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Local Chefs Offer Interesting Twists on a College Staple
by Judy Sperry, photos by Sarah Barry
College diets may not be rich in nutrients and vitamins but they’re certainly rich in ramen. Next to pizza, these wheat noodles are probably the most famous food on campus and will most likely make a cameo in almost every dorm room, student apartment, fraternity, and sorority house this year.
For decades, instant ramen and 3-step ramen noodle packets have bailed out ravenous students pulling all-nighters (or praying all night) who have blown their allotted monthly allowances on books, rent, beer, other snack foods, and entertainment. According to chefs, ramen’s durability as a noodle that cannot be overcooked makes it a culinary anomaly. A pack of ramen can stay with you until the day you graduate, thanks to an incredibly long shelf life, and could probably outlast your favorite college sweatshirt.
Although ramen’s high sodium/fat/caloric content have given it unsatisfactory reviews by dieticians across the country, there are alternative approaches to cooking ramen noodles that can help keep them from adding inches to your wasteline and increasing your blood pressure during final exams.
No matter what your whimsical craving is (chicken, beef, shrimp, traditional, vegetarian, seaweed) there’s a ramen flavor for everyone. Organic ramen is also an option for those who are willing to splurge a few more cents for a packet. The majority of chefs will also tell you they prefer Maruchan Ramen over other brands and a six pack averages around $1.49 in popular grocery store chains in North America.
According to five top chefs in Buffalo, ramen’s personality can come to life in your kitchen (or dorm room) if you spruce up the average packet with the right ingredients. Adhering to a modest college budget of $8-$12, these chefs created recipes that fed 2-4 people and once plated, increased ramen’s aesthetic presentation from below average to A+. The recipes also took ten minutes to prepare and required the use of simple kitchen utensils: one pot or hot plate, one small pan, a cutting board, a good chef’s knife, and standard dining utensils (i.e. plates, bowls, forks, spoons).
Thai Vegetarian Peanut Ramen Noodles
by Chefs Dennis Danieu and Lindsey Prohaska
Black Rock Kitchen & Bar, 491 Amherst Street
Black Rock Kitchen is in the heart of Black Rock so naturally, Chef Dennis and front of the house manager Lindsey purchased their ingredients at Wegman’s on Amherst Street ($6-$8). The recipe called for another college diet staple—ample amounts of peanut butter—and two packages of oriental flavored ramen noodles which are strictly vegetarian. The Thai peanut sauce ingredients included spicy and sweet characteristics, compliments of one Fresno chili pepper (de-seeded), Sriracha chili sauce, fresh scallions, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar. The recipe easily fed four people and could be served warm or cold. For additional nutritional value, add fresh bell peppers, carrots, napa cabbage and cucumber, or cook up a bag of mixed frozen vegetables.
Ingredients2 packages of Oriental flavor ramen noodles (vegetarian) 1⁄2 bunch scallions—chopped
1 Fresno chile pepper—remove seeds & dice
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1⁄2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
1⁄2 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1⁄4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Sriracha chili sauce
2 tablespoons refined sugar (substitute agave or sugar in the raw or honey)
1 cup of water
salt & pepper (optional)
Sauce:In a pan, heat sesame oil (medium-to-high heat)
Add scallions and sauté
Next add sesame seeds and chile peppers
Deglaze with rice wine vinegar
Add peanut butter & Sriracha
Add 1 cup of water and stir into sauce
Noodles:Boil water and add 2 packages of ramen noodles
Cook 3 to 5 minutes
Add seasoning packet (optional) or add salt and pepper
Place ramen noodles in a bowl and mix in Thai peanut sauce
Garnish with scallion, leftover chilis, and sesame seeds
This dish can be served warm or cold and can also include any vegetables or protein.
Chicken (Ramen Noodle) Soup w/thick cut bacon, one fried egg, & Asian vegetables
by Chef Michael Andrzjewski
SeaBar, Tappo, Cantina Loco, and Mike A’s Bar at The Hotel Lafayette
If you’ve had the good fortune of ordering Chef Mike A’s lobster ramen noodle entrée at SeaBar, you’ll witness his flare for turning the average ramen noodle packet into an extraordinary meal. Chef Mike A. frequently sources his produce, seasonings, and ingredients from Asian markets on Niagara Street, Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst, and Bailey Avenue. The total cost of ingredients for this recipe was $8-$10 and the recipe easily fed 2 people. The first instruction was to toss out the seasoning packet inside the ramen noodle package and use a few teaspoons of soy sauce to flavor the low sodium chicken stock. While the stock simmered, Chef Mike heated up a small pan for the bacon and cooked it on both sides until it crisped up nicely. He used the same pan to fry a large egg and cooked it sunny side up. He also incorporated fresh ginger in his stock and used Napa Valley cabbage for texture followed by Shimeji mushrooms that became tender in the broth. The fried egg added protein to the recipe and complimented the sweet & smoky bacon. For a spicy kick, Chef Mike A. placed sweet jalapenos on top of the Ramen Noodle soup and added a few dollops of chili sauce.
