While I didn’t have ramen for Christmas dinner, it is one of my favorite (and cheapest) autumn/winter meals…also this post has been languishing in my “drafts” for several months.
In the United States, ramen is a largely misunderstood dish by those not of East Asian descent. While “ramen” is a hearty soup, usually made of a rich meat broth, meat or fish, and vegetables, in the United States, among non-East Asians, it has largely become synonymous with the sodium laden, nutritionally lacking, instant variant. As I am a personal finance blogger, and not a chef or historian, I am ill qualified to wax poetic about the history of the original East Asian dish. Instead, my focus here will be how I cheaply improve on the instant noodle packages commonly used in the United States.
There are many varieties of instant ramen noodle packages sold in the U.S. of various flavors and costs. My favorite brand, in terms of its accompanying seasoning packets, is the South Korean brand Nongshim. I was introduced to this brand by a roommate in my early twenties and quickly became addicted.
This brand is not particularly cheap and a single package could cost between $0.89 and $1.79 depending on where you purchase it (I know that isn’t incredibly expensive in the grand scheme of things but stay with me). Now that I am much older, and concerned about how much sodium I consume, I am unlikely to purchase this brand because I rarely use the accompanying seasoning packet. While I am not a connoisseur, what I have noticed about instant ramen noodle packages is that the primary differences between the “good” and “bad” kind is the quality of the seasoning packet as opposed to the noodles themselves. Since I don’t use the accompanying seasoning packet, I generally now purchase the much cheaper Maruchan brand just for the noodles. The Maruchan “Chicken Flavor” (again, the flavor doesn’t matter as I am only going to use the noodles) can currently be found at Kroger for $0.10/package.
Ultimately, for me, this meal is about $0.02-$0.10 more expensive than the Tofu Veggie Soup I make depending on ingredients; most of this additional cost is because even at $0.10 package, noodles are still more expensive than rice. That being said, they are a whole lot faster and it takes me less time to make Ramen than it takes my rice cooker to make rice.
The actual cooking is beyond simple, and like most of my Penny Pincher meals, uses one pot.
- I cook the egg(s) in the bottom of a five (5) quart pan on medium heat using one (1) tablespoons of olive oil.
- After the eggs have completely cooked, I empty them in a dish and set them aside.
- OPTIONAL: I cook the noodles in 3 cups of water on high for five (5) minutes. At this point, the noodles should be soft, but not completely cooked, and have released most of their starch. I then strain the noodles to remove most of the wheat starch.
- I rinse the pot, then adding vegetable broth (you can use a low sodium or homemade broth to control for sodium) or my soup base mix to enough water to cover the noodles, eggs, and turnip greens. The turnip greens will release water so I add slightly less water than I expect to need.
- Cook on medium heat until the noodles are fully cooked and the turnip greens are tender 5-10 minutes based on your heating element.
- I usually make enough for one large serving and add the entire pot to a large bowl.
Like all of the meals I feature in the Penny Pincher Meals series, the reason this is a staple for me is because it allows me to substitute whatever ingredients I have to quickly use up leftover bits or to take advantage of deeply discounted produce (like mushrooms or other veggies) at the grocery store.