I am going to attempt to link two of my most favorite things together here in this blog post: Ramen noodles and White Sands National Monument. Put on your seat belts folks, this might be a strange post.
I know, I know. Having a passion for ramen noodles at the same level of a national monument is a little odd. In my head, it kind of makes sense because I love both of these things with all of my heart. I also love things like snow days, squash from the famers market, margaritas on the beach, and non-delayed flights at O’Hare. (What can I say? My heart is just full of love.)
I visited New Mexico for the first time last year, and one of the first things I did was visit White Sands. It’s a national monument, but is a preserved area of land filled with gypsum sand that has evolved and broken down over thousands of years into windshapen, fantastically bright, white sand dunes. They’re unreal and fantastically gorgeous. The white sand is brilliant against the sometimes turquoise, sometimes amber, sometimes ruby streaked and cloudy New Mexican sprawling sky. There are several mountain ranges in the distance, setting the stage for a “Is this actually areal place?” inquiry when you first see them.
Now that I live within an hour drive of the sands, I go often. Every time I have had a guest, we go to white sands. Every time they host an event, I go to white sands. Every time I have a few free hours, I try to go to white sands. I’ve done handstands on the sands, run up and down the dunes, and made sand angels. I’ve sledded down the dunes, raced down the dunes, and tumbled down the dunes. I even camped there one evening when it was a full moon; the park allows campers overnight on the sands when the sky is able to provide adequate streams of moonlight.
Last month, Christopher and I took advantage of the full-moon camping night. We brought along his nephew and his young cousin, who are both 15. Although they were wholly “too cool”, for camping at white sands, we know that our teenage counterparts had a good time, even though they accused us of kissing as we both stepped inside our tent to exchange our t-shirts for long sleeves once the sun went down. (Bless them for thinking kissing was the most offensive thing we could do. Here’s to hoping they’ll keep that innocence for as long as possible.)
I somehow managed to get lost while trekking from our car to the campsite (1 mile up and down huge sand dunes is no joke- I thought I was going to pass out from the combination of hills, no water, and intense sun), but was reunited with the group just before the stunning sunset. Christopher made us a fabulous meal of campfire chili, which we ate with tortilla chips that we soon discovered tasted like bananas. (He left the bag of tortilla chips on top of ripening bananas.) You may have already guessed this, but tortilla chips with a hint of bananas did not taste good at all. Whomp. Whomp. The one time we actually allow ourselves to eat tortilla chips.
In summer, I thoroughly miss eating things like soups and chili. There’s just something about 100 degree-days that just doesn’t make hot soup-eating fun. (Now, gazpacho on the other hand….) As soon as cooler weather starts breaking through, I immediately turn to soups. I’m obsessive over bone broth, homemade stocks, tomato soup, and pumpkin soup. I love throwing in all sorts of vegetables, and I love treating myself with homemade chicken soup…
...And then there's the ramen. Yes, I know ramen noodles are so terrible for you, but I absolutely love them. Some say that the Japanese consider ramen their country’s best invention, and many Japanese regard Ramen as a source of national pride. I’ve passionately loved Ramen for a long, long time, but it wasn’t until I was in graduate school that I discovered not only the higher-quality, super spicy Ramen brands from authentic Asian stores, but restaurants that specialized in gourmet ramen. Yes, that’s right. Gourmet. Ramen. I frequented one Ramen place near my house in D.C., Taan Noodles, with as much vigor that a squirrel hides a nut in fall for the coming winter. When the restaurant had Groupon specials, I snatched as many as I could to ensure even more visits. At $15 a bowl, it was pricey, but when I say gourmet Ramen, it was gourmet. Think duck confit ramen, pork belly ramen, roasted chicken ramen, and spicy fermented duck egg ramen. I think I tried every noodle bowl on the menu. As you probably have guessed by now, the noodles in these bowls were not paleo and primal friendly, not even the slightest. Even so, I miss Taan Noodles dearly, which is why I’ve created my own primal ramen bowl recipe, which I thoroughly enjoy, especially as the temperatures start to drop as the sun goes down.