1 quart of low sodium chicken stock
3 pieces of thick cut bacon (cut into squares by butcher)
1 large egg
Fresh ginger (peeled and chopped—2 tablespoons)
Shallots (diced—2 tablespoons)
Napa Valley cabbage (cut 5 stalks into bite size pieces)
Shimeji mushrooms (1/2 cup)
Pickled jalapenos (1 tablespoon)
DirectionsPlace frozen chicken stock in a pot and heat up stock until it thaws.
To fortify chicken stock, add fresh ginger and shallots and simmer for a few minutes.
Add a few teaspoons of soy sauce to give it salt and depth.
Add Ramen Noodles (without packet).
Add Napa Valley cabbage and Shemeji mushrooms.
Cook for 3-5 minutes.
In a separate pan, crisp bacon and cook on both sides.
Remove bacon from pan and pat dry with paper towel to absorb excess grease.
Fry one large egg in pan (sunny side up).
Place chicken ramen noodle soup w/ Asian vegetables in bowl.
Place bacon in bowl and add fried egg on top of ramen noodles.
Add pickled jalapenos on top.
Add a small dollop of sesame oil on top and chili oil.
Recipe feeds 2-4 people.
Spicy Southeast Asian Ramen Pho
by Chef Dan Getman
Providence Social, 490 Rhode Island Street
Providence Social is located on Buffalo’s west side, so Chef Dan purchased his ingredients at Guercio and Sons on (250 Grant Street) for $10-$12. The Ramen Pho recipe was so simple it could be prepared using a Hot Plate in a dorm room. Chef Dan used Beef flavored Maruchan Ramen noodles and spiced up his broth by adding Sriracha (cost at G&S is $2.49 a bottle), red pepper flakes, ginger powder, scallions, onion, and garlic. Chef Dan’s Pho was garnished with fresh basil (cost at G&S is $1.59 for one large basil plant). The cost of a protein was also included and Chef Dan suggested letting the pho broth cook thinly sliced roast beef. Other protein additions could be shrimp, vegetables, a cracked egg, or tofu. This recipe fed three people.
Ingredients1 package ramen noodles
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon teriyaki sauce
A pinch of red pepper flakes
A pinch of ginger powder
1 garlic clove
1 onion slice
salt & pepper (to taste)
DirectionsBring pot of water to boil on a hot plate or stove
Add one chopped garlic clove
Add diced onion slice
Add chili pepper flakes, Sriracha, & ginger powder
Add sesame oil, soy sauce, and teriyaki sauce
Add Ramen noodles and cook for 3-5 minutes
*Add optional ingredients for vegetarian, seafood, or beef pho
Serve in soup bowls with sprigs of Basil on top
Add salt & pepper if desired
Ramen a la Carbonara
by Chef Mark Krohn
Trattoria Aroma, 307 Bryant Street
Chef Mark recalls the days when he was a culinary student on a budget experimenting with gourmet recipes for Ramen noodles. He shared the secret to making a Romanesque recipe by adding a few ingredients to Ramen noodles that are staples in most Italian kitchens; garlic, tomato, panchetta, heavy cream, parmesan cheese, parsley, brussels sprouts, and one large egg. The ingredients were purchased at Price Rite for a total of $10 (including two chicken thighs and two large jalapeno peppers that he used for another recipe). Feeds two people.
Ingredients1 package of ramen noodles
1 garlic clove
2 cups of brussels sprouts
1⁄4 cup of diced pancetta
1⁄4 cup diced tomato
1⁄4 cup sweet peas
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons of vegetable broth
1⁄4 cup grated parmesan
1 bunch parsley
salt & pepper
1⁄2 cup white wine (optional)
Brussels Sprouts:In a separate pan, heat up one tablespoon of butter
Add minced garlic & shallots and cook until translucent
Add 2 cups of brussels sprouts
Add salt & pepper and sauté until brussels sprouts soften.
Sauce:In a pan, heat up one tablespoon of butter
Add minced garlic & shallot and cook until translucent
Sprinkle w/ salt & pepper
Add peas & diced tomatoes
Add vegetable broth
1⁄2 cup white wine (optional)
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
stir & reduce to a simmer
add grated parmesan cheese
Noodles:Cook Ramen noodles in a small pot of boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
Add noodles to sauce & sprinkle with grated parsley.
Crack the egg on top, allowing the heat to cook it for a few minutes. Plate noodles & sauce w/ roasted brussel sprouts on the side and serve.
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