Melting Pot Ramen

Summer Ramence

When summer’s bounty comes at you faster than you can handle, the veggies will start to pile up. That’s why we need recipes capable of incorporating the myriad produce of the garden, farmers market, generous neighbors, and other sources of seasonal food. The kind of evergreen dish that isn’t rattled when you swap a tomato for a turnip, or split the hairs that separate a dandelion from a mushroom. Recipes that always work no matter what you add,  and improve with diversity.

When I was growing up, stir-fry was the veggie-disposal method of choice in my family.  These days I prefer to use a packet of quality ramen noodles. Especially in summer, when the extra hydration is crucial.  And if the broth is spicy, you’ll find yourself coated in a refreshing layer of sweat — befitting a hot summer ramence.

The last time I made ramen, I started with a pack of Hot and Spicy flavored Mama brand noodles, and added zucchini, fresh garlic, snap peas, shelling peas, bacon and egg, garnished with fresh basil, all from the farmers market. I could have added spinach, radish, kale, peppers, pea greens, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and others, and herbs like cilantro or chives. I would be hard pressed to think of something that wouldn’t go in ramen. It’s more a question of when, and not if.

As with a stir-fry, the order in which you add the vegetables to ramen is crucial. Fragile herbs should go last, while durable ingredients like zucchini – which can take a little while to cook – need more time in the soup, and should go in sooner. The same rule applies to proteins. Some, like meat or tofu, can go in sooner. The egg goes later, just before the delicate ingredients.

Sure, you’ve added egg to ramen before. Maybe it was your go-to move in college. But there are levels to this game, and getting the egg right is one of the trickiest parts of cooking ramen.  In my opinion, the egg cooked to the point where the white is solid but the yolk still runs. So I lay the egg gently atop a raft of noodles, where it steams, until the noodles absorb enough water that they sink, along with the egg, into the savory drink, where it lightly poaches before I turn off the heat.

The crux of this operation centers around keeping that frisky raw egg on top of the noodles, because it wants desperately to slide off and take a swim. And once the egg falls into the broth, it hides under the noodles on the floor of the pot, where it’s hard to monitor and manage, and will probably overcook.

As the egg steams, add the herbs and other delicate vegetables such as pea greens or radish slices. And assemble your condiments like jalapeno pepper slices (or some other form of heat), hoisin sauce, mayo, or whatever else might juice it the way you like to customize it behind closed doors. As with a hot, sweaty summer romance, what happens in ramen stays in ramen.

Zucchini Ramen

This recipe is meant to be an example of how you can add seasonal produce to ramen. As long as the vegetables are fresh it will be great. The instant ramen that you cook it with should be high quality as well, such as Mama, Nonghsim or Sapporo Ichiban brands.

2 slices of bacon
1 medium zucchini, cut into rounds
2 cloves garlic
1 packet instant ramen (I use spicy flavor)
1 egg
Handful of snap peas, chopped coarsely
Peas from a handful of shelling peas
Handful of basil

Fry the bacon, either in strips or in pieces. When it’s browned, add the zucchini rounds and fry until brown on at least one side. Add the water, noodles and flavorings. Turn the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Flip the noodles so the soft side faces up.

Crack your egg into a little bowl. This allows you to add the egg one-handed with a quick pour, and eliminates the possibility of a broken yolk.  Dump it with a flick of the wrist.

As the egg lands on the noodles, go to any length necessary to keep the egg on top of the noodles. Use the spatula, tongs, chopsticks or some other tool to tip the noodles this way and that to keep the egg in top and prevents it from escaping. If you can keep it up there long enough, the white will solidify around the softening ramen, and the egg will quit trying to run. As the egg cooks, add the peas.

Gently transfer the ramen to a bowl. Garnish with basil and serve.



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