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Mucho Gusto

Emily’s Tofu Spring Rolls

This is the sixth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Make if you have: rice paper, tofu, vegetables

Serves 1-4

This recipe is easy to make, easily substitutable and lots of fun if you’re stuck with your family and nothing to do.  I learned how to make spring rolls over Spring Break, when a few friends and I went home with my roommate, Sophie, to San Francisco. The best part of this recipe (and the most crucial) is the peanut sauce, which I highly recommend that you don’t forget. This is a personalizable dish that each person can customize to their own liking.

A package of rice paper for spring roll wraps

Vermicelli 

Tofu (raw or cooked)

Lettuce 

Carrots 

½ cup of peanut butter

⅓ cup of soy sauce

3 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons of chili paste

2 tablespoons, sugar, honey, agave

Small knob of fresh ginger, peeled

Clove of fresh garlic, peeled

First, I cooked the tofu in vegetable oil and boiled the noodles. Then, I prepped the vegetables, washed the lettuce, shredded carrots. After, I laid everything out in an assembly line. Then I took a shallow bowl and filled it with warm water. Then I soaked the rice paper, and laid it on the plate and let it rest. When the paper was softened, then I put the lettuce, carrots, noodles, and then tofu. I then started rolling, and when you get halfway through, I folded in the sides and then finished wrapping it, kind of like how you’d wrap a burrito.

Now onto the sauce: I just mixed the peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, chili paste, honey, ginger, and garlic in a bowl until it was creamy. You could also sprinkle some crushed peanuts on top for texture and enjoy!

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Mucho Gusto

Devyn’s Ground Turkey & Spinach Casserole

This is the fourth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Make if you have: Ground turkey, noodles, spinach

Makes 1 casserole

Comfort food is exactly what we need right now and casseroles provide just that. This is a pantry-friendly recipe for a convenient and delicious dinner.

½ bag of Egg Noodles (12 oz. bag)

1 bag of spinach

½ cup of finely chopped white onion

½ cup of low-fat sour cream

1 tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce

1 tablespoon of canned tomato sauce 

½ bag of shredded three-cheese blend

1 package of ground turkey

*Mrs. Dash seasoning

*Santa Maria seasoning

*If you don’t have the seasonings just use salt and pepper

Wash spinach and boil until wilted. Boil egg noodles until al dente, strain, and cool. In a mixing bowl, add the pasta and break up boiled spinach throughout the pasta. Chop onion and add to mixing bowl.

Put the pan medium heat and wait until warm. Season the bottom of the pan covering the entire bottom being sure not to over-do it (you can always add more spice later!) Add the ground turkey to the pan and use a spoon to break into smaller chunks. Season the meat to taste. Cook meat until all pieces are brown. At this point, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Pour meat and leftover juices from the pan into the mixing bowl with pasta and spinach. Begin to add the cheese little by little while mixing. Once all cheese has been added, add sour cream and mix until pasta begins to bind with other ingredients. If pasta still looks dry, add 1 tablespoon. 

After sour cream is well mixed, add tomato and Worcestershire sauce and mix. Spray a casserole pan with a non-stick spray like Pam, and then pour the mixture in. Bake until bubbly on top!

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Mucho Gusto

Jeremy’s Cajun Chicken and Couscous

This is the third installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Make if you have: chicken, couscous, spices

Serves 1

With the weather starting to (slowly) warm up, I thought I’d make my go-to lunch with some sunny places in mind: A simple Cajun chicken breast sautéed in olive oil, served with Moroccan-style Couscous and a side salad.

Extra virgin olive oil

1 chicken breast

Cajun seasoning

 3/4 cup water

1/2 cup couscous

Salt

Pepper

3/4 cup romaine lettuce

Vinegar

Once I butterfly and flatten my chicken breast, I season it with “Slap Ya Mama” cajun seasoning. If you don’t have any cajun seasoning, just combine 2 teaspoons each of salt, paprika, and garlic powder with 1 teaspoon each of black pepper, cayenne, and onion powder. Once it’s flat and seasoned, coat a pan in extra virgin olive oil and cook it over medium heat. 

While the chicken is searing, I heat up 3/4 of a cup of water in a pot. Right before the water starts boiling, I put in 1/2 cup of couscous (more water than couscous = fluffy) and cut the heat once bubbles start appearing. Once both sides of the chicken have a good color on them, I finish by baking it in a 350 degree oven for five minutes to make sure the chicken is fully cooked but still juicy. Season the couscous with salt, pepper, and paprika to taste.

