Saturday, October 24, 2015

Unraveling Ramen

If there's a person who tells you that he/she has not indulged in (and enjoyed!) a big bowl of ramen, he/she is (to put it politely) creating an untruth.  

It's warm.  It's soothing.  It's fast.  It's cheap.  What's not to love?

Well, it's not exactly good for you.  It's a heavily processed product.  And have you checked out the label recently?  39% of the daily value for salt.....but, wait, have another look:  that package of ramen is for TWO servings, so that's 78% of the daily value for salt if you eat the whole thing.  Scary.  And, be honest, who doesn't eat the whole package of ramen all at once by themselves?  Yeah, that's some killer cuisine there.

What can you do about it?

1.  Ditch the flavor packet.  It's just glorified heavily salted boullion granules, and some brands have MSG which if you have asthma (like me) can be dangerous, literally life-threatening, stuff.  Instead, check out your spice shelves.  I like to add Twin Tree Gardens Soul Food Seasoning--great flavor and 1/2 teaspoon has a reasonable 15% sodium.  Poultry seasoning is good (and there's no actual poultry in it unlike the flavor packet).  I love Try Me Tiger Sauce.  Even a spoonful of ketchup will do in a pinch.  (Here's a secret:  I've even added a tot of cooking wine; very nice.)  Check to see what you have for fresh veg:  Add some chopped garlic, a bit of celery, a tomato or two, some carrots, summer squash, get creative.  The fresh stuff adds flavor, fiber, and a bit of bulk.....the bulk is important because of what you're gonna do in item 2. 

2.  Break the ramen block in half.  That's right.  It's two servings.  You don't need the whole thing.  It's a lot less painful if you do this right away.  When I buy a bulk pack of ramen, I immediately unpackage all of it, and store the halved blocks in a special container that keeps it fresh.   When I'm in a hurry and want a fast meal, I'm not so tempted to use a whole block because I've already split them.  With lots of added veggies and a bit of adjusted seasoning, you've got a really pretty good meal.  Bonus:  you've got twice the number of ramen meals for the price of one pack! 

These two changes reduce sodium consumption to a manageable level.  And it puts ramen back on the menu.  Life is good.

.....By the way, I used to throw away the flavor packets because I'm sure not gonna use them (goodbye MSG and chicken flavor) but my neighbor likes to add them to huge pots of soup, so now I save them for her.  And that's okay, too, because at least it's not wasted.


(Please note that it is not my intention to villify any brand of ramen in particular.  I actually like the stuff.....just not the excessive amounts of salt, the animal flavoring, or the additives.)

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