Seafood Ramen was what I have been craving for when the weather started to cool down, saying hello to winter. A friend suggested that Bentoya in DIFC offers huge bowls of Ramen at a pocket friendly price. The restaurant is classified as Japanese, may not be authentic but somehow good enough for someone like me who won’t be able to afford something really authentic. They offered a lot more than ramen – sushi and sashimi, rice toppings, omu rice and noodles and some more Japanese stuffs but I only had my eye into that photo of Seafood Ramen that made me drool while waiting for my dish to arrive. I wasn’t disappointed with what was served in front of me. It was a huge bowl of Ramen with shrimps, clams and calamari as well as seaweeds, some sort of ground liver (something that I didn’t know about but added to the flavor when stirred in with the soup) and half a hardboiled egg with some veggies on it plus the noodles. When I said huge, I meant really huge. After indulging in a tummy-warming seafood ramen, I told myself that I would like to try making a homemade ramen so as I can eat as much as I wanted without having to pay double. It was a huge serving, but I can still eat more (haha).
My very own version of Seafood Ramen was by far the fastest (not including fried eggs and instant noodles) and the best dish I have ever cooked in my entire experimental-cooking life. And I would like to give myself a pat on the back for this great achievement. For me fast cooking means I haven’t spend more than 45 minutes in the kitchen and yes, I prepared my ramen in less than 45 minutes. One reason why I am very lazy when it comes to kitchen activities is that, I am very slow and I always get tired of my being slow. What does that mean? It takes time for me to peel and chop the ingredients because I wanted it to be of the same sizes and shapes as much as possible. This idea was something that I learned earlier during culinary lessons in college that somehow got stuck inside my forehead which is not a bad thing because it is one of the basics of cooking. My professor said that to be able to get all the ingredients cooked evenly, all specially vegetables should have the same sizes like when your carrots are julienned, your beans and others should be julienned too and same goes with diced veggies and meat and so on. On the first few minutes or say first 10 to 15 minutes of my chopping spree, I would earnestly follow my same-size theory. After spending the first half an hour doing the same thing, I would frantically chop them at whatever size that comes after the knife hits the chopping board. Yes, I’m too slow and too impatient and that’s why I am not a Chef, hence the reason I would opt out for simple recipes with very less ingredients or would cut out some of the ingredients or would simply keep the basic ones. I would never, even dare, nor think about preparing something that requires complicated cooking. Complicated means basting, steaming, roasting or baking for hours then cooking it again with different ingredients or tying up a piece of meat with all the ingredients inside before marinating or cooking or whatever, trust me, I can only marinate something, a piece of chicken, pork or fish in soy sauce and lemon over night and that’s about it. Don’t even think of going further.
Adding up with my inability to be patient to be able to eat something good, another factor adding up to my laziness is the fact that I have flat mates who love to take up the whole kitchen as if I am bound to wait for eternity before I can get a small space for me to insert myself in the kitchen and thaw my frozen meat or at least say hello to my almost-sprouting onions. Everyone (all my flat mates) knows that I arrive home from work at around quarter to eight but then that’s the time that they would lift their ass up and start preparing their meals or maybe just few minutes before that. And they are up to this everyday that sometimes I thought that they are doing this purposely if not insensitively as there was a time that they started running to the kitchen the moment that I unlocked our main door considering they have been sitting their asses out from 5:30pm on whatever it is that they were doing when they should have reigned as kitchen kings and queens while I was not there, at least, a bit of thoughtfulness.
My so called cooking life was revived (as if it died) when I started reading a book that I have bought more than a year ago, halfway read I suppose as the bookmark was inserted someway half through the book and was kept in my mini library as I would call my one layered bookshelf. The book was called Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant which became a source of smutted jokes and laughs from my friends who saw the book and would always ask me “Why in the world would the author choose to be alone in the kitchen with an eggplant? Is there nothing else like a cabbage or an apple or rice or pasta in which you can be alone with?” and they would continue laughing their guts out and I would just tell them that “Look, I wouldn’t know until I’ve read the book.” And yeah there was a time when I asked myself, “Why did I buy this book anyway? An author and her book which I’ve never heard of.”
