Our dining-out adventures have been casual and close-to-home, lately.
Between the snow and polar vortez cold snap, we haven’t wanted to drive very far. Never in my life have I felt -26 (and worse). Walking the 2.5 blocks to the bus was unbearable. I thought my legs were going to give out and collapse after running one block. The house cracked, but our boiler held up. Every potty break for our dog went something like that Bird Box conversation where Sandra Bullock was yelling at her kids.
“UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU ALLOWED TO TAKE OFF YOUR BOOTS. . . YOU HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING I SAY OR WE WILL NOT MAKE IT! DO YOU UNDERSTAND.”
We’ve gotten together with family for various occasions and visited our favorites like Stewart’s for patty melts and Himalayan on Lake Street for our typical order of garlic naan, fried okra and potatoes, chicken tikka masala and palek paneer, all spicy.
Find yourself a good bar close enough to tromp through the snow to.
Here are a couple of new things we tried in St. Paul:
My new home is 40% boxes. It used to be 90% which makes 40% a celebratory percentage.
We suddenly find ourselves living in St. Louis, Missouri and it feels surreal.
During our first night, a big storm hit. The dog and I hid in the basement while the tornado warnings sounded. We heard rain pour from the sky and hail bounce from cars. It sounded like God was throwing marbles at us from above. Then, our garage flooded and this is how I met our neighbors. The good news is that the flooding subsided, our landlord sent help, and our neighbors are indeed, nice.
The first meal I’m able to prepare in our new home is a big deal. It means we’re unpacked enough to use our kitchen and we’re thankful for a respite from take-out food. I’ll never forget how special that first meal of spaghetti and beef marinara sauce with ground beef tasted in our Mason City home. This time, I broke in our new kitchen by preparing ramen noodles.
It’s really easy to turn a cheap package of ramen noodles into a feast for two. Here are my favorite tips for stretching and fortifying an ordinary package of ramen into something special:
- Add extra water. The protein and veggies will bulk up your soup, so you’ll need extra broth.
- Just use a little bit of the seasoning packet. Everyone who has prepared ramen noodles according to instructions knows how an entire seasoning packet will make the soup inedibly salty. When the water is simmering, I sprinkle in a little bit at a time and fortify the soup with other sauces.
- Boost the broth with Asian sauces. I season ramen with soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, chili sauce, and a little bit of something sweet and honey or brown sugar to even out the flavors. Add anything you like. As long as you keep tasting your soup as you prepare it, you won’t go wrong.
- Toss in a raw egg. The egg is my favorite component. While the broth is simmering, crack in an egg or two. Allow the egg to simmer whole, or stir it into the broth for an egg drop soup-like effect.
- Clean out your fridge: Add your favorite vegetables and leftover proteins to your soup. For example, I added sliced onion, kale, pea pods and leftover rotisserie chicken to our soup.
- Enjoy your soup right away. If you let it simmer or sit for too long, the noodles will keep absorbing the liquid and become mushy and waterlogged.
- Sometimes I ditch the soup all together. When I attended culinary school in Fargo-Moorhead, a classmate prepared a dish by cooking and draining ramen noodles and stir-frying them with a thick soy sauce, diced Chinese sausage, vegetables, and scrambled egg. I also add my own combination of favorite sauces and add-ins to this noodle dish.
To find a larger selection of ramen noodles from many countries, visit an Asian grocery store. Many brands taste much better than the two types you typically find at grocery stores. Do you have any favorite tips for doctoring up an ordinary package of ramen or a favorite brand?