We needed to know if the idea is worth the almost non-existent level of effort.
Most people would say that a bowl of instant noodles makes for a pretty serviceable meal when you’re feeling too lazy to cook. However, you’re supposed to boil water to make instant ramen, udon, or other Japanese noodles, and if you put as much work into being lazy as we do, you might be of the mind that having to use fire in any way still constitutes cooking.
“Isn’t there a way to make noodles that takes even less effort?” we asked aloud. And then, as though they could hear our lamentations, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department gave us an answer.
The police department’s Disaster Response Division often sends out tips about how to cope with the aftermath of earthquakes and other disasters. Recently, it sent out a reminder that if you’re left without any way to boil water, you can still make instant ramen with lukewarm water.
This method takes a little longer, though. The standard cooking time (i.e. using hot water) for instant ramen is three minutes, but the tweet said that it’ll take 15 with room-temperature water. We wondered, though, what would happen if we instead used Donbe, a popular brand of instant udon.
See, Donbe recommends a longer-than-usual five minutes of cooking with hot water, which made us unsure if it could be made with lukewarm liquid instead. There was only one way to find out, so we peeled back the lid and filled the bowl with water from the SoraNews24 headquarters’ water cooler.
This particular Donbe is kitsune udon-style, and so it comes with a dried slice of fried tofu. Ordinarily, it’s a tasty extra, but we weren’t sure how it’d turn out in our experiment, since usually the steam from the hot water helps return the tofu to its proper, non-dried state.
Donbe gets part of its flavor from a liquid soup packet that’s meant to be poured into the bowl after the noodles are done cooking. You’re supposed to place it on the closed lid as the noodles cook, so that the rising heat will warm the liquid up. However, since that wasn’t going to happen with our room-temperature water cooking method, we simply used the soup packet as a weight to keep the lid closed as our noodles soaked.
We then let the noodles sit for 40 minutes. Some might argue that since the Tokyo Metropolitan Police recommend 15 minutes instead of three to make instant ramen with this method, we should have used the same conversion ratio and soaked our Donbe, which usually takes five minutes, for 25 minutes, not 40. However, please keep in mind that as the sort of people who’re too lazy to boil water, we were also too lazy to do multi-step arithmetical computations until it was time to write our formal report.
And so 40 minutes after we’d closed the lid, we peeled it back. It’s a strange thing opening the lid to a bowl of instant noodles and not having steam rise up to meet you, but on the other hand, the lack of vapor gave us a clear view of our tofu, which had become as fluffy as it does when you make Donbe with hot water.
As for the noodles, they weren’t 100-percent the same as they are with the normal method, but they’re not bad at all. Compared to Donbe made with the orthodox method, the noodles came out feeling firmer, but not entirely unlike Italian-style al dente pasta.
The experiment turned out tasty enough that we had two hungry staff members wanting to eat our extra-lazy udon.
But like we said, this technique isn’t just for lethargic noodle fans. It’s also a good thing to know if you find yourself without gas or other ways to cook following a utilities-damaging disaster.
It also sounds like an easy way to enjoy some instant noodles during a hike or other outdoor excursion if you’re not lugging a cooking stove with you…which we’ll have to make a note of in case we ever find ourselves feeling energetic enough to partake in such activities.
[ Read in Japanese ]