Delicious Dinner

Since my mom passed away in April, I’ve fallen way off my diet. It was an intentional choice – good food provided comfort, plus I bought a grill and have been using it regularly as an odd kind of therapy … but also all of the grilled food has been absolutely fantastic. Anyway, it was a conscious decision that I was able to justify due to the fact that I had lost nearly forty pounds since January; but lately it has spun out of control and I’m starting to hear a voice in my head telling me it’s time to rein in my appetite.

But not this evening.

Tonight’s dinner included a familiar old-time favorite and something new. Both of them had one thing in common, however – they were extremely high in calories.

I started with my old standby – Korean instant noodles called Shin Ramyun, the best tasting ramen in the world.

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I first had this instant noodle soup back in the mid-’90s in Seoul. After trying it two or three times, I started adding a couple of slices of American cheese to the broth and it took the meal to a new level.

In Asia, many mom and pop eateries specialize in one or two main dishes. There may be a few things on the menu, but it’s the one or two items that people drop in to eat. So as you walk down any street you’ll see a ramen house, a cold noodle soup house, a barbecued pork belly house, etc. (Most of these places are called “jip” – the Korean word for “house”.)

After trying Shin Ramyun with cheese, I couldn’t go back to the original style. This was fine as long as I was eating at home, but it was a problem when I visited a ramen house. The first couple of times I asked if they could add cheese and the owner scoffed at such a foolish notion. One doesn’t put cheese in ramen. So I started bringing my own cheese and adding it myself. Other customers stared at the crazy foreigner like he was out of his mind, but eventually cheese ramen was on the menu in every ramen house in Korea.

A few years later, when cheese ramen was perhaps the most popular item on the menu, I frequently shared this story with my students, emphasizing that I was responsible for the invention of cheese ramen. They’d laugh, but I’d half jokingly (okay … maybe a quarter jokingly) insist that it was true.

My Korean legacy is that I am the inventor of cheese ramen. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

So nowadays when I prepare a bowl of Shin Ramyun it’s not just for the flavor, but also the memories. I bring two cups of water to a boil, add the two packets of seasoning, break the brick of dehydrated noodles in half and plop them in the water. While they’re boiling, I add two slices of American cheese to the bottom of my soup bowl. Then I cut up a hot dog and toss it in the boiling broth. Finally, I crack open an egg, pour it in the soup, and stir it ever so slightly so as to allow the egg to become stringy but remain solid.

The finished product, along with a plate of sauteed spinach and garlic:

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Eating this is like time travel for me. It takes me to a happy place.

After my trip through the past I decided to shift gears and take a detour into the future for dessert.

I mentioned in another post that Maia and I will be visiting Guadalajara, Mexico this November. One of the exciting things about traveling is not just the trip, but also studying up on the place you will visit. We were watching a video the other day about the top ten places to eat in Guadalajara and number five was a place called La Baguette. We watched a person at the restaurant saute sliced strawberries in butter before stirring in caramel and Maia, mouth watering, boldly pronounced, “We are definitely going there!”

We will indeed be going there, but I thought there was no reason to wait until we visited Mexico to try out the dessert; I could prepare it at home.

In the video it appears that they cooked some crepes and poured the strawberry caramel sauce over the top. I was too lazy to prepare crepes, so I simply bought some angel food cake, sliced a couple of pieces, and laid them on a plate.

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Then I briefly stirred the strawberries, butter, and caramel over high heat.

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I mistakenly added more caramel than they did in the video, but there are worse things than too much caramel.

Finally, I poured the mixture over the angel food cake and voila!

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Simple. It was ridiculously sweet and even better than it looks. I would definitely have it again.

But for now it’s back to my diet … in the next day or two.

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