Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cheap Enough to Entertain Guests

It's been argued for quite some time which culture brings out the most flavor on the smallest budget. Though I would never take sides, I must say that Asian cultures seem to utilize all those cheap and fresh ingredients into some unique and tasty fast food. Growing up, I remember when Top Ramen came out. My mom brought these funny little packages home for two reasons: first, they were cheaper than dirt, and second, they were different and Mom always liked trying new things with us. Mom only had to make them once to realize that this was a blank canvas with which to paint with her leftovers. Because there is more sodium than any real nutritional value, she decided to start adding veggies - you know, the kind that we kids preferred not to eat. As young adults living on our own, my brothers and I learned how to survive on those noodles. We could add garlic and ginger and leftover deli meats to make it quite a fast and (relatively) healthy meal. Over the years the price of these packages seems to remain inexpensive and the only thing that has changed is the rainbow of flavors they come in. I have and always will keep a supply of Ramen packages in the pantry for quick dinners that the kids can make on their own.

A few years ago a dear Japanese friend and co-worker made me a salad to go. I brought it home and my kids and I were hooked. When I asked her what it was she just said in her cute, lovely way "It's Japanese noodle salad. I make it for my son always." She then showed me how to turn those simple Ramen noodles into a cool Japanese noodle salad. This dish incorporates the culture and art of Japanese cooking into an inexpensive way to entertain guests. So next time your thinking of ways to brighten up your kids college care package, think outside the box and send them a case of Top Ramen with some recipe cards attached... you may just end up paying more for the postage. I'm jus' sayin'!

Japanese Noodle Salad (compliments of Kimiko aka Ms. Carmen)

3 packages of low sodium chicken Top Ramen noodles (or your choice of flavor). Cook per directions, drain and cool.

1 seeded & julienned red pepper
4 bias-cut green onions
1/2 julienned english cucumber
1 tomato, diced
1 cup of cold, leftover cooked meat (or deli ham) julienne or diced
2 eggs mixed in a cup and fried in one large skillet of 1 tbs of olive oil so that it looks like a large pancake. Take out of pan and roll up like a tortilla and chiffonade with knife to get egg ribbons.

3 tbs. of low sodium soy sauce
3 tbs. of rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar (optional)
Mix the above

To Assemble
Place noodles in bowl and using your creativity, disperse equal portions of the veggies, meat and egg in a little sundial fashion. Drizzle dressing over the top and eat immediately or cover with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge before serving.