Wedge one chopstick securely in the web of your thumb, resting it against
the first joint of your ring finger. Now grasp its companion between your
thumb and forefinger and align the tips, using your middle finger to keep
the first chopstick from shifting round as you do so. Think of the lower
chopstick as the anvil and the upper as the hammer. That's all there is to
it. Once you can click the tips together with the deftness and rapidity of a
sparrow's beak, you've mastered the art.
Hungry? Then only one question remains:
What's for Dinner?
The short answer? Just about anything. But beware. Chopsticks encourage
no, they require a very different approach to your food
than the chilly, arm's-length etiquette of fork and spoon. To begin with,
hold your bowl close to your face. Liquids are drunk directly from the bowl,
whereas semisolids should be scooped into your mouth with a rapid paddling
motion of the chopsticks. Noodles, chopped vegetables, and cubes of meat are
gripped and transferred bit by bit. Beginners will find ramen a good
practice food. The long, thin noodles cling together in easy-to-grab clumps.
Better yet, ramen is tasty, compact, quick-cooking, and cheap. How can you
go wrong? And the preparation couldn't be easier. Just tuck a few bricks of
your favorite ramen into your food pack.
Once in camp, measure the proper amount of water into a pot, bring it to a
boil, add one or more ramen bricks, and stir. In three minutes the noodles
will be cooked. Turn off your stove or move the pot to the edge of the fire.
Now empty as many packets of soup powder into the pot as you had bricks of
ramen. Stir again. That's it. Dinner's ready. Get out your chopsticks and
Feeling adventurous? Then you're ready to
Push the Boat Out
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Spice It Up Mince garlic,
fresh ginger root, and the white bulb from a stalk of lemongrass. If you
don't have lemongrass, use the zest (grated peel) of a lemon or lime.
Drizzle a little sesame oil into your pot. Add the lemon grass, ginger root,
and garlic. Heat. But go easy if you warm them beyond the point where
they become fragrant they'll burn and turn bitter. Now add water to the pot,
bring it to a boil, and cook your noodles as usual. Add other herbs and
spices, too, if you want. Try dropping a pod of star anise into the water
before heating it. Or add chopped fresh cilantro to the ramen when it's
done. Or stir in some canned coconut milk for the taste of fusion.
Give It Crunch After the
ramen has cooked, top it with thinly sliced raw red onions, red and green
bell peppers, nappa cabbage, bok choy, or other vegetables. Scallions (green
onions) cut into three-inch lengths will also give you something to chew on.
Or break broccoli or cauliflower florets into bite-sized bits and stir these
into the water before bringing it to a boil. They'll be
crisp-but-tender when the noodles are done. Want even more variety? Then add
canned sliced water chestnuts, baby corn on the cob, bamboo shoots, or bean
sprouts. (CAUTION! Unless you like your ramen watery, reduce the amount of
added cooking water to compensate for any liquid from the cans.) You can
sprinkle sesame seeds over the hot ramen, too. Or give dried coconut a try.
Up the Heat Chop a chili or
jalapeño pepper very fine use the seeds and membrane as well if
you like things really hot and add it to your cooking water.
Or stir in a few dashes of hot-pepper oil before serving.
Add Some Meat Flash-cook
thinly-sliced beef, chicken, and other meats roasted over coals
then slide the meat off the skewers onto the pile of noodles in your
bowl. The long, thin strands are easy to pick up with chopsticks. What's
that? You don't eat meat? No problem. Just cut tofu into one-inch squares
and heat it in the pot along with your ramen.
Make It Saucy Splash a
generous dash of soy sauce or teriyaki sauce on the cooked ramen. Or stir in
a tablespoon or three of hoisin or plum sauce. Peanut sauce is yet another
alternative. You can make it in camp. Here's how: Put a few dollops of
peanut butter in a cup with a little bit of hot water, stirring the water
and peanut butter together to make a thick sauce. Then spoon the sauce into
the pot with the cooked noodles and broth. Stir again to blend. Now eat.
Go Nuts Peanuts and cashews
both go well with Asian food, but don't stop there. Experiment with other
kinds of nuts, as
well. Macadamias, Brazil nuts, slivered almonds, walnut pieces all
are widely available and worth investigation. They're delicious and
nutritious, too. Just ask any squirrel!
Is there a downside to packaged ramen? Yes. Many folks find the
ubiquitous monosodium glutamate (MSG) hard to stomach, and the sodium load
may be a bit much for hypertensives. Other cooks simply like doing things
from scratch. Do you belong to either of these groups? Then you'll want to
look for authentic Japanese or Chinese noodles in your local HyperMart, and
search the shelves of ethnic markets for soup
bases, canned and fresh oriental vegetables, and dried delicacies like
seaweed, shrimp, or mushrooms.
In camp, round off your dinner with jasmine tea,
fortune cookies, and fruit
lychees are always a good choice. Enjoy!
Why wait till you lose your spoon to give chopsticks a try? These simple
yet elegant implements are inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to pack. And
you can't get more traditional than chopsticks, can you? So bring on the
ramen. Practice makes perfect, after all, and the learning curve was never
gentler or more delicious.
Copyright © 2007 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights