3 years to the day, a (then)friend Bharath hauled two large suitcases out of a train at the Bangalore Cantonment station.
They’re the same bags I’d packed that’d taken me to USA on July 29th, 2008 and brought me back on May 19th, 2011.
Why I remember dates is still something I’ve never been able to understand, but these 3 years have taught me a lot.
My first year in Bangalore was mostly spent working very very hard. I also found time on weekends to watch plays, cook lots and lots of food and have friends over pretty much every weekend. I did up my matchbox-1-BHK in quaint little ways, filled with DIY and cheap furniture, to make it that place that for the next couple of years got “Oh, how cool!”, “Yaar, yeh toh GHAR jaisa lagta hai.”
Year 2, I had a boyfriend – the kind I wanted to marry. Life shifted from cooking a lot of seafood and baking pies to cooking red meats and baking all kinds of things he might enjoy eating. I backpacked for a couple of weeks in Europe in 2012 – came back a few kilos heavier. And then put on some more over the course of the year and the next. I worked even harder than I had in 2013 with the exact opposite outcome. I lost a bunch of my confidence at work, in the process.
Year 3, I thought I’d make my own pasta and brew my own beer. I did neither. I thought I’d get a new, cool job. I didn’t. I thought I’d travel more often. I did one trip to Gokarna, that ended on an utterly lousy note. I thought I’d save a lot more money. I failed on that count too.
Here I am, 3 years in a city that I, both, love and hate – 20 kilos heavier than what I was in 2013. And demotivated and under-confident in several ways. It’s not a feeling I’m used to. I’m used to being on top of things. I’m used to being ‘that awesome guy’.
Yet, I’ve grown up in ways I never thought I would.
- I’ve been less frivolous
- I’ve put on a whole bunch of weight, and also ended up with sleepless nights because of chronic backaches, as a result
- I’ve tried looking for a new job, failed miserably and made peace on-and-off with my current job
- I’ve calmed down at work, in the hope that it’ll help me get ahead
- I’ve learnt that there are an unimaginable number of asshole-y people in the world
- I’ve been broke more often than I’d ever imagined
- I’ve read so little, I’m almost ashamed of myself
- I’ve fallen in love
- I’ve lost a large part of the friend in my mother after her sister passed away and become that person who listens to her, instead of being that person who cried to her
- I’ve gotten married
- I’ve put in my life’s savings and paid EMIs for a big home to keep people, who until 2 months ago weren’t even related to me, happy
- I’ve put off travel plans like nobody’s tomorrow
- I’ve pretty much given up cooking altogether
And today, right now, while I type, I feel sad. It’s not a feeling I like. But it’s a feeling I’ve been feeling for many months now.
As someone who enjoys cooking, not being able to try out new stuff in the kitchen hurt a lot 6 months ago. I claim I’ve made my peace with not cooking at all – except the odd time I’m asked to make chapatis for lunch/dinner. But I know that every time a colleague asks how life is after marriage and how lucky I am to not have to cook because I live with my in-laws, my insides churn and my eyes tear up.
I’ve made my peace (or that’s the fancy term I like to use) by baking every other weekend. But I know, in my heart, that it’s a job half done. Because there’s invariably whipped cream sitting around in the fridge until a few days after, or cake batter that got made into cake pops to de-stress at 2 am, midweek.
I’ve made my peace with trying to do other stuff around the house – DIY mostly. I won’t say I’ve been entirely successful with that. But I’m trying very hard to not let that get to me.
So yeah, I’ll let this post be about something we got around to make every once in a while this last year – ramen. Or well, cheat’s ramen.
I don’t know if it came out of a very tired day at work or just a need to use up a bunch of green onions I had lying around in my fridge, and I cooked up a semi-spicy broth – with some miso paste and red chillies, tossed in some chicken and some noodles. That’s when I realized I had something that I could add an egg too, a little garnishing and turn into my very own ramen.
Since then, I’ve come across several articles on the web, about different recipes for ramen – most of which spoke about spending hours (days even!) brewing a broth, several ways of making soupy noodles:
- Serious Eats has a really fun link on how to add hot water to pre-prepped noodles meals
- This posts on Food52 was one of the first few I’d sent to my husband when he was looking for ideas on what he could add to make his own ramen. He ended up making his own schezwan sauce, a recipe for which deserves to be put up here, when he makes it next, and adding some shrimp into his super spicy broth.
Here’s what I usually do:
- Because I’m a sucker for one pot meals, I put some eggs to boil in a pot filled with drinking water. When the eggs are boiled, we usually do hard-boiled eggs at home, (though I’m quite a sucker for the soft-boiled variety too, and your ramen will taste great even with a soft-boiled yolk!), fish the eggs out and let them cool. Keep the water aside, so that you can re-use it to make your broth and boil your noodles!