Put about 3/4 cup of romaine salad with olive oil and vinegar on top to make a nice warm-weather meal with inspiration from both sides of the Atlantic. I like to enjoy with a cup of New Orleans style cold brew coffee; the chicory in the cold brew cuts the heat of the chicken in all the right ways.

Couscous was introduced to me while studying abroad in Paris, and ever since rice has taken a backseat to it whenever I cook for myself. If there was a grain on the dinner table of my homestay’s kitchen, you better believe Carole was dishing up Couscous. I like this meal because it’s a perfect example of simplicity and variety: three essential ingredients that can bring to mind Morocco with paprika, the Bayou with cajun seasoning, or the gym when it’s served plain.

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Reviews

Dolphin Bay Restaurant Review

Emmalie Vanderpool

The Greater Boston Area is a hub of unique and traditional restaurants from a variety of cultures. Dolphin Bay, an unassuming Taiwanese restaurant in Allston, harbors an array of deliciously authentic specialties. The decor is ocean-themed, with a large wooden boat protruding from the rear of the restaurant and serving as a countertop for the host and workers. Painted with tropical murals of palm trees, seagulls, and dolphins, the restaurant provides a strange but amusing atmosphere in the wintertime. Visiting Dolphin Bay is an experience, and well worth it for the food. Alongside its cuisine, the restaurant offers an array of specialty teas, slushes, juices, and flavored milk. During our visit, my family favored the strawberry slush drink and the Thai iced tea, which presented two different–but equally refreshing–flavors. 

I coerced my family into trying out the restaurant with me, so I could order all of the dishes that interested me. For appetizers, we got spicy wontons, small fried chicken pieces tossed in a spice mix, and takoyaki. The wontons were similar to dumplings but with a softer wrapper; I loved their silky texture and meat-filled center, paired with the hot oil drizzled overtop. The fried chicken pieces are the restaurant’s specialty and can be ordered as mild, medium or hot. They were perfectly crispy, and came in a fairly large and well-seasoned portion. Takoyaki consists of a small piece of squid surrounded by a fried dough ball, which is then drizzled with sauces and bonito flakes. They are incredible, despite sounding a little bizarre. One round down, and we still wanted to try a lot more!

After the appetizers, we chose a few meals to split. We ordered sesame noodles, a pork belly rice plate, beef noodle soup, and stir fried udon noodles with chicken. The noodle and rice dishes had a perfect balance of flavors which were gentle and light, not overpowering. Each plate had a portion of meat, starch, and veggies, working together in fresh and healthy combinations. The sesame noodles had a delicious peanut and sesame sauce coating, paired with some bok choy and chunks of ground pork. I prefer Udon noodles, which are thicker, but this sauce made a difference. It was subtle and contained carrots, onions, and more bok choy with greens. The pork belly was moist, flavorful, and oily; perfect for over the rice, and for pairing with the gravy and vegetables on the side (we chose to mix them with everything else). Collectively, our favorite dish was the beef noodle soup, which was rich and savory. The noodles, strips of beef, and greens were plentiful and cooked perfectly, absorbing the broth and taking on some of its flavor. The notes of beef were deep and complex, making the soup fairly addicting and therefore hard to share. We all fought for our turn with the large bowl.

For dessert, we ordered shaved ice with mango, condensed milk, and red bean to split. Toppings are optional, and there are a variety of options to choose from in order to suit any palette. The dessert was enormous–between the six of us we only finished half–but it was very refreshing. Red bean and condensed milk are both common dessert items in Asian cuisine, and we loved sampling the new flavor profiles and textures they presented. Mango added a burst of fresh sweetness, which elevated the experience even further. We left incredibly full and incredibly happy– I would recommend Dolphin Bay to anyone who is trying to expand their palette while seeking restaurants in the Greater Boston area. 

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Recipes

Harvest Sweet Potato Recipe

Emmalie Vanderpool

My favorite meals in fall and winter are colorful, warm dishes that brighten my mood and heat me up from the inside-out. Hearty, meatless meals can sometimes be difficult to think up, but my Harvest Sweet Potato recipe is vegan, simple, and delicious during the colder months. Fill up your baked sweet potato with the vegan filling for a side dish, or scoop out the soft inside of the potato and add beans, a crumbled veggie burger, and/or chopped up chicken-apple sausage to make it a bowl! 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash a sweet potato with water and pat dry. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil and place the sweet potato on the tinfoil, using a knife to cut a few small slits into the potato. Bake the sweet potato for 45-60 minutes depending on its size. While the potato is cooking, chop up half of an apple, a cup of mushrooms, and a quarter of a white onion. When there are 10-15 minutes of baking time left, begin sauteeing the fruit and veggie mixture. Place the apple and onion in the pan and let cook for 2-3 minutes before adding the mushroom. Season the mixture with a teaspoon of thyme, a pinch of garlic powder, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon and a squirt of lemon juice. Taste for seasoning preference. Remove the sweet potato from the oven and cut open, using a fork to remove the soft sweet potato from the peel. Add a pat of butter to the potato and top with a few scoops of filling. Use sriracha or hot sauce for spice and enjoy! 

