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Traditional College Fare Gets Makeover

November 4, 2009

by Agnes Jasinski

Few foods have become as big a staple in college students' diets as ramen noodles. They're easy enough to make where even the most kitchen-shy college student can heat up a bag and enjoy them while studying for finals or hanging out with friends and lamenting about how they can't afford to order pizza. They're cheap - if you buy in bulk, you could score yours for 10 cents a pack. And they've become a part of the college culture. (Just ask "Stuff College People Like.")

But that doesn't mean they have to be boring. Sure, you may enjoy the simplicity of the instant noodles' traditional flavors: beef, chicken and shrimp. One New York chef, however, has made a name for himself serving up ramen at his East Village restaurant. The dishes David Chang creates are made with homemade noodles, something we don't expect you to try in your dorm room, but it's the flavors and toppings that make his versions stand out - meat that simmers for hours, dried fish and pork, seasoned in a broth that makes the noodles more like a hearty soup. Chang's new book, "Momofuku," gives away his secrets to making the fancy ramen and other dishes that sound delicious but probably aren't as straightforward to put together, like kimchi stew with rice cakes and shredded pork.

So what can you do to spice up your own campus version? You can play with toppings first. If you're a cheese fiend, try some shredded cheddar next time you're about to dive into that bowl of hot chicken-flavored ramen. Drizzle some hot sauce onto your noodles if you like them with a bit of a kick. Or if you're somewhat ambitious, cook up your own vegetables to supplement the crunchy flakes that come in the packages.

You don't need to be a master chef to make do with the things that are probably already in your room or apartment, or to make those college staples like ramen instant noodles more interesting and appetizing. Brows through our site for ideas on not only college cooking and what should be on your grocery list, but eating on a budget. While you probably have more options at college than anywhere else in terms of finding cheap food options, it could be even less expensive to buy things on your own and prepare them the old-fashioned way. If you have access to a kitchen, stock up on the basics like rice and pasta and frozen vegetables and you could be coming up with your own easy (budget) recipes on a regular basis. If you're living in a dorm but have access to a microwave, by all means pick up that ramen.


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