Cookbook author Mindy Toomay's blog about eating for health, cooking with spirit, and celebrating life in northern California. Here she dishes up food rants and raves, recipes, and plenty of kitchen wisdom.

By your own efforts, waken yourself, watch yourself, and live joyfully.
-- The Dhammapada

Why not make a daily pleasure out of a daily necessity?
-- Peter Mayle


Ramen Revisited

I go way back with ramen, those dried noodles sold in little celophane packages in every supermarket in the world (it seems). When I was about 11, my mom started taking occasional nights off from the bother of cooking for her less than appreciative husband and three kids, and told us to make ramen for dinner.

So I'd boil some water, drop in the noodles and the contents of the "flavor packet," and wait for everything to be done, about 4 minutes. It was easy, it was quick, and it was pretty darn tasty to my as yet undiscriminating taste buds.

We'd serve Mom a steaming bowl and then sit down to slurp our own, and all was well

Today I don't want to go anywhere near that little foil packet of chemicals. I avoid MSG whenever possible and am suspicious of any flavors that don't come from recognizable foods. But the noodle part I still love.

Give me pasta for lunch or dinner any day of the week -- actually I limit myself to only a few pasta-based meals per week from sheer force of will. I love Italian pasta (pesto or pomodoro or con funghi or a dozen other sauces), Thai pasta (pad thai), and Chinese pasta (chow mein). Then there's Vietnamese pasta (pho), steaming bowls of rice noodles served in fragrant broth with any combination of yummy morsels on top.

Beef pho is traditional, but I am lucky enough to live in the vicinity of a restaurant run by Vietnamese Buddhists who serve up incredible rice noodle bowls and dozens of other traditional foods, sans the meat.

I still eat ramen, too, dried Chinese egg noodles I cook in vegetable broth with my favorite Asian ingredients. Today it was tofu, broccoli, thinly sliced onions, fresh shiitake mushrooms, and lots of grated ginger. Spiked with soy sauce and sprinkled with togarashi -- a Japanese table condiment made of ground peppers, sesame seeds, and sea vegetables -- it's a delicious and nutritious meal in a bowl.

I keep organic Asian noodles in the pantry these days, buckwheat and rice varieties as well as wheat, and enjoy my ramen nights even more now that I did as a kid. Wish mom was still around to share them.

Blessings and bon appetit!


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