Monday, October 3, 2005

Product Report: Top? Choice?

I had a friend in college who had the odd habit of eating his Ramen noodles dry. He would pull out the dry noodle cube, sprinkle on the flavoring, and munch away on the brick as though it were a Hershey's bar. To this day the image of him in his bathrobe crunching on a Ramen coaster remains the quintessence of Collegiate thrift and sloth: Too cheap to buy better food and too lazy to bother preparing it correctly.

We all know Ramen as the ultimate cheapskate food. At about fifteen cents a pack - although it can be found cheaper - it remains arguably the least expensive meal you can buy. Almost everyone has some stock pile of Ramen lying about somewhere. I was even able to find a small trove of the trusty noodle tucked away in the kitchen of my Uncle's multi-million dollar house (Why isn't he giving me money?). Being the starving artist that I am I consider myself to be something of a connoisseur of the Ramen - although I honestly can't say if I've been spelling it correctly. Over my years of Ramen consumption I have compiled a few tips to maximize you're noodle enjoyment. Remember these are purely subjective as they are based on my own taste. Everyone has some Ramen experience and their own preferences.

1. It can be a soup or a noodle dish
This may seem like a simple truth but many people don't realize this. Most people simply make the noodles and add the flavor to the water and sip on it. I like draining most of the water and eating the noodles. It's worth mentioning that if you do this, you may not want to use the entire flavor packet. Without the water to dissipate the flavor, it can get mighty powerful. Plus, the flavor already has more sodium than a human being should consume in a week. This may be a good piece of advice no matter.

2. Avoid 'fancy' flavors
As shown by my use of quotation marks, I use the term fancy loosely here. Ramen makes flavors such as creamy chicken and roast beef. Avoid these. First, they can cost up to five cents more a packet. Second, you can't taste the difference. Creamy chicken taste like chicken with cloudier water. Roast beef tastes like beef with more little green flecks in it which is probably meant to be basil or something of the like, but is more likely to pencil shavings. Stick to the basics: chicken, beef, and oriental (I personally never trusted the shrimp). Even these taste pretty much alike. In general Ramen all taste like your grandfather: salty. Don't bother paying even a little bit more for what amounts to the same thing.

3. Ramen can be a side dish or make a casserole
I know. I know. This flies in the face of cheapskate convention. Ramen is a meal unto itself dammit. While this is true, if, by some fluke of luck, you find yourself with a little extra food on hand and want to attempt a meal proper, Ramen can be a good side. If you have a little chicken or beef on hand - fat chance, but you never know - try it with the corresponding Ramen flavor. Try dressing up your Ramen by throwing in some cheap vegetables or breaking up lunch meat into it. It becomes a casserole - a casserole which will never pass muster at any respectable cover dish dinner, but a casserole none the less.

4. If you drink ramen from a mug, clean it before you drink tea out of the same mug
In college - which is how most Ramen related stories begin - a friend of mine almost threw up in a religion course because of this. He ended up rolling on the ground and gagging. We tried to convince the prof he was speaking in tongues, but he was a strict Calvinist and would have none of it. It's a good idea to have a reserved Ramen bowl or mug since that flavor can be stubborn and refuse to get out despite numerous cleanings.

5. Never serve Ramen on a date
Trust me on this one. Just don't. Not even as a side. Splurge and buy a generic bag of preseasoned minute rice. It might cost you seventy cents more, but it will be beneficial in the long run.

That's just a short list. Remember, there are no rules to Ramen. You can eat it however you want. It's your fifteen cents, don't let convention tell you what to do. Even if you want to eat it dry, that's between you and your dentist.


(P.S. Sorry for the long delay between posts. Since my move I've been without internet at my humble abode. My attempts to connect to neighborhood wireless networks have proved fruitless. I may need to bite the bullet and pay for a connection. Until then I can only get on line at libraries and various hotspots. I will try to write more, I promise.)