That favorite of college students, the ski bum’s staple, the camper’s go-to, and absolute cult food, can a compromise be found between camping ease, nutrition, and taste? I think so. Follow along as I tweaked ramen into an easy dish that won’t jack up your blood pressure.
Real ramen is cult food in Japan, where people can talk for hours about the best ramen shops and chefs, arguing until they fall off their bar stools. To make this version you have to study with master like an old time martial arts student. Everybody else is faking it. Or at least that’s the way it is in the movies, and Hollywood doesn’t lie, right? Drawback: difficult and fussy, this is gourmet food. Traditional ramen is pork based, and a vegan version is sacriledge.
College Student Ramen:
Follow the directions for your favorite flavor and take in a whole day’s sodium in one slurp. Or just drink a glass of sea water. Drawback: poor nutrition.
Start with regular ramen and add more dehydrated veggies and more noodles. Drawback: still high in sodium, flavor not the best, basically easy calories to stuff in an fuel long hikes.
Problems with Ramen:
The noodles are generally OK, but the flavoring packet is very high in salt, with some other spices added. Veggies are really just for flavor, so not much nutrition there. Many use animal products to help the flavor.
Find a way to flavor the noodles without a kilogram of salt
Find a way to get in more veggies for better nutrient density
Keep it easy to prepare, ideally one pot
First, ditch the flavor/spice pack! Way too much sodium. Even the reduced sodium versions are too high for most.
Use the noodles only with fresh ingredients. Not quick or easy, and it’s like any other noodle dish. But ramen noodles can be had cheaply.
Use the noodles, and add more dehydrated veggies and dry spices.
Use the noodles with dehydrated or canned veggies and a mix of dry and fresh spices. This is the best compromise.
Camper Ramen Deluxe:
1-2 packets ramen noodles without spice pack
1/3 to 1/2 C mixed dehydrated veggies (I used green beans, cabbage, corn, carrots, and peppers)
3-4 dried shiitake mushrooms, stems cut off
1/4 t each onion, garlic, ginger powder
pinch red pepper flakes
1-2 cloves fresh garlic minced
1-2 t fresh ginger
1-2 green onions, thinly sliced
1-2 t soy sauce
Cover dried veggies with water and let soak. The longer they soak, the faster they’ll cook.
Cook ramen noodles less than package instructions, drain and set aside.
Add dry spices to the veggies and cook for a few minutes to soften. Test the veggies, when they’re ready, add the noodles and enough water for desired consistency. Add the fresh ingredients and the soy sauce and heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings.
The Japanese like to make curry variations, so curry powder, especially the Japanese brand S&B could be used. Fresh mushrooms could be added, along with other fresh veggies if available. Some people like a traditional soupier bowl with lots of broth, others, like me, a drier dish. Suit yourself. Fresh ginger and garlic are quite tolerant of inconsistent refrigeration, they’ll last quite awhile, and their flavor is very different than dried. In this dish, the dry spices along with the dry veggies create a broth, and the fresh ingredients add flavor. Vary the amounts to taste.