“Do the dumb things I gotta do…touch the puppet head.”
Or, as it were, make/eat the Ramen Burger.
If you’ve not yet heard of the latest food-chimera craze getting citizens of New York to stand in line for hours to sample, while others exchange said food items on a weird culinary black market (you people and your ‘Cronuts,’ I swear…), allow me to introduce you, as I did my family Friday night for dinner.
When I hear of something like this, I can NOT resist, which puts in my head the old They Might Be Giants song “Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head,” particularly the previously quoted line about “dumb things.” I know I shouldn’t do it and want to be the sort who can dismiss the concept as nonsense, yet…”I WANT TO TOUCH THAT!”
And, since many of y’all are bound to be much younger than I…
This is all offered with apologies to David Chang, whose enthusiasm for ramen as exhibited in Lucky Peach’s debut issue, drove me to finally sample the cheap-food staple I somehow managed to never try during my five years of college. I’m certain I would only turn him off with this, if only he’d notice me…David?
My long-awaited date with ramen quickly turned into a regular habit. At least once a week, my workday lunch is some handful of vegetables, purchased four blocks from my desk at the Pike Place Market, chopped and boiled with whatever packet of ramen interested me enough to purchase in my regular trips to Seattle’s coolest Asian supermarket, Uwajimaya.
Of course, ‘cool’ is relative, but the last time we went, I filled my basket with ramen for work and sushi for lunch just in time to rejoin the family out front of the store to witness a tuna-butchering demo, the likes of which you’re simply not getting at, say, the IGA. Some may not be as impressed as I or my three-year-old son were at the entire event. Even more would be less-interested in the reminder that meat is not something that simply appears in a package by magic, rather than from the harvesting of a living creature, but this is the sort of thing that impresses me and reminds me to keep trying to educate my sons about what food is and where it comes from and…blah blah blah….boring food-snob yapping about stuff…
Back to the issue at hand.
Anytime you say ‘ramen,’ I’m at least listening. When you add ‘burger?’ I’m powerless, even if the entire idea sounds absurdly profane.
I started, as I often do in my kitchen adventures, with a recipe. You can certainly just go to Allrecipes.com and use this recipe and have a completely acceptable result.
Or, you make some adjustments on the fly and tailor it to you and your family’s tastes.
I’m not going to walk you through a burger. If you can’t make a burger you want to eat, adding a bun made from noodles isn’t bound to bail you out.
What you’ll need to turn your burger into a “ramen burger!” is two packets of ramen and three eggs per three burgers you want to serve. You also need two burger-sized ramekins per patty. I suppose a properly sized bowl would work, provided it has a flat bottom. I ended up using some food-storage containers to supplement the two ramekins I actually had.
Boil the ramen per instructions, saving the seasoning packets and oils. I used an utterly cheap brand of “Miso Tofu” ramen, but use whatever floats your boat. Drain the cooked noodles and rinse with cold water until cool.
The recipe linked above does not call for use of the seasoning, but I beat the contents of one of the packets into the eggs. Without seasoning the eggs and, hence, the noodles, you may be missing some flavor opportunity.
Mix the cool noodles and egg mixture; divide into the ramekins. Top each with plastic wrap pressed down atop the noodles. Ideally, you can put something atop the noodles to press down without squishing your noodles. Refrigerate a while, at least 15 minutes.
Heat a puddle of oil in a skillet over medium-high.
Extricate your noodle patties from their containers. This part is a bit messy and tricky, as the noodles won’t necessarily want to stick together just yet, but you want to try to keep them as close to their form as possible. I just turned the ramekins upside down and worked my fingers along the edges of the circle with the plastic still in place until the ‘bun’ fell into my palm, which I then tried to get into the oil in one piece. Failing that, you can use a spatula to reshape them into the little flying spaghetti monsters they should resemble before they start to fry and hold shape.
Get the ‘bun’ as brown and crispy as you like. Preferably, one side will be less crisp than the other to mimic the idea of a toasted but, but it’s not super-relevant. If you’re like me, you’ll just be digging the crispy texture to the point of considering deep-frying noodles to add to future burger endeavors.
From there, again, I won’t walk you through a burger construction. I did the soy and sesame combination in the meat, as per the recipe, as well as the Sriracha-spiked ketchup, but, really, there is no reason you couldn’t do bacon, lettuce, and tomato or whatever your favorite combo is, because, as I’ve said, all you’re really doing is replacing a bun with fried discs of ramen noodles.
There is not a whole lot to this item, when it comes right down to it. You are essentially replacing your hamburger bun with two patties of fried noodles playing the role of finger protectors from your greasy, classic-American deliciousness.
Yet, somehow, the end result is greater than the sum of the parts. Two bites in, and you’re completely aware that what you’re eating is, essentially, a burger sandwiched between ramen noodles fried to be slightly crispy, while also thinking, “how/why is this more delicious than you’d think, considering?!”
I don’t know. Furthermore, I do not care. I enjoyed it, but will probably not be making it again anytime soon, as it’s difficult to justify adding yet more oil and grease to a food item that already had its fair share.
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