There's something about ramen. It's quick, cheap, and comforting. I used to buy handfuls of packaged ramen, figuring there were sure to be times during the month when it would be exactly what we needed. I heard they weren't great for you, but it took me awhile to realize that there really wasn't much "food" there. Recently, when my husband wasn't feeling great and was going through a stressful time, he asked if I'd pick up some ramen. I was torn; I didn't want to deny him the comfort he longed for, but I didn't want to feed him junk food, either. So I decided to try making it myself. To my surprise, it turned out to be way easier than I'd thought it would be. And, much to my delight, it was quick, cheap, and comforting. Best of all, my husband loved it - in fact (drum roll please) he says he prefers my homemade version! Aaannnd, the kids love it, too. Yes!
The Veggie Stock
My first choice is to make veggie stock from scratch using whole vegetables, but I don't always have the time or forethought. I more often end up using store-bought stock, and my favorite right now is Better Than Bouillon Organic Vegetable Stock Base. While some stock bases by this brand contain corn syrup, this one doesn't. Unlike most packaged ramen I've eaten, I recognize the ingredients in this stuff. Mostly real organic veggies.
The Ginger, Garlic & Sesame Seeds
The organic stock base at my local grocery has 29% of the day's sodium in a teaspoon of the condensed stock base, so I use about 4 1/2 teaspoons in 10 cups of water to keep the sodium down. (Amazon does carry a jar that's twice as big and 15% lower sodium here in the Recipe Tools Shop under Ingredients.) Any additional flavor is coming from the garlic, ginger and sesame seeds. These are the key ingredients for achieving that "ramen-y" flavor. There's plenty of garlic to do the trick. The ginger can be grated on porcelain or a stainless zester. Just make sure you get plenty in there! If using a porcelain grater, it can be tricky to get all the ginger off. Tip: Hold the grater over the pot and pour a little stock water over it so that the stuck ginger rinses off right into the pot. The water just helps soften the ginger as it cooks. To make this soup oil-free, I toast and grind the sesame seeds. If you have a small food processor or blender, the ginger, garlic, and sesame seeds can be processed together easily, and in this case it's fine to just coarsely chop the ginger and garlic first. If you don't have any tools to grind the seeds, you can smash them with something sturdy like the bottom of a mug. We're going for coarsely ground or chopped to release the oils and flavor, they don't need to become a paste. You will still get a hint of sesame flavor by toasting them and then adding them whole when the broth is added.
Another key ingredient: the noodle. While we may think of those specific squiggly noodles when we think of having ramen, we change it up depending on what we have on hand or what we feel like having. When my husband wants ramen with a miso flavor, he loves the organic edamame noodles I found out Costco. When someone has an upset stomach, I want to give them an easily-processed "white flour" noodle, like angel hair pasta. Generally, we like whole wheat pasta best. When I'm wanting more veggies, I'll go for zucchini noodles made with my spiralizer. If you want the traditional squiggly ramen noodles, you may be able to find them at your local grocery or specialty food store. We surprisingly don't miss them.
Recently, my family and I were all unexpectedly home for lunch at the same time. Lunch came together within about 20 minutes, and I was so grateful to have everyone there around the table enjoying their food. We had peanut butter and banana toast triangles with our whole wheat ramen. A simple, fast and delicious lunch. A single portion was leftover to stick in a thermos the next day.
Homemade Ramen recipe
by BEAUTIFUL INGREDIENT
Serves: 4 bowls or 6 cups
- 3 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced (other mushrooms can be substituted)
- A 2-inch piece of ginger, grated
- 8 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 10 cups of homemade broth, or 10 cups of water and 1 1/2 tablespoons Better Than Bouillon Organic Vegetable Base. If using the prepared base, warm a smaller amount of water (such as 2 cups) and stir the base into it. This helps the base dissolve and can later be added to the remaining 8 cups.
- 8 ounces dry noodles of your choice
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
STEP 1: Prepare all ingredients. Heat a medium soup pot (such as 5 or 6 quart) over medium heat, then toast 3 teaspoons of sesame seeds in the dry pot, giving the pot a shake now and then to move the seeds around until fragrant and toasted. Remove the sesame seeds.
STEP 2: Place the mushrooms in the hot dry pot. Stir frequently. The moisture from the mushrooms will release to help keep them from sticking too much. Stir until softened and browned.
STEP 3: While keeping an eye on the mushrooms, use a grinder or mortar and pestle to grind the sesame seeds. Alternatively, place the garlic, ginger (they can be coarsely chopped in this case) and sesame seeds into a blender or small food processor to process. Add the ground sesame seeds, garlic and ginger to the mushrooms and stir about 20-30 seconds, then add the veggie stock/water.
STEP 4: Heat on high to boil, then add the noodles. Reduce to medium-low for simmering. Follow the noodle package instructions for duration. Whole wheat noodles take 10 minutes, angel hair and zucchini take about 3 minutes, edamame noodles take about 5 minutes.
STEP 5: Add scallions half way through the simmering process to soften.
TO SERVE: Ladle broth into bowls, then use tongs to add the noodles. Garnish with more sesame seeds if desired.
Note: A lot of kids don't like mushrooms or onions; I find it easy to "selectively ladle" their portions since there are very few mushrooms and green onions (aka scallions) in this recipe.