[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]
When I first learned about the instant ramen–fried rice craze sweeping Japan, I thought it’d make for a silly piece in which I’d make a few jokes about drunk food before sharing the method, so you all could make it at home, too. But then coronavirus swept the world, and suddenly, I’m seeing it in a new light. This isn’t just drunk food; it’s survival food.
With just one egg and one serving of Cup Noodle (or Cup Noodles, as it’s sold in the States), you can make two servings of Cup Noodle–fried rice, four if you’re rationing. And it’s freaking delicious.
Beat four additional eggs, make an omelette, and plop it on top à la omurice (you could even add a little ketchup to the rice as it’s frying, as per the omurice recipe), and you’ve got yourself a budget meal made entirely of staples, filling your belly without blasting through the kinds of ingredients that require more frequent shopping trips.
There’s very little to say about the technique here: This is supposed to be easy and near-instant, so trying to optimize for every step pretty much defeats the purpose. Plus, it’s delicious, so there’s really no need to overthink it.
All you have to do is remove the dry ramen noodles and all their accompanying seasoning from the cup and crush them up (a plastic bag works well for this, but you could do it in a mixing bowl to reduce plastic waste). Then return them to the cup, cover with just enough boiling water to wet it all but no more.
Meanwhile, scramble an egg in hot oil, add some cooked medium- or short-grain rice (fresh or leftover will work), mix it all together, then dump the wet ramen into the pan, and cook it all together until done. While this is not how we recommend making fried rice usually (we typically will add the egg toward the end of cooking), this method is different in that it doesn’t require batch cooking or a wok (which has the surface area to hold all the fried rice and still leave enough room to fry an egg). But don’t worry; we promise this is hot-damn good!
Why It Works
- Crushing the noodles helps incorporate them into the rice more seamlessly.
- Adding just enough water to rehydrate the ramen ensures noodles and mix-ins are tender, without over-wetting the rice.
- One 2.5-ounce (71g) cup instant ramen noodles, such as Cup Noodles, in flavor of your choice
- Boiling water
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) canola oil or other neutral oil
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 cup (7 3/4 ounces; 220g) cooked medium- or short-grain rice (see note)
- Kosher salt
Transfer contents of instant noodles cup (dried noodles plus all seasonings and mix-ins) to a zipper-lock bag or mixing bowl. Crush noodles well into roughly rice-size pieces, but don’t obsess about it.
Return crushed noodles and seasonings to cup.
Add just enough boiling water to wet contents of cup but no more than that. Cover and let stand while you continue with the recipe.
In a large nonstick skillet, wok, cast iron, or carbon steel pan, heat oil over high heat until shimmering. Add egg and cook, stirring, until just scrambled.
Add rice and cook, stirring constantly and breaking up any small lumps, until heated through and glazed in the oil, about 2 minutes.
Add soaked ramen along with any liquid and cook, stirring and tossing constantly, until excess moisture has cooked off and rice and noodles are lightly golden and toasted, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt.
Transfer to a serving platter or pack into a heatproof bowl, then invert bowl on a plate to make a compact mound of rice.
If a heartier meal is desired, you can whip up a 4-egg omelette following the instructions in our omurice recipe and unfurl it on top of the mound of rice; top with ketchup and anything else you want (nori flakes are shown here) before serving.
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