Leftover Lunches - Pulled Pork Ramen Noodles

Leftovers. Ever since I was in college, I found one of the most cost efficient ways to eat was to make a vat of soup, spaghetti or casserole a la whatever and eat on leftovers for a week. I didn't mind eating the same thing for multiple meals a day, multiple days in a row. Leftovers for Chad are another issue. It’s not that he won’t eat leftovers, because he certainly will, especially to avoid food waste. But he doesn’t love eating the same thing every meal for 7 days in a row if he doesn’t have to. 

Ever since we’ve been together, I’ve tried to start re-inventing our leftovers rather than just re-heating them. This particular day, we had some leftover pulled pork and Chad was craving "spicy ramen" for his clogged sinuses....this viral season has been killer.

As I adapted in college by eating leftovers, Chad ate ramen. And yes, I mean the amazingly cheap, $0.95 per package deal at the convenience store that is every college kid’s best friend. He buys some of every flavor and keeps them around or cooks them in different ways. He's even featured in a local cookbook for a ramen dessert deemed "Poor College Kid's Dessert" (don't get too excited, it's literally ramen noodles with chocolate syrup and marshmallows). He claims it is delicious.

I'll take his word for it. 

Okay… despite being 100% Asian heritage, I rarely cook Asian food. Everyone once in a while, I throw in a Pad Thai or pho, but beyond that, the only other dishes are sweet and sour pork or Korean salad (that is in no discernible way, Korean). These are both family recipes, keeping in mind that I am adopted into a beautiful, predominantly Italian/Irish/European mix family. Trust me, they cook delicious food. But we lack a little in this department. These recipes are definitely...Americanized. However, cooking more authentic Asian cuisine is something I have always wanted to do more of and knowing my husband loves ramen, this was a good challenge.

I’ve included what I had as leftovers and what I had on hand in my pantry. You’re welcome to try this recipe as a fresh dish, but I’d recommend a few changes in that case (noted below) to further develop the flavor. You’re also welcome to change in and out vegetables based on what you have access to.

I will also note that Chad doesn't love broth (one of the things we disagree on is our love for soup, which I am working on), so you will see less broth in our bowls. If you're like most ramen lovers, this is an important component, so you will spend more time on developing the flavor and pile it on!

Final tip: once you get started, this recipe actually moves fairly quickly until you get to the broth. Make sure to have all your veggies cut. One that oil heats up, it's game on!

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Pulled Pork Ramen Noodles
The leftovers:
- Pulled pork (you can use whatever protein or tofu you’d like)
- Roasted broccoli
- Boiled eggs

The fresh/pantry additions:
- 2-3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2-3 Carrots, thinly sliced on the bias
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated or minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup sweet white onion, fine dice
- 1-2 tablespoons of mirin
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- Ramen package (I used pork since I was adding pulled pork as my protein, but there are various flavors)
- About ½ of ramen flavor packet in about 2-2½  cups of hot water

*Things I wish I’d had on hand to add and would recommend if making from scratch or if you have: mushrooms (dried are best – they pack the most flavor punch), jalapenos and green onions/scallions to garnish

  1. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of sesame oil in a skillet/wok.
  2. Add carrots first, as these take the longest to cook. Sauté carrots until tender, but not mushy (a few minutes).
  3. Add in onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for 1-2 minutes until aromatic and soft.
  4. Add in mirin and soy sauce along with rest of sesame oil for flavor and cook for a minute or two for the flavors to combine.
  5. Add in ramen flavored water (or chicken/veggie stock if you have this). You can always add more ramen flavoring if you’d like, but I find this gets salty fast. If you find you’ve overdone the saltiness, add either a dash more mirin or water to dilute and balance the flavors. *If you have mushrooms (dried would be best), add them now and allow them to simmer and infuse the broth.
  6. Add ramen noodles and cook until the noodles are tender – usually a couple of minutes.
  7. Add in cooked broccoli and pulled pork last just to warm through – not to cook.

Serve with jalapenos (if you have – or you could add them to the broth ahead of time), fresh herbs such as sliced green onions. I also gave Chad some sriracha and red pepper flakes for added heat, but this is optional. Top with soft boiled egg (you can use hard if you prefer, but I think besides the broth, the soft boiled egg is a quintessential part of true ramen).

Enjoy your re-imagined and re-vamped leftovers!