Remember back when you were a poor college student surviving on Ramen and Hamburger Helper? (Disclaimer: I actually ate quite well in the college dining hall, and though I did have a hot pot for ramen-making purposes, I quit using it after my roommate actually cooked something in the hot pot and ruined it.) Anyway, chances are that you were eating Cup Noodles or some other 10-cent-a-package brand of instant noodles because it was fast and cheap.
Growing up, I actually had a different impression of ramen: it was something my family bought at the Asian market, a case at a time. We kept it out in the garage, and every so often my mom would send one of us out to grab a few packages for lunch. But the way she made it, she’d throw in a couple of eggs and some vegetables of some sort, maybe some meat or seafood, and it was a huge pot—enough for our family of five. It definitely didn’t seem like poor-college-kid cuisine to me at the time, even if it was inexpensive, because it was just a part of the meal, not the meal in itself. It wasn’t until much later that I even realized non-Asians even ate ramen, and it was a little bewildering to discover the stereotype that it was this thing you ate when you couldn’t afford anything better.
After college when I got married and started doing most of the cooking, I’ve still always liked to keep a case of ramen around. One case will usually last us a good long while since we don’t eat it all the time, but when I do I still usually throw in an egg and maybe some spinach or frozen peas, just to fill it out some. Now that we live in Western Kansas, though, it’s tough to get decent ramen. The grocery store sells the cheap stuff but it’s not even all that cheap any more. But now, thanks to the magic of the Internet, I can once again stay stocked up on a variety of really great ramen.
I found out recently about Ramenbox, a site that lets you buy a customized box of ramen, and decided to give it a shot . It’s pretty simple: you pick a 20-slot box or a 40-slot box, fill it up with any of their many varieties (currently it looks like they’ve got 32 listed, but they’re adding more), and they ship it right to your door. Some types, typically the bowls or multiple-serving packets, count as more than one slot. It’s a bit more expensive, of course—my 40-slot box came to around $45 with shipping—but that still comes out to just over a buck for a meal, which in my mind is not bad at all. Plus, this is not your poor college student’s ramen. There are Udon-style noodles, a Chapghetti that’s a little bit like the zha jiang noodles that my mom taught me to make, rice noodles, and the super-spicy Paldo “Fire” Ramen. Some are soup-style and others you drain and add the sauce. Most of them come with several packets—dry seasoning, oil, chili sauce, etc.—unlike the one-seasoning-packet that I’d gotten used to, and it’s definitely an improvement. If the number of options is overwhelming, you can also select their sampler of all their best-sellers.
When my first box arrived, I was so excited. (Probably more excited than anyone should get about ramen, but hey…) We’ve sampled several of the different varieties, and it’s been delicious. So much so that we have to fight the temptation to just have ramen every day—though if we wanted to we could have a different kind each day of the month. If you’re one of those people who survived on ramen for years, maybe you don’t have the same sort of nostalgia for instant noodles, but I’m delighted with Ramenbox. If you’re currently surviving on ramen and you want to splurge a little, it’s definitely worth a try.
Visit the Ramenbox website!
Wired: Unlike the Asian market, you can buy a case with different varieties—and there are plenty of really good types to choose from.
Tired: Price might be a bit steep if you’re accustomed to 10-cent packages.