Senior shares family’s secret instant noodle recipe

April 3, 2020 — by Allen Chen

It is said that no two families have the same instant noodle recipe. From the brand of instant noodle used to the toppings put into the soup and the amount of time spent meditating before cooking, every household guards their own recipes and techniques and passes them down from generation to generation. It’s almost as if receiving the family instant noodle recipe is an important step in one’s coming-of-age if you grow up as a Chinese American.

So please understand when I say that sharing this recipe is not easy for me. It is a closely-guarded secret, born from the feverish all-nighters of my ancestors’ college years and the polishing sands of time. But these are strange times, and given the quarantine, the need for good instant noodle recipes is more extreme than ever. 

That being said, I will leave out a few secret ingredients that elevate this recipe from the “ascended” to the “uncontrollable-crying-inducing” tier. You must discover them on your own.

The first step, as with anything, is to get into the right mindset. I suggest sitting in the rain and staring out at the horizon for a few minutes. If that isn’t an option for you, make a cup of matcha tea. Don’t drink it, just enjoy its aesthetic before throwing it away, cup and all. When you feel like a butterfly adrift in the indifferent jaws of evolution, you know you’re mentally in the right place.

Now, the fun begins. There are many different brands of instant noodles available. They come in bags, bowls and cups. For this recipe, you’ll need the bag version of Shin Ramyun Black. I have found this to be the most reliable brand, perfect for those with too much self-respect to eat Nissin’s bagged products but aren’t bored enough to go as far as Luo Ba Wang yet.

Go ahead and fill up a wok with enough water to reach the second joint of your index finger (aka the wrinkly bit). It’s important to use a wok and not a normal pot. Doing so adds an additional dimension to the flavor of the soup: the shallowness of the utensil will strengthen the spiritual connection between you and the noodles. Start heating the water over high heat.

Before the water boils, open up your noodle bag and take out the packets of flavoring. Mentally assess the shape of the noodle brick and prepare for when you will have to put it into the wok. Then, cut one to two tomatoes (depending on taste) into small slices. Before they have time to adjust to their new shape, dump them into the water, followed by the flavoring. Each tomato’s emotional whiplash from being cut into pieces and dunked in hot water will add a sense of poignancy to the end product.

At about the same time, add a few meatballs into the water as well. These can be the frozen kind from Costco. About five should do. Now, I know what you’re thinking: tomatoes and meatballs. It sounds an awful lot like we’re making some kind of avant-garde Italian food. I promise we are not. Just trust me.

Resist the urge to lick the powder remaining on the flavor bags, and instead, wait for the water to start bubbling. While you wait, I recommend digging up that cup of matcha tea. In retrospect, throwing away an entire cup is probably excessively wasteful. Next time, just pour the tea down the sink. After finding the cup, go ahead and chop up a Chinese sausage into slices (or not, if you’re vegetarian or vegan). You can leave the cup in the dishwasher or sink, for next time. Try to internalize the lesson that every cup deserves to be treated with emotional intelligence and respect.

As soon as the water begins to boil, quickly drop in the noodle brick, the Chinese sausage and a short prayer. Keep the heat on high and cook for five minutes, stirring lightly with chopsticks. Then, crack an egg (or not, if you’re vegan) directly into the wok, trying your best to keep the white as intact as possible.

This is where we have to discuss something important. In this world, there are only two kinds of people. There are those who can eat their eggs with the yolk runny. And there are those who cannot. If you are in the latter group, I want you to know that I am not judging you. I have nothing against you. All I ask is that you close this article and leave now. This isn’t the recipe for you. I’m sorry.

To the rest of you, leave the egg in there for no more than three minutes, or until the whites have turned white. Turn the heat off and pour the whole thing into an implement of your choice, trying to keep the egg on top. Split open the yolk with your chopsticks and top it off with a little bit of finely chopped coriander.

Go ahead and take a sniff. I know, I know. It’s OK to cry a little. Before you eat, make sure to close your eyes and offer your gratitude to the thousands of years of history that culminated in the bowl of noodles before you. Please enjoy.

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