I have affectionately named this ramen noodle bowl “nonRamen”, which I think captures the “je ne sais crois” about the noodle that has wiggled our way into our hearts. For the “ramen” I used white rice noodles instead of traditional ramen noodles. Although technically a grain, I still incorporate white rice into my diet, with moderation. (You can read these articles here and here to find out why I am #teamwhiterice.) As I was looking over conventional ramen recipes in preparation to create my own paleo version, I noticed that most incorporated some type of soy or miso. Although fermented soy is the lesser of the two evils, I choose to avoid any type of soy due to the limited regulations on soy crops, pesticides, and GMO crop use in the U.S. Personally, soy is something I don’t want to mess around with, so I decided to replace the umami flavor that miso provides with both porcini mushrooms and fish oil. Although these ingredients are not of high volume in this recipe, they are essential to making this nonRamen taste just like the real thing. Trust me, it won’t be the same without them.
I've also included another recipe in this post for beef stock. Of course, you don't have to use homemade stock for the broth of this nonRamen (you can get store-bought), but homemade stock is really the secret for creating a rich, decadent base, not only in this recipe, but in many other soup recipes. I know that making homemade stock seems intimidating, but its really simple, and it yields amazing results.
Primal-Friendly nonRamen Bowl
Makes 6 bowls
- 8 cups (2 quarts) beef stock (see recipe below, or you can buy your own)
- 1 ½ tbsp. ground dried porcini mushrooms (You may have to grind them yourself in a spice grinder if you cannot find them)
- 2 tsp. pink Himalayan salt
- 1 ½ tsp. fish sauce
- 12 oz. shredded roasted chicken (leftovers are the best, leftovers with skin taste even better)
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 2/3 cup raw, whole leaf spinach
- ½ cup mushrooms of choice
- 6 soft-boiled eggs
- 1 package of white rice noodles
- 6 tsp. toasted sesame oil, divided
- Heat beef stock in large pot until simmering. Add ground porcini mushrooms, salt, and fish oil to stock. Stir to ensure that everything is well incorporated, then reduce heat to ensure that stock does not come to a boil. Add leftover chicken pieces to this nonRamen broth. Keep this broth on the burner, stirring occasionally to ensure that it is thoroughly heated.
- While stock is still warming, melt butter in a small pot. Once melted, add mushrooms and cook on medium heat until almost done, but still firm, about 4 minutes. It is important not to overcook the mushrooms, as they will be added to broth, and will inevitably take on some liquid. There is nothing worse that overcooked mushrooms.
- After done with the mushrooms, add spinach leaves to the pot. Stir the spinach with the mushrooms to coat the spinach with butter. Reduce heat to low and place lid on pot to wilt the spinach. Once spinach is wilted, turn off the burner.
- Now, bring nonRamen broth to a slight boil. Add white rice noodles and cook for approximately 4 minutes. Turn off burner and ladle broth with chicken and noodles into bowl.
- Top each bowl with one soft-boiled egg, mushrooms, spinach, and 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil. The sesame oil is essential. Promise.
- Break soft-boiled egg into each bowl, and serve immediately. Since the white rice noodles are very absorbent, they will begin to absorb all of the broth, and will become soggy. This nonRamen bowl is best eaten immediately, but if you want to make in advance, you can make all the other ingredients and save cooking the noodles for just before serving.
Makes approximately 8 cups/2 quarts
This stock is perfect as the base for many dishes. Since it uses beef bones for flavoring, it also has the added benefit of incorporating bone marrow, an immunity booster, into your diet. For a deeper, richer flavor, roast bones in a casserole dish in the stove before using them to make the stock.
- About 10 cups water
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- 4 stalks fresh oregano
- 4-5 carrots
- 4 celery stalks
- 3 stalks of leek
- About 24 oz. of beef marrow bones from the butcher or leftover bones from steaks, ribs, etc.
- Cut carrots and celery in half. You can also use bits and pieces of leftover carrots and celery stored from your freezer- they will work just the same.
- Place all ingredients in large, 7 quart Dutch oven or stockpot.
- Cover everything with water, and bring to boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, then reduce to simmer. Simmer on stove stop, stirring occasionally, for about 4-5 hours.
- Once cooled, remove and throw away oregano stems, celery, carrots, and bones.
- Can be used immediately for soup bases, nonRamen, or stored in an airtight container in the freezer for later use.
I do not add salt to my stocks when I make them, since I often use them for the base of other soups and recipes that call for salt; I do not want to accidentally over salt.
To make stocks, I have gotten into the habit of saving bones in a bag in my freezer from meals (steaks, ribs, etc.). This ensures that I always have bones to make a stock…..and nothing says creepy like telling your neighbors that you collect bones in your freezer.