Field of Science

Grad Student Eating: Adventures in Ramen Substitutes

On the heels of the grad student food carnival, I thought I might share with you my trials and tribulations in attempting to find a satisfactory Ramen substitute. Ramen is one of the worst things you can eat, as it is high in fat (~16g fat per brick), sodium (on the order of 2,000 mg), and monosodium glutamate (MSG), and it has no nutritional value other than the empty carbs and fats. Most people eat it because it is cheap, but it's also very effective as a comfort food. Often when I feel nauseated (which is just about all the time) I want to eat Ramen because a) it reminds me of being a kid and b) it is relatively simple in terms of flavor, texture, and ease of digestion. However, when I was having gallbladder trouble in the late summer/early fall, I had to cut out fatty foods from my diet completely, which meant no more Ramen at a time when I really wanted comfort food. I've tried several natural/vegan alternatives, but so far none of them have lived up to my expectations.

Thai Kitchen Garlic and Vegetable Instant Rice Noodle Soup

This was labeled as "Ramen" noodles that are steamed instead of fried (and therefore don't have all the fat, I believe it was ~2g/serving), and the preparation and presentation are very similar to Ramen bricks. The noodles were a bit chewey, but otherwise it was almost perfect... except for the fact that it was so spicy, I couldn't finish the bowl. I knew it contained ginger and "spices", and I omitted the oil packet that contained more ginger and red pepper, but damn. I know that what I consider spicy and what most people consider spicy aren't really comparable, as I have a very diminished tolerance for spicy food compared to most people (worst of all my boyfriend, who grew up on Indian food), so your mileage may vary, but I couldn't eat it. Fail.

Dr. McDougall's Ramen Chicken Flavor

My friend recommended this to me because it is vegan, and the noodles are "baked not fried" as it says on the packaging. The spice powder did a good job of imitating the flavor of Ramen spice powder without adding MSG (although it was still spicier than I would have liked), so kudos for that, but the noodles were made of durum semolina (the flour that macaroni/spaghetti noodles are made of) instead of rice, and I could taste the difference. Plus they were in tiny little pieces, so I couldn't twirl them around my fork! Fail. I also bought a miso-flavored package of the same brand, but I have a feeling I'll have the same complaints about it.

Thai Kitchen Spring Onion Rice Noodle Bowl

In addition to the same spiciness pitfalls as the first (of the same brand, even), this had overly thick noodles that were very chewy. Double fail. I doubt I will try anything else by this brand.

If I could combine the noodles of the first with the spices of the second, and subtract about half of the spiciness, it would be perfect. Alas. I am considering just buying a box of rice noodles and a bottle of miso paste and calling it a day. Since my gallbladder issues are over I could, in theory, go back to eating regular Ramen, but I don't think that would go over well after having such a good diet for so long. And, anyway, if I'm going to stick 16g of fat into my body in one sitting, I'd rather it be for a worthwhile cause, like chocolate.

1 comment:

  1. Those thai bowls are gross - I can almost feel the texture of those noodles now, blech. Slimy and chewy .. ick.

    If i were you I'd go with the rice noodles and miso paste - throw in some fish sauce, ginger, spices ... you'll do better than ramen!


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