook the egg into the soup for about a minute and a half, or until the noodles are cooked.
- Pull the soup off the heat, let sit for a minute, and then serve into two bowls.
- To garnish: I usually crack a little pepper over my final bowl, drizzle it with a some sesame, throw a small pinch of chopped cilantro and/or a small handful of bean sprouts on top, and then splash a little extra siracha on for good measure (I LOVE spicy food!).
- If you’re doing the bacon thing, use thick-sliced bacon, and don’t fry it too hot and hard, chewy is definitely a more complimentary textural choice to this soup dish. After you’ve finished cooking the bacon, drain off the grease, and serve 1-2 whole slices of the bacon in the bowl, sitting out of it on the side for coolest presentation.