This is my first beef related recipe since we had a cow butchered! You can read more about that experience here.
Don’t skip past this post just because you think people who care about good food and health don’t eat ramen. They do! Before moving to Laos, I thought ramen noodles were sort of a lazy junk food for college students. Actually that’s not true, my mom used to serve them without the liquid as a side dish and I always loved them.
Anyway, ramen can be more than junk food. The best ramen I’ve ever eaten was from a ramen restaurant in a Japanese neighborhood of Bangkok. The noodles were handmade and served in a beef broth with leafy greens and tempura shrimp. It isn’t fancy Japanese food, but it’s real food and a good ramen shop should be appreciated.
In Laos, noodles are very popular, but the noodle shops usually specialize in straight rice noodles rather than wavy ramen noodles made of wheat. But, you can buy dry ramen packets at almost any convenience store and people do. Many Lao people usually eat ramen in a healthier way than Americans do. They cook it the same way, but at the end they pile on green vegetables – cilantro, green onions, celery leaves, Thai basil . . . They might also include tomato and a cooked egg or some meat.
I can think of 3 reasons someone might be opposed to eating ramen:
- MSG – Ramen noodle flavor packets do include msg. If this bothers you, cook your ramen in chicken or beef broth and don’t use the flavor packet. Homemade broth is actually very nutritious and flavorful, but msg-free store-bought broth could work too. Personally, I’m not very concerned about MSG because I don’t get any side effects and because I read this article on MSG from the New York Times. I believe that a moderate amount of MSG is fine. Salt and sugar are unhealthy in large quantities too. Just don’t consume large quantities of any of these things.
- It’s not a complete meal – This is sort of true. Don’t try to live on just ramen noodles. They can be more like a complete meal if you eat them like a Lao person does and add lots of cilantro, green onion, basil, some tomato, and a cooked egg. For the picture above, I cooked the noodles in just enough beef broth to cover and topped it with a handful of cilantro.
- It’s not fine food – Also true. The noodles that come dry in little packets are not gourmet. If you want to see how good ramen can be, try to find a Japanese ramen restaurant. Even if you can’t, ramen cooked with some good quality broth and vegetables tastes very good.