Ramen sucks. But at 17 cents a package — that is if you buy in bulk — the price can't be beat, and those pasty white noodles of joy can actually get you high if you stick your face in the MSG-laden steam. Okay, maybe that was just a flashback.
Legions of college students, broke-ass "fine art" photographers, and snaggle-tooth streetwalkers paying rent by the week have consumed enough Ramen to produce a pool of diarrhea the size of Charleston Harbor.
But as with most things, depravity can lead to creativity. Here are a few gems I've collected over the years.
First, ditch the flavor pouch. You should already know this by the near heart attack you got from the capillary-widening MSG that's in it. Next, collect every condiment packet you can get your hands on. This is a good idea in general, and some of them are almost food. The best come from Chinese takeout and Pizza Hut. Chinese restaurants often have little divided trays piled high with saucy treasures like hot mustard, soy, duck, and sweet and sour. Rarely, you'll get some spicy thing that is basically oil and some red pepper flakes. Score! Pizza Hut offers parmesan, red pepper flakes, and sometimes Italian seasoning. They come in big, easy-to-rip envelopes and can be used on all kinds of stuff. So let's get cookin'.
• 4 ketchup packets and some pepper
Not as nasty as you think, but still pretty bad. Make sure to mix the ketchup and water thoroughly before you nuke it. Season to taste.
Garlicky Noodle Goo
• Less than half a container of Papa John's garlic butter
Cook the noodles first, drain, and then add butter sparingly. Nuke again for 15 seconds. Making this while drunk invariably leads to adding too much butter, which will make you drool when you pass out.
Looks the Same Coming Out
• A small can of Texas Pete hot dog chili ($.63)
Once again, cook the noodles first, drain, and then pour the can in. Nuke again for 15 seconds. This doesn't taste all that bad, but you won't find any beef bits in there. It's mostly soy grits with seasoning and grease.
Poor Man's Spicy Pad Thai Egg Drop Noodle Soup
• One egg
• Two packets of sweet and sour sauce
• Half a packet of soy sauce
• Part of a packet of Texas Pete hot sauce
Squeeze the sweet and sour sauce, a little soy sauce, and some Texas Pete into water and stir really well. Add some pepper; it'll float and make cool little patterns with the sweet and sour sauce as you nuke it. Cook it a few minutes, get it hot.
Easy: scramble the egg and pour it in the water slowly. It should form little ribbons that look like brain tissue.
Harder, but not that hard: separate the yolk in the two shell halves. Pour in the egg white slowly. It'll turn gray in the soy, but save that yolk! Add the fatty little nucleus at the very end for a tasty bonus.
Drop in the noodles and heat up for another minute. Let stand until noodles have sucked up the savory broth. Add the yolk. Burst it on your first bite. Mmm.
The Head Fake
• Swanson's organic beef broth
• Japanese stir fry vegetables
Before you start whining about expensive ingredients, check the prices for yourself. People buy this stuff at Whole Foods, but take a trip to Bi-Lo or Piggly Wiggly and you should find the entire organic section reduced to half-off. You can score a 32 oz. carton of organic chicken, beef, or vegetable stock (or broth) with a re-closable little spout for about three bucks or less. Organic is the choice because it doesn't have MSG. That box will make 6-8 servings, and you can keep it in the fridge and make one meal at a time. Buy the vegetables in the frozen food section. I have yet to pay more than $2.79 for a nice fat bag. If you see something that says "pre-seasoned stir fry," avoid it. That seasoning blows.
Making it is simple. Dilute the broth with water for a 1:1 ratio. Add the vegetables first (you should be able to get 4-6 servings per sack). Then drop in the noodles. Nuke it. Let it soak. Eat it. Sleep well believing you sort of ate something healthy.
How to start a car fire while eating on the road
Cooking on your car engine is no myth, but it's very tricky. The key is where you put it. I've heard stories of people roasting potatoes or corn while driving between rest stops. This is extremely dangerous. A dislodged potato can crack your cooling fan, break a belt, and then your water pump seizes. No water cooling equals a seized engine. Yeah, have fun with that.
But, a tried and true "recipe" I used across the country is to cook a can of beans on the exhaust manifold, after pulling over. My favorite brand is Lucky's pinto beans with onions and seasoned with pork; it's as cheap as 59 cents a can. First, take the paper label off, it might burn. Then puncture the top using an old school can opener (the other side of your beer opener, moron). Suck the first few inches of bean juice out. When heated up, the beans will expand, and if it's really hot, the juice might bubble out. Find a spot that lets you prop the can directly against the exhaust manifold, the big metal pipes coming out underneath the valve cover. (You'll find them because they are fucking hot.) An older Nissan truck heats up a can of beans in five to 10 minutes. If you're in a hurry, you could idle the engine, but the vibration could get bean juice all over the exhaust, and that will smell for 200-300 miles and possibly ignite. I carried a grinder of McCormick's garlic pepper blend and little bottle of Cholula Hot Sauce to stir into it. I was never disappointed. But I did have a fart-tastic symphony for at least a hundred miles.