A meal is like a child in that even if you follow the instructions and handle with care and keep it from getting burned, people might still think it’s ugly and you’re in way over your head.
I love ugly food. And ugly babies, though that’s like being a fan of true crime—something you have to appreciate like, on a holistic level, without focusing on specifics.
I found the basis for this recipe in Great Tasting Stir-Fries And More, a 1996 cookbook meant to hawk brands like Dole and Lipton and Kikkoman. Nestled within are gems like Kahlua Chicken and Tuna Fried Rice. We’ll become very intimate with this book in coming months.
This dish can be made in one skillet in just a few steps—which makes this a great food option and you a great adult if you choose, with your limited energy, to make this instead of going without or eating something you know will disagree with you later.
As unappetizing as this looks, my roommate liked the sample she had enough to trade me part of her pizza for it. And that pizza, friends, HAD CHEESE BAKED INTO THE CRUST. THIS IS AN ECONOMIC CONTENDER.
1 pound lean ground beef
2 packages ramen noodles (beef or oriental)
2 cups water
2 cups broccoli
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1/8 teaspoon minced ginger (optional)
HOW IT’S MADE
1. Put some oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Put in the ground beef, and cook until it’s no longer pink. Use a spatula or spoon with holes to transfer the ground beef into a bowl. Drain the fat from the frying pan; take a ramen seasoning packet and mix it with the ground beef. Keep it in the bowl.
2. Back to the frying pan. Oil, medium heat again. Brown the garlic and ginger. Like, a minute and a half, tops. Pour the water, broccoli, and ramen noodles, broken up into chunks, and the other flavoring packet. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat. Cover, and simmer for at least 3 minutes. I went longer, because I like my ramen noodles on the slimy side. Stirring keeps the noodles from sticking to the pan.
3. Return beef to the pan, and heat through.
It’s not something you’d pay for in a restaurant or have delivered for date night, but it’s got protein and vegetables and iron and, perhaps most important of all, calories to keep you going.
If you want to spruce this up, you can stir-fry the broccoli in between the ginger/garlic step and throwing in the noodles and water. You can also trade out the broccoli for a frozen stir-fry vegetable medley.
If you want to make a vegan variant on this, the blue “Oriental” flavor of ramen is vegan, or at the very least contains neither animal stock or “natural flavors”, where a lot of animal byproduct is slipped into food unaccounted for.
You’re not a failure if your food isn’t always photogenic. With the right lighting, green Jell-O with shrimp encased within can be photogenic. If it tastes good and it keeps you in the fight, that’s all that matters.*
*Void if you’re cooking for someone you met off Tinder and OkCupid and trying to convince them they should tickle your feet while fingering you and that you are absolutely worth how unusual such an activity may seem to them. Then how your food looks is sorta important. If you’re inviting a beautiful stranger into your home to sensually humiliate you, go ahead and spring for the stir-fry vegetable medley.