Photo from Delish: “Perfect Baked Sweet Potato”

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Features

Anti-Social Dining

William Batchelor

I never used to like eating alone in public. It made me self-conscious and uncomfortable. I was embarrassed that I didn’t have anyone to eat with. In many ways, dining out felt as though it was more about social interaction than the food itself. I think my fear came from those cliché high school movies where the new student sits alone at lunch and all the mean kids make fun of him. 

In my freshman year at Boston College, I never sat down to a meal at Mac if I didn’t have someone to sit with. Instead, I would walk timidly through the dining hall, grab food, and make my way back to Upper campus so I could eat in my dorm room. My food was usually cold by the time I returned, but it was better than the thought of sitting by myself.

This phobia lasted many years, but all it took was one meal to change my outlook on dining solo. I was in Hong Kong with my mum at the time, and she left me to explore the city while she caught up with friends. That afternoon, I found myself wandering the streets of Hong Kong’s trendy fashion district, Causeway Bay. After indulging in some retail therapy, I began to crave a hearty meal to warm me up on that chilly winter afternoon. I initially thought about grabbing something from a café, but then decided to go look for some traditional Cantonese dim sum. 

As I walked along the grungy streets of Causeway Bay, I noticed a sizable crowd gathering outside what appeared to be a Japanese restaurant. I followed suit; if people were waiting outside in the cold, the food was bound to be good. 

When I got to the front of the line, the hostess asked, “How many?” 

I sheepishly replied, “Just for one.” 

She nodded, and gestured for me to follow her as she walked through the restaurant. Since the signage was all in Japanese, I had no idea what I was about to eat. But as soon as I walked in, the aroma of pork-steeped ramen broth was unmistakable. To my surprise, however, there were no tables inside the space… only personal booths.  

I didn’t know it at the time, but I had stumbled into one of Japan’s most famous ramen chains, Ichiran. Renowned for its rich tonkotsu pork broth and thin handmaid noodles, Ichiran serves some of the best ramen you can find outside of Japan. Rather than having guests gather at tables together, diners sit at individual “flavour concentration booths” to fully appreciate the quality of the soup. 

There is very little human interaction once you get to your seat. I was isolated from all other customers, thanks to the dividers placed on either side of me. In front of my chair, a little window covered by a bamboo screen concealed the inside of the kitchen. At Ichiran, there is no menu. Instead, waiting for me at my booth was an order sheet that let me curate my perfect bowl of ramen. Firm noodles, extra spicy, with sliced pork, ultra rich broth and a soft boiled egg. I pressed the “service” button and seconds later, the bamboo screen was lifted, and two hands appeared. They retrieved my written order, and then the bamboo partition was lowered. 

Just minutes later, the screen rose once more, revealing my steaming bowl of ramen. The broth was opaque and cloudy with the noodles neatly arranged on top. A dollop of fiery red chilli paste sat in the middle of the bowl as mounds of scallions, sliced pork shoulder, and a perfectly runny boiled egg completed the dish. 

I grabbed my chopsticks and soup-spoon and began mixing the dish together, fusing the brightly-colored chilli paste into the pale broth. Then I began to build the perfect bite: a bit of broth, a little pork, a few noodles, and a chunk of egg. It was pure magic. The soup was silky with just the right amount of spice. The noodles were perfectly al dente with the right amount of chew. The pork was tender and the egg was perfectly cooked. I had never tasted ramen like this before. It was the perfect bowl. 

Before I knew it, I had eaten all the noodles and barely made a dent in the broth. Luckily, at Ichiran you can order more of anything as you go. I filled out another order sheet, requesting more noodles, and a second egg. I pressed the “service” button and had a new bowl of noodles and an egg at my table in a matter of seconds. 

