Ramen night

Or ramyun night, in this case. Korean instant noodles.

When Billy is out of town I tend to look for easy meals…I just don’t feel like cooking anything too complex when it’s just me. Sometimes, I cook things that I know he doesn’t like— dishes that have a lot of onions in them, for example. But last night I just made my favorite Korean instant noodles.

They are by no means healthy, filled with salt and MSG I am sure, but I love them all the same. I got into the habit of eating them when I lived in Korea; it was an easy meal after a long night of teaching English. The family I lived with always had a rice cooker full of hot rice ready in the kitchen, and so I often had a bowl of rice with my spicy noodles (no fear of carbs here!) and would dip a spoonful of the rice into the fiery broth. Yum.

My friend J. says Shin Ramyun are the “best ramen ever.” I don’t disagree; they are definitely my go-to noodles. There are occasions when I am not in the mood for spicy, and then I’ll choose one of Shin Ramyun’s more mild-mannered Japanese shelfmates. I prefer miso-based ramen (my favorite is actually a Chinese style ramen) to shoyu (soy sauce based), but there is even a shoyu brand or two that I buy every so often. My most frequent instant noodle purchase by far, however, is Shin Ramyun.

Of course, instant noodles have nothing on their fresh noodle cousins, and packaged fresh noodles have nothing on those made fresh by hand. Having lived in Sapporo, Japan, which many people say is the ramen capital of the country, I like to think I’ve eaten some the better ramen out there. But the best ramen I ever had in Japan was actually in Morioka, in Northern Honshu. (Sorry Sapporoites!)

Morioka is a quiet mountain city, prone to heavy snows. I visited in August, and I imagine the ramen would be doubly good when the temperatures were cold. The ramen that holds my best-ever title had a country-style flavor to it; made-that-day noodles sat in a hearty miso broth. The ramen was topped with assorted fresh veggies — the one that most sticks in my mind, perhaps because it was seemed an unusual topping for ramen, was fresh buttery corn shaved right off the cob. The dish was served in a heavy ironware pot —ironware being a craft Morioka is known for. Eating those plump kernels of corn in the salty-sweet miso….so delicious. I remember my friend Hiroko and I being so overcome by how good the ramen was that we had to keep putting our chopsticks down. We both ate past full, because the noodles were so good.

Despite the fact that my favorite instant noodles come from Korea, I actually don’t remember eating ramyun in Korea so often. When
it came to noodles, naeng myun (cold noodles), often made from wheat or rice, usually won out. But I did make ramyun with some of the elementary school students I taught. We added red pepper paste and tteokboki to make a kind of spicy stew.

When I lived in Sapporo, I was often told that ramen came about because when Ghengis Khan and his men roamed about Asia, they needed something convenient to eat. So they cooked noodles and ate them out of their helmets. I have not idea whether this is true or not, but it’s a fun image to consider.


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