16 October 2007

Ramen Remix #1: Spaghetti Soup

A quick Goggling provides that I am (no surprise) not the first to play with the adaptability of Noodlius Ramenus. There are at least two books featured on Amazon.com which solely focus on the ubiquitous packaged noodle. Although Toni Patrick may have scraped together 101 recipes, Eric Hites's Everybody Loves Ramen seems a far better resource for a college student, seeing as it was written by one. Reading a snippet with the Search Inside feature, however, made me feel less like a young adult and more like a toddler. Following each recipe is a worksheet in a cartoonish typeface. A college student does not need to be taught the skill of note-taking, Mr. Hites. He quantitatively investigates ramen. This week, I'm going to quantitatively investigate three of my own journeys in ramen cookery, without referencing Dr. Seuss.

Today I'm focusing on that easiest and most often associated adaptation of ramen: the soup. As a latch-key kid, I made the afternoon snacks for myself and my neighborhood friend, L. Our favorite choices, which we kept in constant rotation, were ramen and Spaghetti-O's. No mussing or improving – just straight up Top Ramen and Chef Boyardee.

Freshman and Sophmore-year Olivia's habits, sadly, did not much differ from this pattern. In the last two years, I've learned to take great pleasure in tossing those little foil flavor packs straight into the trashcan. Now that I've given them up, I could never go back. Dining hall cuisine provides ample salt for my diet; if I'm going to add more, it just has to have something… well, more to it than just salt. A few drops of soy sauce, sesame oil, and vinegar, a pinch of chicken bouillon or a splash of stock, and a hearty helping of fresh veggies (think: lettuce, green onions, sprouts, bell peppers, Bok Choy) and you've got a fine Asian-style soup that's rich enough to be a midnight snack of distinction. Either this, or I run with the leftover concept, my favorite of which has to be spaghetti sauce ramen.

Yeah, I said it. Spaghetti sauce. I'm not gonna tell you how to make good spaghetti for a couple of reasons, but the only one I really need to spell out is this: you already know how to make it. What I do offer you is a suggestion for what you can do with any leftover sauce that's missing its recently digested noodle counterpart. I think you know where I'm going with this, but I'm gonna say it anyway: pitch, lob, fling, dollop, or otherwise chuck it into your ramen.

What you'll end up with here is a seasoned tomato noodle soup. Rather than making more spaghetti noodles to go with your sauce – which can rapidly devolve into a cycle of having either too much sauce or too many noodles and always having to make more meals of spaghetti to compensate – ramen soup is an effective use of leftovers that reinvents (if only by a margin) both soup and sauce into something that hopefully doesn't taste too much like yesterday's dinner.

I have to give the credit for the original idea to my dad, the innovator of the "toss the leftovers in the ramen" technique. Sundays always began for me in the afternoons – MAD tv, Red Dwarf, and old school Dr. Who reruns kept me glued to my bedroom boob tube 'til the wee hours of Sunday morning – to the wafting aromas of spaghetti ramen soup. It was our tradition – I'd tramp downstairs bleary-eyed, Dad would say "good of you to join us" and serve up my soup and sandwich while we watched the Game in the family room. Wednesday's spaghetti (and Wednesday was sacred to me as my dad's spaghetti night) became Sunday's soup. You don't have to save this soup for Sunday's though, as it makes a rather excellent quick lunch or snack.

I'm going to put my lot in with Dad and say that Spaghetti Soup is best served with a B.L.T. or a Marshall Field's Turkey Sandwich. I've paired it here with a roast beef and provolone, simply because that was what hunting in the dining hall's deli section provided on this particular expedition. It's not terribly inspired, but it worked just fine.

Spaghetti Soup

Things you can pilfer from the dining hall:

½ cup tomato sandwich slices

½ cup lettuce slices

1-2 cups spaghetti sauce

Things you will probably have to buy:

1 package Top Ramen noodles

2-3 stalks green onions

spices (To taste. I use yellow curry spice, basil, oregano, garlic salt, and red chili powder in mine.)

  1. Chop the tomato slices, green onion, and lettuce into ¼-1 inch pieces.
  2. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil; add in spaghetti sauce, tomatoes, spices, and lettuce. Stir and bring back to a boil.
  3. Add ramen noodles and cook for three minutes, as per package instructions.
  4. Add green onion and boil for about thirty seconds more.
  5. Remove from heat and serve with your sandwich of choice.


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