As someone who’s profession is all about food, nutrition, and healthy eating, I’m all about advocating that we eat more real food, and getting in the kitchen to cook more from scratch whenever possible. And I aim to walk the walk as much as I talk the talk. It helps that I love to cook and have the means to purchase the tasty food items I want (although I don’t know that I can justify fresh black truffles, lobster, or square watermelon on my grocery list). Of course, I also realize that this isn’t the case for everyone – we don’t all share the same tastes, cooking skills, income, or access to real food. So I think it’s really important to look at how we can put a positive, healthy spin on those package food “staples” that many people may rely on to feed themselves and their family.
One particular item that comes to mind is ramen. You know, those little rectangular blocks of pale wavy noodles, with their salty flavour packages. I remember being in elementary school and seeing other kids who got to eat raw ramen noodles for their playground snack, and thinking how unfair it was that my mom wouldn’t let us do the same (hindsight, eh?) I hear rumour they are a popular food item with the college kids. Heck, I’ve even shared my mom’s recipe for a ramen-filled Chinese Noodle Salad (check it out – there’s even a cat-in-a-stock-pot pic on that post!) And while they don’t make a regular appearance in my life any longer, I must admit they are one of the few foods I crave when I’m down and out with a cold or the flu. So I thought it would be fun to check out a cookbook dedicated to these slurpable wonders.
I Love Ramen is a cookbook by Toni Patrick, that pays homage to the ramen noodle with 75 recipes that range from savoury (and salty!) to sweet, breakfast to dessert, and pretty much everything in between. There is not a lot of extra prose to this book – it’s all about that ramen and how to eat it, in ways other than following the package directions. It was conceived out of stereotypical dorm room cooking, which I think shows in many of the recipes (I’m looking at you Cheesy Ranch Ramen – aka ramen + ranch dressing + cheddar cheese). But they aren’t all abominations that would make any chef or dietitian cry afoul. There are some gems that include things like vegetables and beans!
The dessert recipes were underwhelming, so I decided to try out a couple of savoury dishes. I made the Spinach Parmesan Ramen as a side dish one night to go with some chicken and steamed vegetables. While I liked the flavour, I felt the mozzarella didn’t exactly incorporate into the dish properly, which left me with cheesy spinach lumps in my ramen (see above). I might omit it, add more parmesan, or maybe some extra cream cheese?
I also decided to make the Hot & Sour Ramen, which made for a filling and delicious lunch one snowy afternoon. This was the kind of recipe I was hoping for when I chose the book – something that transforms the ramen into a full meal deal. I didn’t have any extra chicken kicking around, so I added mushrooms to mine instead. I only used a portion of the seasoning package + low sodium soy sauce to keep the salt in check. And since I had no idea what Mongolian Fire Oil was, I just added sriracha. I might consider adding more vegetables, like julienned carrots or something, just to add more nutrition and colour.
Overall, I think the I Love Ramen cookbook by Toni Patrick is a fun, nostalgic look at ramen, and might be great for some people to get into cooking with familiar ingredients. I think some of the recipes barely qualify as recipes, and turn an already sodium laden food into even more of salt bomb, but I think there are also some gems that will get the reader to eat more vegetables and fruits for sure. Is it a must have for your culinary library? Probably not. But it might make a fun gift for the ramen enthusiast in your life.
Hot & Sour Ramen from I Love Ramen Cookbook by Toni Patrick
makes 1-2 servings
- 2 1/2 cups water, divided
- 1 package oriental flavour ramen noodles, lightly crushed, with seasoning packet
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 chicken breast, cooked and diced
- 1/4 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 cup frozen corn
- 1 tsp hot oil or Mongolian Fire Oil
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 eggs, beaten
In a large saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add seasoning packet, lemon juice, chicken, peas, corn, hot oil, and soy sauce and cook for 3 minutes. Add noodles and continue to cook for 3 minutes more.
Mix cornstarch in remaining water. Slowly add to pan while stirring constantly. Let cook another minute or until mixture thickens. Slowly add the eggs, stirring constantly.
Disclaimer – this cookbook was provided to me free of charge to review for the blog. All opinions and photos are my own. Recipe reprinted with permission.