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September 03, 2006

Feast or Ramen

If a cook works at a medium to higher end restaurant, most likely they get one meal a day prepared by someone in the kitchen, with which they feed the whole staff, including the FOH staff. This is usually called family meal. It's usually different from what is served to the guests, more budget oriented, may have some components from the day before, in odd quantities, or that elsewise need to be used up. I've been lucky in that the places I work in actually put real effort and good basic ingredients in their family meal. It's usually a pride thing for the cook who has to make it.

For me, this has become my primary meal of the day. Back when I was a computer guy, I had short periods of trying to save money by bringing my own lunch. But for the most part, I was lazy (and short-sighted), and we'd go out to lunch 5 days a week. Sometimes I'd be too lazy to make dinner, and I'd buy dinner on my way home, too.

I don't have that luxury anymore. I'm still a little bit in the red each month, and although I have a new job that pays more and will be taking more shifts as well, I can't afford to eat out every day.

To save money, I've taken a few steps. I eat a bowl of cereal as one meal a day. As I said, family meal is my main meal of the day. I'm cooking through my well stocked pantry and freezer.

Here are some ideas for instant ramen:

-Don't boil it. Just use hot tap water to soften the noodles, then stir fry them with your other ingredients.
-Don't use the seasoning packet as intended. Instead of making soup, sprinkle about a quarter to a third of it into your stir-fried noodles as a seasoning.
-Mix in fresh ingredients - vegetables, green onions, cilantro, and especially eggs.
-Use the classic economical ingredients. Thinly sliced lup cheong (Chinese sweet sausage), bbq pork, and chicken stock are all at home with noodles.
-Add some variety - a few frozen gyoza, Thai fish balls, or slices of Japanese fish cake will round out the color and texture.
-Check out alternate cuisine ramens. Mi goreng, tom yum, pho and many other classic soups are available in the form of instant noodles.
-Along the same lines, flavor and garnish your ramen appropriately. Limes, bean sprouts, and herbs to cop a pho. Limes, fish sauce, chili paste, and roasted peanuts to push it somewhat toward Thailand. Maybe curry paste, peanut butter, and coconut milk to mimic Malaysia.