Going back to the content of the book, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant by Jenni Ferrari-Adler is a collection of essays of people, mostly writers who lived, cooked and dined alone sometime in their lives at least for a year. Most of them went to dorm during their University lives and some were assigned to work somewhere far away from their mother’s umbrella and so was forced to cook for themselves. I am still reading the book and found out that a lot of the character’s experiences where somehow relevant to mine. Some of them have learned and enjoyed cooking and dining alone, and some dreaded even just the thought of it. Some of them have been so used to it that they even made their standard recipes that is only good for serving one such as 1 clove of garlic, 1 bay leaf, 1 shallot and 1 salmon (and some more) which was called the Single Girl Salmon. Some enjoyed eating alone in their houses rather than in restaurants and some vice versa. It is fascinating enough to learn about their solo-eating-habits but there’s more to that. How they felt when eating alone and how they reacted when eating with a group and how they adjusted from solo-dining to a normal eating-with-their-family lives. In one of the essays, someone said that because she was so used to dining alone in her room with her black beans, which meant that she was eating it every day, she had to turn down an offer for a dinner out just because her can of beans was waiting for her at home. True for me as well, sometimes, I’d rather eat my instant noodles in the comfort of my room rather than going out for dinner with friends.
I laughed at their funny stories and thought of mine too. I also realized that I have been cooking and dining alone for the last 7 years that I am away from home. Actually not the whole 7 years, maybe half of it. As a hotelier, I usually had my breakfast, lunch and dinner in the hotel staff canteen where I can eat something more than I can afford if I’m going to buy all those and prepare it for myself. I found this set up better because I don’t have to worry about cooking and it’s whole process ( thinking of what to cook, buying the ingredients, preparing, cooking and reheating the left over until I don’t want to eat any of it anymore.) I used to get fresh fruits, fresh juice and freshly baked pastries such as croissant and rolls for breakfast, a good variety of dishes for lunch and dinner which includes rice, a chicken or beef or seafood dish, a salad bar and some sweets from the staff canteen, a set menu I would never have prepared even for myself. But things became different when I shifted to a new company. Still in the hotel industry but the office was not on the hotel itself so I said goodbye to my lavish buffet counter in the hotel staff canteen. Now I had to prepare my food for the day plus my packed lunch for the next day so the dish should be 3-4 servings which can get me through for two days plus I don’t have to go through the hassle of cooking every day, or should I say of waiting for my flat mates to leave the kitchen before I can finally set my foot on it. As I said, I’d rather opt for simple dishes as I don’t want a lot of my time spent in the kitchen. I’d rather spend it doing something else like watching Anime, playing my guitar or reading a book than chopping more and more veggies and meat.
As a lone ranger in the kitchen, I tried cooking Caldereta (earlier when I really don’t know that the pork needs to be cooked for more than 10minutes) of course the simpler way, and the only ingredients were pork, carrots, potatoes, onion, garlic and tomato sauce which ended up as an al dente pork, carrots and potatoes dipped in tomato sauce or something like that.
I thought cooking Goto (rice porridge or congee as we may call it) was as easy as cooking rice with a bit more water on it and my supposedly Goto ended up as watery soft rice which was sorrowfully sent to Mr. Trash Bin. But now I mastered my very own Goto cooking style after several tries, unlike my Seafood Ramen which was the best after the first try (or is this going to be a one-time-big-time success ramen story? I hope not.)
So as a finale to my long Other Stories, here is the recipe of my very simple yet tasty homemade Seafood Ramen.
All ingredients should be up to your taste or liking:
Fresh Egg Noodles
Salt and pepper
Water (or stock if you have)
Marinate the shrimps and calamari with salt and pepper (I marinated it for just an hour)
Sautee the shrimps and calamari with onion, garlic and ginger and once the seafood is almost cooked, add on water and bring to a boil. Add broth and soy sauce till the taste suites your tongue.
On another pan, blanch the fresh egg noodles for a minute or less and keep in a separate bowl or container.
Once the soup is done, add the spring onions on top and can now be added on to the egg noodles as per your style of serving (to yourself).