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Cooking on the cheap shouldn't mean minute rice and buttered pasta every night. With a little creativity and a little planning, Gabriella Paiella shows us how to make the most of a tight budget -- without sacrificing flavor or variety.
Today: The next best thing to a SAD lamp this time of year? A giant bowl of real ramen.
Nothing is quite as emblematic of broke cuisine as a cup of instant ramen.
And the truth is, that stuff ain't so bad. But it's got nothing on real ramen: oversized, steaming bowls of savory broth and satisfyingly chewy noodles, with a spectacular assortment of proteins and a perfectly soft-boiled egg swimming on top.
This winter -- a particularly long and harsh one, as we all know -- I haven't been able to get enough of the stuff. It truly is the perfect antidote to combat the most bitterly cold nights. But at about $12 per bowl, my ramen habit was progressively putting a dent in my wallet.
Assembling your own fancy ramen at home takes time -- and as L.V. Anderson points out, all the ingredients need to be cooked separately, which can feel overly intensive if multi-tasking is not for you. But it will certainly be more satisfying than boiling water and pouring it into a styrofoam cup. (Unless you've got a thing for that, in which case, you do you.)
A heads up: Before you start, you're going to want to invest in some miso paste. It's not cheap, but I promise that it will quickly become a workhorse in your kitchen, adding next-level flavor to everything from roasted vegetables to soups and salads.
Every ramen recipe I've come across is slightly varied. But here are the basic tenets, loosely laid out:
1) Boil and drain a package of ramen noodles. You can even use the instant variety if you'd like, sans weirdo MSG packet. Drain and set the cooked noodles aside for later in the recipe.
2) Roast your selected vegetables, and cook your meat. A little bit of sesame oil goes a long way.
3) Bring your stock to a boil and place a few tablespoons of miso paste in an empty bowl. You can't just mix the miso directly in, so remove about a quarter cup of boiling water and whisk it together with the miso paste, then pour that back into the larger pot. Keep it at a simmer.
4) Soft-boil an egg -- about 6 minutes should do it. If you're feeling ambitious, marinate it as the Japanese do. (Bonus: My friend Anna keeps the marinated ones in her fridge for a quick, flavorful addition to weekday lunches.)
5) Put your ramen, vegetables, meat, and egg in a bowl. Garnish with sliced scallions and ladle in your broth. Top with a healthy dose of Sriracha.
Need some inspiration and detailed instructions? Here are some recipes to get you started:
Tell us: What are your favorite ways to make ramen at home?
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