food: artistic budget ramen / by kelly heaton

Here's how I make cheap Ramen noodles taste great and deliver some health benefits.  Eating this regularly (as my husband and I do for lunch) requires an herb garden or enough money to buy those ridiculous little packages at the grocery store.  See my notes on herbs, below.

Serving size: 1 
Time to prepare: 10 minutes


1 package Nissan "chicken" flavor Top Ramen
1 handful of cooked shredded chicken*
1 handful of chopped fresh herbs**
A splash of extra virgin olive oil (about 1/2 Tbs)
A splash of rice wine vinegar (about 1/2 Tbs)
1 clove fresh garlic***, minced (remove any center green part and discard)
Several strong shakes of turmeric powder (about 1/2 tsp)
1 pinch dried fish pepper (or substitute another source of heat, to taste)
Fresh ground pepper to taste


Put the kettle on to boil.  Mince the garlic and harvest / chop the herbs.  Scrape both into a good-sized soup bowl.  Carve and shred some chicken off of your roast (or whatever other protein source you want to use).  Add to bowl.  While the package is still sealed, use the butt of your palm to smash the ramen noodles.  Empty into the bowl.  Fish out the silver-colored flavoring package from the noodles, open, and empty the contents into the bowl.  (Dispose of the packaging, duh).  Add the olive oil, vinegar, turmeric and black pepper.  By this time, your kettle is probably boiling.  Pour enough hot water on top to just cover the ingredients.  Stir and let sit for 3 minutes while the noodles "cook."  Serve immediately.  

* I keep a roast chicken in the refrigerator and use it all week.  You can substitute a small can of tuna fish or similar.  Or use firm tofu, tempeh or sliced mushrooms -- anything to give the soup some bulk.

** In warm months, I use any of the following herbs from my garden: chives, garlic chives, dill, marjoram, oregano, basil, thai basil, parsley, sage or rosemary.  If the herb is woody, I combine it with another herb that is more salad-like.  For example, don't use an entire handful of rosemary -- I mix it with a softer herb such as parsley, basil or chives.  I do not use cilantro for this recipe.  In cold months, I use chervil, parsley and arugula.

*** Omit or reduce the garlic if strangers will be experiencing your breath for the next 5 hours or so.  Sometimes, I will substitute red onion or shallot.  But I am usually in good company and garlic is an excellent blood cleanser.


Don't buy herbs -- grow them.  I can't imagine life without an herb garden.  If you have limited space, try growing them in pots or window boxes.  You can harvest extra during the warm months to dry for the cold months (cut, wrap in brown paper, tie at the base and hang upside down for a few weeks before storing in jars).  Harvest your extra basil for pesto (I don't think it is possible to grow too much basil).  For instant pasta sauce all winter, freeze the fresh pesto in ice cube trays and pop out the little green blocks before storing in freezer bags.  If you have enough warmth or soil depth to prevent hard freeze, you can grow chervil all winter underneath a cheap insulating fabric called "remay."