Thursday, April 20, 2017

Week 12 - Dorm Food

When I think about dorm food, the thing that immediately comes to mind is ramen. We weren't technically allowed to have cooking devices in the dorms, but a lot of people did, especially those little hot pots. One thing you could make with those was cheap packaged ramen, so making an "upgraded" ramen seemed perfect for the challenge.

I went with a spicy ramen with tofu recipe from Pinch of Yum as a starting point since I had never made anything ramen-like before, and went from there. The ingredients list, with our adaptations, is:

for miso paste (all approximations other than the miso, only thing I measured):
- 1/3 cup miso ($1)
- 1 small spoonful gochujang ($0.50)
- 1 heaping spoonful minced garlic ($0.30)
- about 2 tsp ginger paste ($0.30)
- about 1.5 tbsp mirin ($0.30)
- about 1 tbsp grapeseed oil ($0.10)
- a couple tsp toasted sesame oil ($0.15)

other ingredients for ramen:
- grapeseed oil for sautéing ($0.10)
- 1 package of firm tofu, sliced ($1.32)
- 1/2 large red onion, sliced ($0.49)
- a handful of dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated, stems removed, sliced ($0.50)
- 4.5 cups of water ($0)
- 2 spoonfuls chicken bouillon ($0.75)
- 1.5 cups water from shiitake mushroom rehydration ($0)
- 3 eggs ($0.30)
- 2 rice ramen cakes ($1.50)
- 6 green onions, sliced, whites and greens separated ($0.65)

The total cost for dinner (which had no leftovers) was about $8.26. Not bad at all for a complete and filling meal.

The steps for our version of the ramen were:

1. Place shiitake mushrooms in warm water to rehydrate.
2. Heat grapeseed oil in large pot and add tofu to fry. [I intended to have larger pieces of tofu but it broke up a lot when frying it. Not a big deal to us.]

3. While tofu is frying, mix together all ingredients for miso paste and adjust seasonings to taste if needed.
4. When tofu is mostly done, add a couple spoonfuls of miso paste to tofu and mix in. [This is where the tofu mostly broke up.]
5. Remove tofu to separate bowl.

6. In the same pot, add a little more grapeseed oil and then add the sliced mushrooms and onions. Cook until beginning to soften and then add a few spoonfuls of miso paste and cook for a few more minutes.
7. Add the chicken stock (water plus bouillon) and water from the mushroom rehydration bowl. Start to stir in miso paste one spoonful at a time and stir to help dissolve. [I probably added a little every 5 minutes or whenever I remembered as we made other things.]

8. While cooking the mushrooms/onions in chicken stock, soft boil the eggs. [I followed the instructions from the inspiration recipe - add eggs to boiling water, cook about 7 minutes on lowest heat setting, run under cool water, and then peel. Unfortunately (a) the first egg I dropped in cracked a little on the bottom of the pot so it broke which is why we ended up doing 3 eggs instead of 2 and then (b) the water didn't cover the eggs so we had to add some more water from our hot water heater on top. The timing still worked out fine for the egg texture, except peeling was an adventure as only one egg stayed intact. Clearly I've never made soft boiled eggs before.]

9. When the eggs are done boiling and are cooling, cook the ramen noodles according to the package instructions. [Took less than five minutes for us.]
10. Add the white parts of the green onions to the broth when you drop the noodles in the boiling water.

11. Once everything is done and tastes right, start assembling the bowls. Ramen noodles on the bottom, topped with tofu, then broth, and topped with the soft boiled egg and the green parts of the scallions for garnish.

Overall, this ramen experiment was pretty good. The texture of the noodles themselves weren't exactly what I was thinking they would be, as they were much thinner and less substantial than I had imagined. The broth didn't have the depth or nuance that a lot of ramen restaurants around here have, but I wasn't surprised by that as I used chicken bouillon and didn't make a bone broth or anything. Since we have so much good ramen around here, this seemed less like that and more like a good miso-based noodle soup which was just fine for dinner. (I mean, how much does dorm room packaged hot pot ramen taste like real ramen places?) I really liked the miso paste here, and could see using that combination for something else too, like sautéed vegetables. Pretty happy with how this turned out for dinner on a cold night.

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