Times haven't been as tight in the Bulmash household lately as they were when I wrote my post on the amazing long-term low price of Top Ramen (even now, Costco's price is up less than 4% in 2 years and I've seen it as cheap as 7-for-a-buck at Fred Meyer in recent months). But while we didn't eat Top Ramen when I was battling long-term unemployment, we've been eating it for fun while I've been employed.
It all started when my Facebook friend, Ray Everett-Church, posted a link to a newspaper article on the growing popularity of small ramen shops. Unlike Top Ramen, these were noodle houses that slaved for hours to make the perfect noodle broth and were drawing a legion of American fans who were learning the difference between "real" ramen and the pale packaged imitation we knew here in America. It made me realize that I could make up some Top Ramen, "improve" the broth with a little soy sauce and ginger, and add some meat and vegetables to actually make it a passable meal that my two young sons might actually eat.
The general recipe is to warm a package of frozen broccoli, a package of frozen corn, and around a half pound of Chinese barbecue pork (chopped into bite-size pieces) in a mix of ramen broth and "improvements" while more broth comes to a boil and the ramen is cooked in it for a few minutes. Because my youngest is two years old and hot broth does not mix well with that age, the noodles are pulled from the broth pot and put in the veggies and meat pan to soak up the last of the improved broth and release a little starch to thicken whatever broth is not absorbed.
It's like porky, chickeny, Asian spaghetti, full of veggies, and the boys love it. I make it about twice a month as a special treat. Even my wife likes taking leftovers to work in her lunch. One day I'd love to step up my ramen game with a slow cooked broth and some higher quality noodles. But as a quick meal that's ready in about 20 minutes and gets my kids decent portions of three food groups, it's something I don't hate, and even though saving money isn't as high a priority as it was, it's still nice that the whole thing basically makes 6 portions for less than the cost of two Happy Meals.