[EDIT: I’ve just switched to using Picasa Web albums and they seem to be cropping my photos into weird squares. Sorry about that. I’m working on it!]
I’m always looking for ways to jazz up ramen noodles (here I mean the 10/$1 package kind, not the fancy Japanese and Korean instant noodles that you can buy at Asian groceries). On weekends when we can’t find any good leftovers in the fridge, I’ll add some shredded cabbage, grated carrots, and sliced scallions to a bowl of ramen and call it a meal. I also like to reheat leftover stir fries with cooked, drained ramen noodles for a quick meal. There are a bunch of other awesome ideas in this article, including a monstrous ramen-topped shepherd’s pie (no thanks).
I recently bought a Cook’s Illustrated recipe collection – they come out with these quarterly, and they’re usually about $8. This one is called “30 Minutes Suppers” (Sarah pointed out that they surely couldn’t use 30 Minute Meals, since Yummo has that on lockdown). It’s a pretty good set of recipes. They’re almost all meat-based, and many of them rely too much on expensive and/or unhealthy ingredients (it’s hard to find recipes that are cheap, good for you, and quick — but I can always come up with a few suggestions).
Anyway, this one looked good to both of us so I decided to give it a shot. I plan on making the multi-day ramen from the Momofuku Cookbook when my copy arrives, so we’ll have something to compare it to.
Basically, the idea is to brown some pork tenderloin, then finish cooking it in a syrupy, sweet-sour-salty sauce. Then you remove the pork, and add chicken stock to make your ramen broth. Then you boil ramen noodles separately (no seasoning packets, here) with some spinach or beet greens, and combine the whole thing with some hard boiled eggs. It’s not going to win any awards for authenticity or originality, but it’s a very solid dish, and a good one to have in your back pocket if you need to come up with something quickly.
You could certainly omit the pork if you want, although then you might as well just make the ramen with the seasoning packet and add some greenery. The sauce here definitely plays well with pork’s natural sweetness, so I would recommend trying it once with pork.
Ramen with Greens and Honey-Sesame Pork
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated: 30 Minute Suppers
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 eggs, hard boiled (use this method or your favorite method), preferably still a little creamy in the middle
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or Sriracha
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 16-ounce pork tenderloin, patted dry
6 cups chicken broth, preferably low-sodium (canned, boxed, or concentrate is all fine here – if you use a concentrate, make it a little on the weak side)
4 scallions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon salt
4 packages ramen, packets discarded
8-12 ounces tender greens (you can use beet greens, chard, spinach, arugula, or even sliced cabbage), washed and torn into bite-sized pieces if necessary
Mix the water, rice vinegar, honey, and soy sauce in a small bowl (if you have a clear 1-cup measure, you can do this in one container without any other measuring equipment). Add the sesame seeds, stir well, and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the pork and cook, turning occasionally, until deeply browned on all sides, about 5-10 minutes. Add the rice vinegar mixture and continue to cook, turning frequently, until a thermometer inserted into the middle registers 140 degrees. Remove the pork to a cutting board and tent with foil. Add the scallions andd chicken stock to the pork sauce and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low to keep warm. This will be your ramen broth.
In a large saucepan, bring 4 quarts of water to boil and add the salt. If you are using beet greens or chard, add them as the water is heating up to give them a head start. Once the water is boiling, add the ramen noodles and cook for 3 minutes. If you are using spinach or arugula, add them when the noodles are almost done. Drain the noodles and greens and set aside in a colander or strainer.
Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. After the pork has rested for at least 5 minutes, slice it thinly.
Divide the noodles and greens among 4 bowls. Pour in some broth and top with the pork and eggs. Serve, sprinkling with more sesame seeds, if you’d like.