Thursday, September 25, 2008

“Invasion of the Squiggles”


c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved
(9-08)





It started at the beginning of summer.

Call it – an invasion of the squiggles.

My musically gifted niece, Dree, came home from college with a four-year degree and lots of household leftovers from her stay in Marietta. She had accumulated books, furniture, theatrical costumes, and artwork of all sorts. But among this relocated personal collection was one pervasive edible element:

Ramen Noodles.

They were everywhere. Fifty-eight packages in all. Flavored with shrimp, beef, chicken, cured goat milk, Cajun fish, hot peppers, pizza cheese, organic lawn clippings, fried goldfish, or kelp. Stray packages had been stuffed in every container from her dorm. They waited atop a box of energy drinks and canned spaghetti-rings. More were wrapped inside sheet music for a lost Ukrainian opera written to celebrate the beauty of Kiev. Some had even been tucked into a worn-out pair of Birkenstock sandals.

Squiggles were marching on the Icehouse.

As I helped move her possessions back to Geauga County, a subliminal message began to take hold. My appetite for wings, ribs, and tacos was being turned aside… by a grumbling deep in my belly for these inexpensive noodles.

Weeks later, my wife and I attended a church luncheon in southern Indiana. Central to the festive buffet was a casserole dish full of Ramen Noodle salad, made with almonds and Oriental spices. Liz noted its delectable nature, immediately. The tasty treat soon had everyone talking. And, running to the table for second helpings. Better-known vittles like potato salad, baked beans, and fried chicken went unnoticed by the crowd. We were in the thrall of some mystical culinary spell… and it grew stronger with every bite.

As fall approached, I noted that our ten-year-old daughter had manifested a Ramen craving of her own. Inexplicably, she lost interest in Beefaroni, Pop Tarts, and sliced ham, all long-term meal favorites. Instead, Soccer Fairy begged us for bowls of beefy noodles and American cheese.

Squiggle-mania had spanned the generations!

Finally, this mood permeated my home office. While relaxing with a mug of tea, I began to research Ramen Noodle recipes on our computer. My intent was to rediscover the almond creation we had enjoyed. Soon, a likely recipe for the dish appeared:

Ramen Noodle Salad (www.cooks.com)

Ingredients:
1 head lettuce (pieces)
6 to 8 green onions (chopped)
1 (6 oz.) can Mandarin oranges
1 c. chopped celery
1 c. chopped mushrooms
1/2 c. slivered almonds (toasted)
1 (3 oz.) pkg. chicken flavored Ramen Noodles, uncooked & crumbled

Dressing Ingredients:
1/4 c. salad oil
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. vinegar
Seasoning mix from noodles

Directions:
Mix together lettuce and green onions. Add all other ingredients except noodles and almonds and set aside in an airtight container until serving. Blend together dressing. Just before serving, add dressing, almonds and noodles to lettuce mixture. Serves 6.

In addition to the noodle salad, other meal ideas were yielded by my search. Quickly, I assembled a collection of Ramen alternatives to enhance my next newspaper column:

Ramen Spam Doodles (www.ramenlicious.com)

Ingredients:
2 packages of Ramen Noodles
4 cups of water
1 can of Spam
1/2 cup of green peas
1/2 cup of green onions (sliced)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Directions:
Put 2 cups of water in a cooking pot and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling add Ramen Noodles. Wait 2-3 minutes until the noodles are tender and separated. Take off the water with the strainer. Cube the Spam. In a skillet, lightly brown the Spam in the sesame oil. Add the garlic powder and dry herb seasoning. Enjoy!

Hot Dog Ramen Soup (www.thriftyfun.com)

Ingredients:
1 package Ramen for each person
1/2 the amount of recommended water
1 hot dog for each person (cut into chunks)

Bring all to a boil, turn off and add:

Seasoning packet
2 raw eggs (whisk in separate bowl)
1/2 - 1 cup of cheese (sliced works great too)

Mix and let finish cooking.

Buried Treasure Ramen (www.mattfischer.com)

Ingredients:
Pork-flavored Ramen Noodles
1 raw egg
1/2 cup frozen vegetables (peas, carrots, corn)
Water (not cold)
1/2 cup chopped cabbage (very thinly like Cole Slaw, or Thai cabbage)
Pickled peppers

Directions:
Crack an egg (don’t break the yolk) into deep bowl and then pour water to fill the bowl halfway. Place the Ramen onto the top of egg and add seasoning packet. Add the frozen veggies and chopped cabbage. Next, add more water to barely cover the ingredients and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Heat in the microwave on high for about 5 minutes. The egg should be soft boiled when it finishes. Garnish with a little bit of cabbage and peppers.

Doritos Ramen Salad (www.ramenlicious.com)

Ingredients:
1 package of Ramen Noodles
1 bag of Frito Lay Doritos (a small one was enough for our recipe)
1/2 lb. of ground beef
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
Taco seasoning

Directions:
Put 2 cups of water in a cooking pot and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling add Ramen Noodles. Wait 2-3 minutes until the noodles are tender and separated. Take off the water with the strainer. Cook the ground beef in a cooking pan. Once it's ready, put it in a bowl. Add the Ramen Noodles and mix it with the beef. Place the Doritos chips around the beef like on the picture (it looks like a flower!) Break into small pieces the Doritos you have left and put them on top of the beef. Add the shredded cheese and taco seasoning.

When I presented the list at our dining room table, Soccer Fairy was impressed. But Liz wondered about my own attempts at amateur chefhood.

“Why don’t you add one of your own concoctions?” she exclaimed.

After dinner, I complied with a favorite from many years ago:

Uncle Rod’s Ramen Stir-Fry with Chicken

Ingredients:
1 package of Ramen Noodles (chicken)
1 egg
1 can of chunk chicken
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can of chopped mushrooms (4 oz.)
Peanut oil
Soy sauce
Curry powder
Five spices
Tabasco

Directions:
Fry chicken in oil. Prepare noodles per instructions on package. Drain most of the water and add spice packet. Mix with egg and meat in skillet, and stir-fry. Add onion and mushrooms. Season with other ingredients, to taste.

Long after sunset, I finished my work. It was a missive to the faithful, celebrating this affordable, Asian delight in journalistic prose…

The dinner bell is ringing… long live the squiggles!

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to: icewritesforyou@gmail.com
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