Buy Me Some Ramen

The Not Fake News has been operating under the Buy Me A Coffee model for the past year, and all things considered it’s worked out fairly well for us. More than thirteen hundred dollars have come in, and, while expenses are still higher than income (thanks to the New Hampshire primaries), we’re getting closer to break-even.

Unfortunately, right now the economy has crashed. The holiday season is just starting and we’re staring down the throat of yet another lockdown. Jobs and cash are about to get really tight for most of us. Buying me a cup of coffee seems a bit like a frivolous luxury.

Which is fine. Most of the time, I drink tea anyway; it’s a far cheaper way to get caffeine, and it takes a lot less effort to brew. Plus, too much coffee can be bad for the inner man.

On the other hand, I do love a nice hot dish of ramen noodles, which are also nice and inexpensive. Granted, we’re not talking high-end nutrition here; as my brother-in-law once said, “You can starve to death on those things.” But they’re cheap and filling, and what’s more they can be easily modified to prevent boredom (and even scurvy). And, since it’s rather more on-point than coffee, I’ve decided to change the button going forward.

It only seems fair that, in exchange for your generous gifts of ramen, I can return some information of value. I explored the web for various recipes with which to dress up ramen noodles, but it wasn’t all that helpful; generally, cooking sites have long lists of expensive ingredients, and I eat ramen because it’s cheap and quick to cook. I’d never start a ramen recipe with pâté, caviar, or a Cornish game hen, so why would I advise you to?

Instead, here’s a few quick tips and tricks for providing inexpensive nutrition to go with your 15-cent bag of ramen noodles — and that ever-important factor known as variety, which is the spice of life. Feel free to mix and match:

  1. A Hard-Boiled Egg
    One of the classic ramen modifications is to add a sliced boiled egg into the dish. In my opinion, this is the perfect food; what it lacks in flavor it more than makes up in terms of nutrition. And, if you’re worried about so-called “bad cholesterol”, my understanding is that it comes from frying the egg in oil rather than boiling it. The best part of this is, you can boil half a dozen at a time and they’ll last for days.
  2. A Pat of Butter
    Hokkaido-style ramen noodles differ from the normal ones by precisely this: a single pat of butter melted into the bowl. The difference in flavor is mindblowing.
  3. Vegetables
    As a lazy highly talented efficiency cook, I’m familiar with the natural obstacles that prevent us from adding a dish of chopped fresh vegetables to ramen. All else aside, half the point of ramen is to use a single pan — which you can then eat out of if need be — and sauteeing onions defeats the purpose. However, this is no reason to avoid pre-chopped dried soup vegetables, available at your local grocer. Likewise, some frozen blends work wonderfully, and you can use small portions without thawing the whole bag. And then there are the joys of jarred salsa and dried mushrooms…
  4. Cabbage
    I know; cabbage is also a vegetable. But it deserves its own section because it exists as sauerkraut, which prevents scurvy. Add some to your ramen along with hot sauce and you’ve got yourself a poor man’s kimchi stew. If you want to make your own sauerkraut, take a head of cabbage, cut out the stem and any bad spots, fill the stem hole with coarse salt, and dunk it in a sealed tub of salt brine for a couple of weeks. Do it well and you’ve got shelf-stable food for months; do it poorly and you’ve got a deadly case of food poisoning. Either way, you won’t need to worry so much about what to eat later.
  5. Hot and Sour Soup
    One of the classics of Chinese food, this dish takes its flavors from soaked hot peppers combined with a spoonful of vinegar. Add the peppers first thing and boil them thoroughly; add the vinegar at the very end of cooking or it’ll evaporate.
  6. Curry
    Curry powder is cheap when you buy it in the one-pound restaurant jar (or other bulk format), and a very little goes a long way. If you’re feeling fancy, you can start your dish by melting a healthy spoonful of creamy peanut butter in with the boiling water before you add the ramen noodles; you can finish the dish by adding cream, coconut milk, or evaporated milk at the finish.
  7. Meat and Fish
    Yes, it’s expensive — but only by the pound. Freeze it pre-cooked in small portion sizes — think dime bag — and it’ll last quite a while. A little chopped chicken in your curried noodles makes a tasty dish; a few crumbs of bacon or ground pork go nicely in the Hot and Sour. My own favorite is adding a couple of cooked shrimp in at the end — you don’t want them to cook down at all, just get heated.

Now, before you start feeling too guilty about me eating ramen, be assured: I actually enjoy it. I like cooking cheap; it’s a pleasure to save money. My wife, on the other hand, rather insists on the occasional meal of what she calls “real food”, so from time to time we switch from ramen to Italian-style pasta.

Maybe next time I’ll give you some tips about dressing that up.

No, I’m not starving to death. But it struck me as a fun, tongue-in-cheek way to express that donations are down and I can’t really drink all that much coffee anyway. Don’t forget: Donate a hundred bucks or more and I’ll send you a pair of your very own The Not Fake News mugs, suitable for coffee or half a packet of ramen, whichever you prefer.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at The Not Fake News!

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