Prior to dining at Ichiran, I had never seen the bottom of a ramen bowl. I could never finish my servings because they were always too rich or filling. But the ramen there is perfectly balanced, and for the first time, I reached the bowl’s ceramic floor. I even debated ordering another round, but decided on the green tea ice cream for dessert instead.

Throughout my entire dining experience at Ichiran, I never felt uncomfortable or embarrassed. The anti-social dining concept took away the shame I felt from eating alone. With self-pity removed, I was able to focus my attention entirely toward what I was eating, as opposed to wondering what other people were thinking of me. By eliminating all social interaction, there were no distractions when I sat down for my meal. The only focus was the bowl in front of me. I tasted flavours I wouldn’t normally notice, and appreciated the quality of the ingredients. Throughout the meal I refrained from using my phone, just so I could sit with my thoughts and reflect. 

Although the social aspect of dining out is still what appeals to me most, my experience at Ichiran allowed me to embrace the idea of eating out alone. I realized I shouldn’t be concerned with how other people regard me in this setting. I now have no issue sitting alone on campus and eating lunch. I almost think of it as a meditative experience. I put in my headphones, listen to music, and enjoy my meal. It helps me clear my mind and reset for the day ahead. 

Photo by Eater NY

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Uncategorized

The Best Breakfast Sandwich Recipe

Emmalie Vanderpool

It’s easy to get stuck in a routine with breakfast foods and grow tired of simple eggs, oatmeal, or yogurt. This breakfast sandwich recipe is balanced enough to satisfy a craving for sweet or savory, and can be tweaked to fit individual flavor preferences. Switch out different meats, veggies, hot sauces, and jellies to guarantee a different and delicious sandwich every time.

(Makes one breakfast sandwich)

Put a frying pan on medium heat and cook two slices of bacon to your desired crispness. While it’s cooking, chop up ⅕ of a green pepper and ¼ of a small white onion into small cubes. Once the bacon is done, let rest on a plate lined with a paper towel to soak up excess oil. After removing most–but not all–of the grease from the pan, throw in the veggies and cook on medium heat for around five minutes. Next, turn down the heat to medium-low and crack two eggs over the pan, letting them cook for a few seconds as they are. Add shredded cheese and begin stirring the mixture until the eggs are scrambled and cooked through, but still appear to have a little moisture left (this takes about one minute). Remove the frying pan from the burner and season the eggs with a pinch of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Toast a bagel and spread jam on one side, hot sauce on the other (my favorite combination is raspberry jam with peach and vidalia onion flavored hot sauce). Construct your final product by layering the bacon and egg mixture on top, and sandwiching it between both ends of the toasted bagel. Then enjoy your delicious breakfast!

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Reviews

24 Hours in Portland, Maine

Chloe McAllaster

As the leaves turn to brown, crimson, and orange, misty mornings and crisp days call for bundling up in chunky sweaters and sipping steamy mugs of hot cider. With the advent of autumn comes a craving for warm comfort food that nourishes the body and soul. If you plan on heading out of the city to experience the best of New England’s foliage and fall festivities, I recommend a quick trip to Portland, Maine. A coastal hub that embodies quintessential New England—from historic lighthouses to nautical-themed seaside restaurants—Portland has come to be known for its bustling food scene. On a recent overnight trip to Maine’s largest city, a quick survey of Yelp revealed dozens of top-rated restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. With only 24 hours to explore the city’s winding cobblestone streets, I certainly did not leave every stone unturned in Portland. I can, however, confidently attest that nowhere else does fall comfort food like this town.

Breakfast: Local 188

A visit to Local 188 feels like weekend brunch at your neighbor’s house—if your neighbor is a talented Spanish chef. The atmosphere is undeniably cozy: a couch and chairs welcome those waiting to be seated, while tables lining the walls are made extra-comfortable with colorful throw pillows. Coffee is served in mismatched mugs just like those you would find in your grandma’s kitchen, and live plants line the windows. The weekend brunch offerings feature something for everyone; classic eggs with homefries, seasonal scrambles, breakfast paella, huevos rancheros, and breakfast sandwiches, to name just a few. Though the menu consists of staple breakfast foods, Local 188 crafts them to perfection and pays attention to presentation. You may feel as though you could be in your own living room, and yet the food is far from amateur.

Lunch: The Highroller Lobster Co

No trip to Maine would be complete without indulging in some lobster. At first glance, Highroller looks like a retro diner: a red and white color palette, a simple menu in a tidy font, and a striped awning all combine to create a timeless look. Graffiti on the back patio and trendy neon signs add a contemporary twist. As a lobster novice, I opted for the lobster roll and shared “Lobby Pops”—think corn dog, but with lobster—as an appetizer. I wouldn’t call this meal a win for my health, but it certainly did not disappoint my taste buds. 

