Monday, July 22, 2013

Making great instant ramen every time

Shin ramen: Accept no substitutes
Instant ramen is the one food item that even the most untalented cooks can make. But like everything in life, you can still easily and massively screw it up.

Being able to make my own little pot of instant ramen was my first big step into the culinary world. But still, it was a hit-or-miss affair somehow. There'd be times when it'd turn out too watery and diluted. And other times, it would be too concentrated and salty.

Thankfully, a few years ago, I stumbled upon a pretty ideal and foolproof way to ensure quality noodles every time. I used the glass seen in the picture below and filled it to near the top with water. I poured that amount into the pot twice before starting to boil it.

For those of you who don't own this particular glassware, use about 400ml of water.

Thank god for this glass
Once the water starts to boil, put the soup base in. You need to put the soup base in before the noodles because the powder lowers the water temperature momentarily, so it'll take a few seconds before resuming a rolling boil. Those seemingly insignificant seconds are precious, and you don't want your noodles cooking in less-than-boiling water in case they become soggy. Remember, you want the noodles to be in there just long enough to become saturated with flavour, but not a millisecond more.

If you like to drop an egg into your ramen, I also like to do it before putting the noodles in because it's a tricky balance between the egg and noodles. You want the egg in there long enough so that the yolk hardens somewhat, because I despise runny yolk (especially if it spills into the soup). But you also don't want to overcook the noodles by waiting for the egg. So you need to maximize the time the egg spends in the boiling water with the soup base, and that time is right after you put the soup base in.

Lastly, the noodles. I usually just break them in half because I like my noodles long and stringy. I like slightly undercooked noodles, so I'm usually turning off the heat within 3 minutes or so after I put the noodles in. It's all about feel at this point, so I can't tell you exactly how many minutes and seconds to wait every single time.

But if you go longer than 3 minutes, you'll probably overcook it. Pay attention.

Noodles are still visibly rigid and uncooked at this point
After that, just carry over the pot to the table and rest it atop a little pot cushion. There's no need to put the ramen into a bowl because that just means extra dishes for you to do. But you do absolutely need a little plate for you to cool off the noodles before eating. Otherwise, your tastebuds will just become overwhelmed by the heat. And if you wait for the dish to cool down, then the noodles will become overcooked.

Careful not to poke the egg as well, in case the yolk is still runny and bursts out and ruins everything. Or maybe you like that, in which case you're wrong and should be ashamed of yourself.

PS There are lots of variations to classic instant ramen. Some people like to put cheese into their ramen. I'm usually never judgmental about what other people eat, but that is something I just can't do. It sounds revolting. Other people put veggies and meats into it. I'm always open to try new things (just not cheese ramen), but fancying up instant ramen kind of goes against my instincts. But if anybody has a killer recipe for mushroom-and-beef infused Shin ramen or something, then I'm all ears.

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