When my sister-in-law moved in a few weeks ago, we combined pantries in an attempt to save on groceries. In her stash, I found two and half CASES of ramen noodles. Not those little 24 pack cases but over 120 individual packets of ramen. I’m pretty good when presented with pantry stuff that needs to be used up, but what the hell were we going to do with that much ramen? No one particularly likes to eat ramen prepared per package directions and I’m fairly certain that the amount of sodium in those little flavor packets might kill us all. I needed to use the noodles for something. Ramen lo mein seemed like an obvious choice.
I’ve been playing with stir-fry recipes since I got my latest copy of Cook’s Illustrated. The stir-fries were coming out excellent so I started to think about making a stir-fry then incorporating plain cooked ramen noodles. Now if you don’t have ramen in the house, you could substitute spaghetti and I believe this would still be wonderful. However, I think the texture of the ramen lends itself quite nicely here. You can make it with pretty much any meat you like. I’ve made it with chicken and pork so far. My husband liked the pork better but I believe that is partly to do with the fact that he thinks chicken is a vegetable and is turned off by vegetarian meals. Even the kids liked it!
This recipe comes together very quickly, especially since the ramen only takes about three minutes to cook. Make sure to prep everything before you start because once thinks start going into the pan, you won’t have time to prep. In this version, I used thin sliced boneless pork chops because that’s what I had in the freezer. You could also use pork tenderloin. The first step in the process is to tenderize and marinate the meat. This process takes about 30 minutes, so I will cut up the meat and get it tenderizing, then I get everything else together and prepare the veggies and sauce. I’ve made stir-fry dishes without tenderizing and marinating the meat and the results are so much better when you do. You can even prep everything on prep day, then marinate the meat when you get ready to make the dish. Trust me, you want to do this step.
What you’ll need:
3/4 lb of boneless, skinless chicken or lean pork, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cups thinly sliced or julienned veggies (I used onions, red peppers and carrots)
3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger or 1 teaspoon dried ginger
Ramen noodles, discard seasoning packets or save for another use (I use 4-6 packages depending on how many people are home for dinner and how much we want for leftovers)
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup dry sherry*
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
What to do:
Mix the water and baking soda together and pour over the meat. Mix everything together and let it sit for 15 minutes. Set a timer because you don’t want it to sit for more than that. Use this time to prep your veggies and get everything laid out so you’ll be ready to go when the meat is ready to cook. Get your water boiling for the ramen during this time as well.
After 15 minutes, rinse off the meat. I usually just add water to the bowl, swish everything around and then drain. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Now add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Mix everything together again and let this sit for 15 minutes. While you are waiting, mix up the sauce in a large measuring cup. I use a 4-Cup Angled Measuring Cup
for this. Cook your ramen during this time also. Drain the ramen and let it sit until you are ready for it. When you’ve got 5 minutes left on the timer, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. I like to let my skillets preheat for 5 minutes to make sure the pan is heated evenly.
Now we are ready to start cooking. Remember, this will go fast. Add a bit of oil to the pan and give it 30 second to heat up. Add the meat, spreading it out in a thin layer to all the pieces touch the pan. If you are making a larger batch of lo mein, cook the meat in batches. Don’t crowd the pan. You want to get some good color on this meat. Once the meat is going, don’t touch it for a few minutes so you can get that nice color. Go wash out the bowl that the raw meat was in so you can use that bowl again for the cooked meat. After about 2 minutes, stir the meat around so you can get the other side browned up. After 2 to 3 minutes, the meat should be done. Remove it from the skillet with some tongs. Don’t worry if there are some browned bits on the bottom. The sauce will help get those off the bottom. They will just add flavor to the finished product.
First add your carrots to the pan. Cook those for a minute, then add the onions and peppers. Stir the veggies together and cook for another 2 minutes. Mix the garlic and ginger together in a small bowl with a little oil. Push the veggies to the sides of the pan, creating an empty spot in the center. Add the garlic and ginger and stir until you can smell it. The oil keeps the garlic and ginger from burning. Now mix the garlic and ginger into the rest of the veggies. Add the meat back into the pan and stir everything together.
Pour the sauce into the pan and simmer until thickened. Place the noodles in a large bowl and pour the stir-fry over the noodles. Use a pair of tongs to mix everything together and serve.
If you don’t want to make lo mein, you could use this recipe to make stir-fry and serve it over rice. We’ve had it both ways and I think the family prefers the lo mein version. Experiment with different vegetables, using what your family likes best. If using spaghetti, you would want to use 3/4 to 1lb of thin or regular spaghetti.
*Do not use cooking sherry for this. Any of the cooking wines you find in the grocery store are loaded with sodium and don’t taste all that great. I bought a large bottle of dry sherry at my local liquor store for $4.99. The cooking sherry at the grocery store (about 1/3 the size) was $5.99. I always find it is less expensive to just buy wines for cooking at the liquor store and the results are much better.