Afternoon Snack: Tandem Coffee + Bakery

Don’t let the line down the block for Tandem Coffee on Congress Street intimidate you—it’s well worth the wait. A converted old-school gas station, Tandem is the mid-century modern coffeehouse of my dreams. The minimalist design allows the coffee and baked goods to truly shine, while providing ample indoor and outdoor space to catch up with friends. The best part of Tandem, however, has to be the friendly staff who go above and beyond to serve their customers. Even amidst the Sunday morning rush, the server asked the family behind me which colored plate their three-year-old daughter would like for her muffin. My heart melted. 

Dinner: East Ender

By the time dinner rolled around, I had caught on to a common theme among Portland’s restaurants. They all possess an intimate ambience that makes you want to curl up in a blanket right in the middle of the main course. This quaint and warm environment certainly extends to East Ender, a new American restaurant that capitalizes on Portland’s historic charm. The two-floor restaurant features unimposing wooden tables and tufted booths, with antique curios and photos adorning the walls. A dark wooden bar and scattered chandeliers complete the homey look. I opted for the classic fish and chips as my main course, and I would do so again in a heartbeat.

Dessert: Bar of Chocolate

I wrapped up my whirlwind Portland food tour at a dessert bar tucked away on Wharf Street. Unlike the famed Chocolate Bar of BC (as my friends and I accidentally referred to it), Bar of Chocolate serves up specialty martinis, ports, and dessert wines alongside sweet indulgences like cheesecake and chocolate torte. The dark mood lighting and soft music made for the perfect setting to end the trip and fill up on some truly decadent drinks and desserts. I might even venture to say that we saved the best spot for last.

Photo: Visit Portland

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Features

Camping the Right Way

Emmalie Vanderpool

Fall in New Hampshire is a magical thing. It transforms the landscape to its greatest form as the leaves transition from green to gold, burgundy, and sunset orange. This year, my roommates and I planned a fall break trip to Lake Winnipesaukee, to stay at our friend’s cozy lakeside vacation home located in central New Hampshire. As we left Boston and its sea of industrial skyscrapers, the highway roads became flanked with tall trees and the wilderness marked our passage from the hustle and bustle of the city to the relaxed nature of lake living. The scenery was picturesque; the sun glinted off of the lake, the leaves rustled and fell around us, and the sight of stars and sounds of nature were almost startling after living next to the city for so long. We celebrated our first night with a dinner of cheese, crackers, and wine, and afterward roasted marshmallows in the wood-burning fireplace. Storybooks were never so close to coming to life as they were during our weekend away. 

Planning many little excursions, we got to shop in homegrown country stores, give ourselves heart attacks in a haunted corn maze, trek up a mountain to capture the perfect viewpoint of the lake, and end the trip with a group dinner at a restaurant called Camp. Nestled beside a candy store and small flowing waterfall, Camp fit right into the New Hampshire ambiance. 

The restaurant was themed to reflect classic summer camp, right down to the menu items and comfort foods, and it did not disappoint. We came equipped for the log cabin vibe and dressed mostly in oversized warm sweaters, ready to cover up the inevitable food babies that we were determined to leave with. Inside, the restaurant was reminiscent of a lodge. There were long wooden tables with names carved into them, red gingham curtains, wood-panelled walls, and a few stuffed animal heads which we avoided eye contact with as we ate our meal. It was warm, rustic, and loud with chattering patrons and happy diners. 

This was a celebratory event, bringing our girls’ trip to an end, so we splurged on drinks and appetizers. Our eyes lit up upon spotting the cheese-and-gravy fries, and the “Camp Crackers,” which consisted of a sliced cheesy flatbread with garlic and scallions–simple choices, but covered in enough cheese to satisfy everyone. The fries were served in a hot skillet; they were extra crispy but softened upon contact with the thick chicken gravy and melted cheese sauce. The crackers were salty and gooey, topped with a mixture of gorgonzola and cheddar cheese which worked quite well when dipped in the remnants of the fries’ gravy. The most memorable themed drinks consisted of a Honey Bourbon cocktail, a Boozy Hot Chocolate, and a Dirty Shirley Temple… all of which equally satisfied our childhood nostalgia and recently-turned-21 needs. After we collectively drained these, our waiter surprised us with homemade biscuits and whipped butter for the table. Of course we had no other option but to consume those as well. It was truly a glorious feast–and our main dishes were yet to arrive. 

