I remember those college years when money and I had personal issues. Let’s say we weren’t looking in the eye too often. Back then, those cheap 15 – 25¢ packets of Ramen Noodles filled my pantry with a picturesque myriad of flavors. Yes, those tiny seasoning packages included with the noodles had absolutely no nutrients and where but a blend of colorants, fake flavors and an infinitesimal amount of ‘meat’ and vegetable pieces that appear out of nowhere as if by magic from the dubious looking powder.
The resulting dish was far from the one pictured in the package. Not even when I added canned corn kernels and frozen carrots and peas to the broth to enhance the poor appearance of my survivalist’s meal did my Ramen soup was up to par with my ever exigent palate. Of course the abundant MSG on the seasoning pouch did the work of tricking my brain into thinking I was satisfied with the meal. So that kept me nourished (to some point) for a while.
When researching for typical Indonesian dishes I came across Mie Goreng. Not exactly Ramen, but it definitely involves Noodles and in a very delicious (and healthier) way. Most pictures I looked at had these amazing looking curly noodles, those mostly found in Asian Markets only. So, when I drove down to the one nearest to my house I was really disappointed to find out they had none available at the time. “Next week” they told me. The other option was trying to find them at the regular supermarket. They only had “Italian” style pasta, and thin crumbly egg noodles that would make that ol’ cheap packet of Ramen noodles look like a king’s meal if I made the Mee Goreng with them.
That’s when it hit me. RAMEN NOODLES! College style, cheap Ramen Noodles. YES! My mind immediately flashed that “The Mind of a Chef” moment when famous chef David Chang comes out of the instant Ramen closet and talks about the versatility of the infamous quarter dollar valued pack. It was perfect!
As I said, Mee Goreng isn’t exactly Ramen. First of all, it lacks the broth. Instead it is “fried” along spices, vegetables and proteins. Seasoned with sweet soy sauce, garlic, nuts and ginger, it has an intense Umami flavor and beautiful variety of textures. With all the veggies and meat it is also a whole meal on itself. AND to make it all better, it is quite common to see Mee Goreng topped with a sunny side up fried egg. Breaking the yolk will result in a creamy addition to the already beautiful consistency of the dish. Drizzle the noodles with fresh lime juice and the party in your mouth will be blasting!
As usual, I went for the most popular version I could find, Chicken and Shrimp Mee Goreng. (Also my two favourite cheap Ramen flavors. ) The cabbage, bok choy and bean sprouts made it fresh and crunchy. Starting the dish the typical Indonesian way by making a paste by hand on a mortar makes a huge difference in giving the dish a spectacularly bold flavor. This time peppercorns, ginger, garlic cloves and peanuts made it into the bowl, for a very fragrant and delicious recipe foundation. The rest, goes incredibly smoothly and quick. Check out the recipe and bask in the tasty, effortless uniqueness of Mee Goreng.
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 8 roasted, unsalted peanuts
- 1/2 tbsp peppercorns
- 2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 6 oz Instant Ramen Noodles (toss the flavouring package inside)
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp peanut oil
- 6 oz boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- 6 oz fresh shrimp, peeled
- 8 oz bok choy, chopped
- 2 oz cabbage, thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp sweet soy sauce
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- 4 oz bean sprouts
- 4 sunny side up fried eggs
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions
- 8 lemon wedges
- Start by making the paste. Place all ingredients in a mortar and pestle away into a paste.
- Cook the Ramen Noodles for 40 - 45 seconds in boiling water. You need them cooked only half way through. Drain and reserve for later.
- Meanwhile, preferably in a Wok, heat the sesame and peanut oils on medium to medium high heat.
- Carefully add the paste and stir fry for about 15 seconds.
- Add the chicken and shrimp. Stir fry for about 2 minutes, until both the chicken and shrimp change color.
- Add the bok choy and cabbage, and stir fry for about 30 seconds, just until the bok choy wilts a little.
- Add both soy sauces and stir again.
- Add the chicken stock, stir and when it comes to a boil, add the reserved ramen noodles. Stir well and let the noodles cook. About 1 more minute.
- Add the bean sprouts, stir again and cook for another minute.
- Serve, topped with a fried egg, scallions and lemon wedges to drizzle on top.
- Nothing is MANDATORY of course. Just HIGHLY recommended! 😉 😉 😉