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Microwave noodles get a makeover

Tae Andrews | Monday, November 12, 2007

Ramen is the quintessential college food. It requires only what author Eric Hites calls a “fair amount of hunger,” an eating utensil and the ability to boil water, which even the most domestically challenged undergraduates can usually manage.

In his book, “Everybody Loves Ramen: Recipes, Stories, Games and Fun Facts About the Noodles You Love,” author and self-described “noodle guru” Hites converts college cuisine into haute cuisine with over 50 different recipes involving all manner of styles, ranging from Asian food to Italian food to American-themed fare.

For Ramenites accustomed to the traditional variety of flavors (the noodles come in Chicken, Beef, Shrimp and Oriental flavors, among others) “Everybody Loves Ramen” offers a veritable smorgasbord of different recipes. There are healthy Ramen recipes (Cholesterol-Killer Ramen), unhealthy Ramen recipes (911 Heart Attack Ramen), vegetarian Ramen recipes (Vegetarian’s Power Dish), regal Ramen recipes (Fit-for-a-King Salad), pauper Ramen recipes (Cheap-as-It-Gets Ramen Salad) and even Ramen for the expecting (Super Pregnancy Ramen).

Talk about thinking outside the pre-packed square wrapper. In his creative concoctions, Hites drums up formulas for his oodles of noodles that create pancakes, salads, pizzas, chilis, omelets, desserts, slaws and even burritos. Among other things, he throws in ingredients like fish, cheese, beans, mushrooms, eggs, cashews, shrimp, crabmeat, spinach, broccoli, cabbage and even cookies. Some of his more outlandish recipes include Hijacked Taco Bell Ramen, which requires the use of 10 contraband packets of stolen Taco Bell Mild Sauce, and Orange “PEZ” Chicken Soup, which includes five packs of Pez candy. Hites’ “Fourth o’ July Confetti Bean Salad” recipe also provides a way to celebrate our nation’s independence while simultaneously chowing down on some delicious legumes.

Beyond providing an infusion of fresh ideas for twists on the conventional Ramen noodle soup, Hites also strews friendly tidbits of Ramen trivia throughout the book, including factoids and Ramen “lore.” One such fact is that if you ate one packet of Ramen a day, you would eat your weight in Ramen noodles in 2.34 years, or that it would take 432,000 packages of Ramen to cover a football field, like the one supposedly in Notre Dame Stadium.

Clearly, Hites is a man who knows his noodles. The square, compact book is even shaped more or less like a packet of the stuff. However, he still understands that the key attractiveness of Ramen (and its status as a college diet staple) relies on how easy it is to make. So even as you rock out with your wok out or break out the pots and pans, you’ll only spend about 15 minutes maximum on any given Ramen recipe. And if you really can’t wait for your noodles, Hites even included a “Top-Speed 3-Minute Ramen” recipe for Ramen racers desperate for a fix.

“Everybody Loves Ramen” is definitely one of the more eccentric cookbooks out there. Filled with random quotes and odes to the culinary goodness that is Ramen (and telling tidbits like this one: “If all the ramen noodles consumed by Americans in one day were stacked on top of each other, they would probably fall over”), “Everybody Loves Ramen” is like the pre-packed food itself: a quick, easy read and full of deliciousness.