Before I learned to cook much past a fried egg, I ate ramen noodles with that little magical foil packet of flavoring that you swirl in at the end (you remember the kind). They’re the same kind that you ate so often in college, after two am, when you were bewildered and writing and un-writing an essay that wouldn’t come together, or more likely, returning, sweaty, from dancing long on sore feet at a party thinned with cheap, watery beer.
As kids, we ate them with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
If you still have some on hand, somewhere at the back of your pantry, those plastic-packaged noodles will work just as well as any for this recipe. Break them up with the back of a spoon and boil directly in your carrot-cabbage soup, until the noodles are supple.
Then, be sure to pack your sizzling pan of red chile, with lots and lots of bean sprouts.
I found my way to at least five big handfuls when I was wandering through Chinatown’s stalls downtown. “This much,” I said to the vendor, pointing at the crispy spring sprouts as I captured air with two hands, wide as the gap between your ears, sounding probably something like a toothless baby, who tries to quantify for the first time, how much she loves something…”this much,” with arms that appear to her, almost infinite. Because, didn’t we all do that once?
And if we were as close as we thought to infinity back then, shouldn’t our arms be even further reaching now, pulling us further and further from the finite the more we feather wide the webs between our fingers?
Neither of us spoke much of the same language, as far as I could tell, but this vendor, with deep, smooth cheeks and smooth teeth, and wrinkled hands captured exactly, down to the last sprout tip, the quantity my air-hands had motioned, then tossed them into a white plastic bag, 80 cents.
Aside from the sprouts, I like best when the noodles are spicier than I can handle, and impossibly freckled with toasted sesame. I like to spray fresh lime juice with a crushed hand over bowls of vegetables that are full of steam, but have still kept their crunch.
Last, I should tell you that: this bowl of ramen is the kind that’s meant for slurping, however quickly or slowly you are able to eat with chopsticks.
- 1/2 lb. ramen noodles
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2-3 scallions, chopped
- 4 medium-sized carrots, shaved into thin strips or julienned
- 3 cups red cabbage, roughly chopped
- 2 stalk celery, chopped
- 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
- 1″ piece fresh ginger, finely grated
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1-2 small red chiles, minced
- 2-3 tablespoons sesame seeds (or to taste)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or to taste)
- squeeze of fresh lime juice
Heat 2 tablespoons of sesame oil in a saucepan and saute scallions, carrots and cabbage, at medium-high high heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about three minutes.
Lowering the heat, add rice vinegar and stock, and allow vegetables to simmer for a few minutes more. Stir in fresh ginger, and then add soy sauce and sesame seeds to taste. Add chopped celery and simmer for an additional minute. Celery should still be crisp.
In another small saucepan, heat a tablespoon of sesame oil with minced red chile to taste and allow oil to become fragrant before sprinkling with sesame seeds and then adding bean sprouts. Saute bean sprouts on medium-high heat, tossing occasionally to allow some browning.
Meanwhile prepare ramen, cooking and draining noodles according to instructions provided on package. Spoon a small portion of noodles into bowls and submerge with soup mixture of carrots, cabbage and broth. Top with bean sprouts, fresh lime juice, green snips of scallions or chopped parsley and fresh ginger, if desired. Serve hot.