Seems slightly paradoxical, but in many cultures around the world, a hot spicy soup is the cure for those who are particularly averse to these stifling summer days. As the streets around Matador’s office become more and more steamy, providence informed that I post my take on a classic heirloom recipe that I discovered several months agone in Eric Hites’ essential ‘Everybody Loves Ramen: Recipes, Stories, Games, & Fun Facts About the Noodles You Love’. The publishers do not exaggerate, in this, “The Perfect Gift for The Graduate” the harmony you’ll find with instant ramen, between affordability and exquisiteness is elegant, and indeed, perfect.
Taking a slight left turn from Hines’ procedure, I find that Nissin’s “Cup Noodles” are superior to the standard brick-shaped “Top Ramen” packets. It’s easier to monitor the noodles, keeping them slightly al dente to enhance their natural nuttiness. The cups also feature much lusher dehydrated vegetables — sweeter corn, crunchier carrots, crispier peas. The broth fresher, more savory. While many prefer the chicken and beef flavors, I’ve taken a certain fondness toward the shrimp variety. It’s a classic and it came as no surprise to learn that in Japan, the shrimp flavor is simply termed “Plain” (though, the complexity in flavor is far from it). The more nouveau permutations of these favorings (Salsa Picante, Spicy Chile, etc) should stay on the shelf.
I find that there is a simple, yet delicate procedures that take a little bit of practice to get the perfect noodles.
I’ve taken a slightly unique approach to flavoring the soup. Add 3-5 dashes of classic Tobasco sauce — more if you’re feeling a little adventurous. I had to venture over to Williamsburg Brooklyn’s C-Town to find this variety as it’s become rarer and rarer to find in certain stores. But trust me, the trek was worth it: the combination of the slight sweet vinegary-bite (derived from the Tobasco company’s aging process) and the relatively moderate Scoville scale rating do not only contribute a slight tang, but I’ve found it draws out the natural umami flavors from the broth powder and baby shrimp. I’ve tried other hot sauces (Tapatio, Crystal, Frank’s, Sriracha, etc) which often yield interesting results, but I suggest that novices start with the “original”.
It is essential that you apply the Tobasco PRIOR to adding the boiling water so as to allow it to coat the noodles throughout the cup, otherwise, you’ll encounter an irregular bite. I’ve found that letting the hot sauce-soaked noodles marinate for a few minutes increases the evenness in flavor.
Bring several cups of water to a slow, rolling boil in a tea kettle or small sauce pan. As soon as the water begins to boil, turn the burner off and let the water cool to about 85-90 °C
Follow the directions closely on the packaging (lift portion of lid, fill water to line and let sit for 3-5 minutes). I’ve found the perfect time to be about 3 minutes and 23 seconds.
I paired my noodles with a 2008 Touraine La Tesniere. Wooden or ivory chopsticks are the preferred eating implements, but I’ve also found that using a plastic fork can also add to the traditional experience of enjoying your noodles. Sip the broth directly from the styrophone cup, as it rolls across your palate, the epiphany in flavor can be described as nothing short of nirvana.