- Toss a few pods of garlic into a half teaspoon of oil and let them brown. Burnt garlic is awesome. Of course, I make sure to not let it go black. Just a nice, rich, caramelized brown. You know when it’s done, really. It just smells great!
- Grill an onion on your gas stove, in quarters.
- Crush the garlic in with some fresh red chillies (the spicier, the better!)
- Add another half-teaspoon or so of oil to a large pot and add the chilli-garlic paste. Saute for a minute or so.
- Pick a meat. I’ve usually used bite sized pieces of chicken, or large prawns. Just using bacon, works to. Or if you’re vegetarian, you can skip the meat.
- Add the meat into the pot and let it cook for just a little bit. Remember, chicken and prawns both cook really fast and you don’t want to over cook your meat. It’s okay to take them off the heat, even if they’re a little under. They’ll spend a few minutes in the broth and cook later anyway
- Add in some halved mushrooms and slices of radish, if you like, as well. You can add just about any veggie in, really. We’ve done bok choy one time, we’ve done a mix of turnips and radishes another. We’ve omitted veggies altogether one time.
- Add a dash of pepper, and some salt to taste.
- Feel free to strain out the meat and the veggies at this point. I usually do so, to avoid over cooking them.
- Add in the water from your boiled eggs to the pot now.
- I usually have a few sachets of some miso soup powder lying around at home. I mix two sachets (each sachet makes a cup of soup), with a couple of teaspoons of water to make a thick paste and use those as miso paste addition, to my broth.
- Add in a teeny tiny bit of fish sauce, but make sure you don’t make your broth all salty, in the process.
- When the broth is just about to come to a boil, add in a few handfuls of noodles. I usually use a local variety of egg noodles I get at the grocer’s. The noodles usually take only 2-3 minutes to cook. Because the broth contains all of the chilli-garlic paste, the noodles cook in tasty broth too, making them all the more delicious.
- In a pan, add some sugar and a dash of vinegar. Add in the ginger juliennes and let them caramelize to a nice brown colour and take them off the heat immediate, to avoid burning them altogether. My husband came up with this, the first time he made his own ramen and we’ve been adding caramelized ginger to our ramen ever since.
- Add the meat and the veggies into the pot, a minute or two before serving.
- Serve the soupy broth, noodles and meat out into a bowl.
- Garnish with chopped green onions, a few pieces of nori (I usually have some of those handy too!), half an egg, black sesame seeds (just for the colour contrast!)
I’ve written this out in a really goody way, where I’ve listed out the how-to bit and not listed out a generic set of ingredients. Hey, it’s been a while! So, here goes:
The ingredients below make ramen for 3 people.
- 2 cups of a meat of your choice
- 2 tablespoons of miso paste
- 8-10 garlic pods
- 8-10 red chillies
- 4 eggs
- 3 handfuls of egg noodles
- 4-6 cups of water
- A half cup of button mushrooms
- A half cup of thinly sliced rounds of radish
- 1 onion, cut into quarters
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A dash of fish sauce
- 1 cup of green onions, for garnish
- 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds, for garnish
- 3 tablespoons of fresh ginger, julienned
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vinegar
So yeah, this has been a good way to get back to posting on the blog.
The picture at the beginning of this post is something we cooked up on Sunday evening, because my mum-in-law takes time off kitchen duties for Sunday dinner.
This one below is when @to_soham was visiting a few weeks ago.
— Soham Majumder (@to_soham) December 22, 2015
Here’s one from when I tried my hand at summer rolls and made a broth with prawns.
And this last one is one of my first attempts at soupy noodles – a hazy picture with a book that I’ve *still* only read a hundred pages (or so) of.
I don’t know whether the first part of this post is a rant. I don’t mean to bitch about people or cry at my misfortune (which I d0n’t think this is, to begin with) or anything of that sort. I just wish I had been strong enough to have done some things differently last year.
This year, I promise to buy myself a pasta maker. I promise to do more holidays, even if it means doing the odd long drive alone or going for a weekend trip with friends. I also hope to get around to lose those 20 kilos I’ve put on because of stress and poor eating habits. I hope to do better at work and make that jump to a new/better place, if that’s what it takes. I want to bake a lot more on weekends and try and be more productive. I want to read – like I used to in 2013 and 2014. I want to update the blog a lot more. And as hopeless as I sound, at the end of the year, I may not be drastically happier than I am right now, but I’ll try to be a better person.