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Back to College = Return to Ramen Times

Noodles Inspire Culinary Creativity

Yes, it’s back to college time again. Students are packing up their stuff and heading back to campus for the fall semester. Laptops and beanbag chairs, iPods and video game consoles, books and clothes—everything, it seems, must go. And if the student is a female, better rent the extra-large U-Haul just for the shoes.

Saying hello to a college roommate means saying goodbye to mom’s home cooking—at least for a while—and it means living on a budget that usually gets tighter with each passing week. When students shop for food, their priorities tend to favor economy over nutrition. Cheap eats are the order of the day.

Hence the popularity of Ramen Noodles. Some might call this delicacy the Official Cuisine of the Collegiate Scene.

Both Cheap and Easy

But it goes beyond affordability with Ramen noodles. They are also immensely easy to prepare. Which is not to say that culinary creativity doesn’t come into play. Quite the contrary, we discovered.

Restrictions on what cooking equipment you can or can’t use in a dorm is another factor. Some facilities will allow a microwave, rice cooker, indoor grill or electric skillet. Some won’t. It’s best to check in advance to see what’s kosher.

Ramen Remembered

We conducted a random, unscientific sampling of former college students—both recent grads and some that could only vaguely recall the campus experience through the mists of time. When we asked for their Ramen reminiscences it quickly became clear, there’s an aura of nostalgia around this simple food.

  • Sabrina mentioned that she’d boil the noodles and add a couple of big dollops of sour cream, then toss in canned vegetables that she normally hated on their own.
  • David remembered crushing the dry noodles and mixing it with raisins and nuts for a trail mix to eat on the run.
  • Several folks added shrimp to the basic noodles mixture. (Must be Ivy Leaguers.)
  • Another person said she mixed ramen (uncooked) with coleslaw, sunflower seeds, sliced green onion, and sliced almonds. Then mixed the seasoning packet with oil, vinegar, and sugar. It’s a huge hit at barbecues, she says.
  • Ginger had a bunch of ways she prepared her Ramen. Drain the noodles and add marinara sauce (spaghetti!)...Use an indoor grill on some chicken, cube and add to stir-fry with some snow peas, broccoli and water chestnuts…She even made a pasta salad, boiling the noodles plain and adding chicken, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and olives (served cold).
  • Some folks simply doctor up their Ramen with sauces or spices—Thai peanut sauce, Cholula hot sauce, crushed red pepper, lemon-pepper and mesquite seasoning.
  • Richard liked to sauté onion, mushrooms, and hot dogs to add to the Ramen noodle soup.
  • A couple people mentioned adding an egg to create Egg Drop Soup.
  • Jim credited Ramen noodles as a hangover cure. Slurp it in the morning and head to class.

As with almost anything these days, you can find a world of information online about the wonders of Ramen noodles, including oodles of recipes. Budget101.com is one such site. There you’ll find dishes such as Chicken Hollandaise Ramen, Taco Ramen Salad and Hamburger Ramen.

With the state of the economy being what it is, we suspect many returning students will be enjoying lots of tasty Ramen noodles this year, served up in a variety of imaginative ways. In fact, this Great Recession may result in a Ramen Renaissance.

Maybe there should be a college course: Introduction to Ramen. Probably ought to be a prerequisite.