If you had to pick the Official Food of Backpackers—the beloved staple that almost all of us consume at some point during our trail travels—it would probably be gorp. But a close second would be ramen (also the official food of college students). Invented by Japan’s Nissin Foods in 1958, instant noodles are tasty, fast, lightweight, calorie-rich, and cheap (ten packets for $1 is not atypical). In fact, when it comes to sheer number of calories per dollar, only a stick of butter beats them.
The only people who might love ramen more than hikers are the Japanese: In a 2000 poll by the Fuji Research Institute, citizens ranked instant noodles as the No. 1 20th-century Japanese invention—ahead of karaoke (No. 2) and personal stereos (No. 3). Some brands do have questionable ingredients, like the flavoring MSG (it can cause wicked migraines in some people), but groceries now sell all-natural versions, too. But why confine ramen just to dinner? Here are two sweet breakfast and dessert recipes to broaden its culinary horizons.
Cinna-Raisin Breakfast Ramen
1 package ramen (save the flavor packet for another time)
¼ cup brown sugar (add more or less depending on how sweet you like it)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ cup raisins
½ cup of walnuts
In a zip-top bag, mix the sugar, cinnamon, and nuts. Put the ramen and raisins in another bag.
Bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil; add the ramen and raisins. Cover, and set aside for five minutes. Drain the water. Stir in sugar mixture. Enjoy!
**Variation: For extra protein, cook the noodles with a beaten egg.
Ramen Haystacks Recipe from 101 Things to Do With Ramen, by Toni Patrick (Gibbs Smith, 2005)
Heat butterscotch, milk, and butter over low heat until chips are completely melted. Crumble in uncooked ramen (save flavor packet for another use); mix. Place spoon-size balls on wax paper or plates; let cool. Dig in.