The ordering process took some time due to the multitude of delicious choices; the menu was so perfectly crafted that it felt cruel to make us decide. Highlights from our final selection included the lobster mac and cheese, tempura chicken BBQ sandwich, veggie burger with curry aioli and pineapple salsa, bourbon-marinated steak tips, clam chowder, and falafel on naan bread. As our meals came out from the oven, we realized what a daunting task we laid out for ourselves; our stomachs whimpered in protest but we forged on. Uttering groans of dissent (which we silenced with more mouthfuls of food),we stuffed ourselves to fullest capacity on the piping hot and seemingly home-cooked meals. Everything was buttery, savory, and balanced, but certainly indulgent. My clam chowder was fresh and homemade, creamy and well-seasoned but not too thick. The biscuits were the perfect companion to the soup, allowing me to soak up every drop of the New England specialty. However, our night of eating still wasn’t complete. In celebration of our friend’s 22nd birthday, we received a complimentary order of Fireside S’mores. Held in a hot pan, the dessert was more of a dip, with a melted chocolate layer on the bottom and a toasted marshmallow layer on top. Strips of graham crackers were used to scoop it up. Full enough to burst, we knew by the end that we had made the very most of our camping trip. 

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Features

Elevating the Ramen Experience

Emmalie Vanderpool

As assignment due dates grow closer and Uber prices continue to rise, I find myself less and less inclined to trek to the grocery store and continue to buy fresh foods. With the arrival of the autumnal season, cozy, warm meals become so enticing–as long as I don’t have to spend the time and money to consume them. Repeatedly, and embarrassingly, I find myself making ramen packets because of how cheap, easy, and delicious they are. As a beginner, I gravitated towards the chicken-flavored, Maruchan-brand ramen. This version is classic, an oily soup with a light poultry taste. I soon grew tired of the monotony of what was basically a salted noodle soup, though, and began to test out the spicier ramen packets in the international food aisle. 

As a rule of thumb, the best ramen packets are generally those with Asian lettering, as they often have a deeper flavor profile with more authentic soup bases and spice mixes. I am personally fond of the flavors which require you to drink two glasses of milk while eating them, so as not to burn your taste buds off. Most grocery chains carry the Shin Ramyun brand, which includes both a soup base and multiple spice packets to create a fuller, more complex broth for the ramen noodles. Liquid flavoring works to thicken the soup and gives it a strong beef taste, which complements the chewy ramen noodles by coating them in umami-goodness while they cook. The dry flavor packet is composed of spices and dehydrated green onion, mushroom, and carrot, which round out the soup with subtleties to cut through the beef. Vegetables add both flavor and a slight texture to each mouthful of noodles. The level of spice produced by using the entirety of the liquid packet and the spice packet together is not for the faint of heart, but it is easy to adjust to a less volcanic burst of flavor by portioning the packets as desired and not adding them all at once. 

Elevating the ramen experience by purchasing higher quality brands is one step towards ramen transcendence, but there are many other little tricks to crafting a dinner-worthy ramen noodle soup. The polished, Kylie Jenner-route would be to add butter, garlic powder, and a scrambled egg–but we can do better than that. I believe garlic is an herb passed down by cosmic entities to grace the food of humanity, so I’ll give Kylie that one. Rather than adding butter and a scrambled egg, though, I would suggest a form of egg that has a runny yolk, perhaps soft-boiled or  sunny-side-up. The yolk of the egg thickens the soup, makes it creamier, and flavors the ramen noodles, while the white of the egg adds texture and protein so that you can pretend it is a nutritious meal. Other protein sources like tofu or pork are traditionally put in Japanese ramen, and work very well with noodles and broth. Adding soup-friendly fresh or frozen veggies like mushrooms, white onions, green onions, or jalapenos can add more of a bite to your soup and make it a well-balanced meal (though, is health what ramen is really about?). Flavoring the soup with bonus spices like hot chili oil or chili flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, curry powder, cumin, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sriracha, or even a dash of maple syrup can help cater to individual flavor preference. 

I am a firm believer in eliminating ramen shame, and I encourage anyone looking for a quick, hot, and inexpensive meal during the colder months to explore this college-friendly food. Little adjustments can make ramen more substantial, and the soup is a great base for adding in meat, veggies, and spices, according to taste. To my fellow Maruchan-beginners: you can do better!

Photo: New York Times, Slow Cooker Chicken Ramen with Bok Choy and Miso