As shutdowns sweep the world, people stuck at home are turning to this classic Korean ramen hack for flavour and comfort.
The hubbub started in 2018, when the New York Times shared a recipe by celebrity chef Roy Choi. Cheese on ramen?! The world was outraged. But people with Korean heritage quickly came to the recipe’s defence.
Korean Americans on Twitter pointed out that actually, cheese on ramen is a Korean thing. When American soldiers came to Korea during the war, they brought rations that weren’t easily perishable, including American cheese. When they left, the cheese stayed. Catapult author Noah Cho wrote a column saying he’d “fight anyone who says you shouldn’t put cheese on your ramyun.”
Now, my Twitter feed has been inundated with people telling Noah that he was right. One Twitter user posted her cheese ramen meal, saying, “it apparently took a pandemic to convince me but now I’m a believer!!”
I’m not Korean, but I believe that one culture’s comfort food can be everybody’s comfort food. So on a nippy April morning, I tried to make ramen with cheese for myself – and it was harder than I thought.
I didn’t follow any recipe, but my Chinese-American heart told me that an egg and some green onions would be good additions.
I chose to use Shin Ramyun because, from what I understand, it’s the gold standard of Korean instant noodles.
This was the first time I’d bought Kraft singles … ever. I’m lactose intolerant, so when I do eat cheese I want it to be the good stuff. But Kraft has special melty properties.
I started by chopping up some green onions. Green onions are a mandatory addition to any hot noodle soup.
I boiled up some water the lazy woman’s way.
Ramen is infamously devoid of nutrition, but who cares? It tastes good.
And to that end, I added the entire seasoning packet. Anything less would be wimpy.
I started pouring water before I realised that I didn’t know when to stop pouring. There was a line there, supposedly.
Since I couldn’t find the water line, I just added my egg and hoped for the best.
I covered up my ramen and waited for two out of three of the recommended minutes.
Then, I popped it into the microwave for thirty seconds. I know you’re not supposed to microwave eggs, but I thought I’d just help this one along.
Next, I added the cheese.
I microwaved it for another 30 seconds.
Then, I waited for another minute before opening up my cup and adding the green onions.
This was the result. Pretty good-looking, if I may say so myself.
I pierced the egg with my boyfriend’s only pair of chopsticks (a dealbreaker, if he doesn’t buy more soon). It was perfectly poached.
In the moment of truth, I noticed that my noodles didn’t look as cheesy as I expected.
And indeed, they tasted just like ordinary Shin Ramyun, only slightly creamier. Very slightly. Perhaps I’d messed up by microwaving the cheese.
So naturally, I added another pure, unadulterated slice.
This time, the Kraft single worked its magic.
The processed cheese slice melted onto the noodles and oozed from my chopsticks. It was the cheesy, dreamy mouthful of creamy noodles I had been promised.
It was the best of mac and cheese and the best of Shin Ramyun combined to make something even greater than the sum of its ultra-processed, artificial parts. I slurped up every last bit of my cheesy, spicy broth, thrilled to know that I had a new comfort food in my arsenal. These upcoming days will require all the comfort I can get.