I never really knew a lot of students who lived on ramen, but I do know a lot of struggling actors and artists as well as social workers who have difficulty making ends meet. There are ways to keep within a ramen budget without ingesting the high salt content of what comes in a packet. Here's one I particularly liked.
Sponge gourd looks like a giant english cucumber, but it is quite soft on the inside (thus the name.) In Asia, it is often used in soups, or with sautéed chicken or shrimp and rice vermicelli.
For this version, I imagined it would be difficult for some to get a specific asian noodle unlike ramen which is available almost anywhere in the world. If you can't get fresh ramen where you are, don't fret. Use the dried noodles that come in a pack, but discard the seasoning that comes with it.
• 1/4 lb ground pork. (You can use sliced chicken as a subsitute.)
• 1 large carrot
• 1 sponge gourd
• Scallions for garnish
• Dried anchovies (optional)
• Salt & Pepper
• Ramen noodles
Peel the sponge gourd and cut at an angle about 1/4 inch thick. Peel carrots and cut the same way.
In a small pot, boil water.
In a shallow pan in medium to high heat, drizzle oil. Add carrots and sauté until tender. Add ground pork (or sliced chicken). When browned, add sponge gourd. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
When water in pot is boiling, add ramen. (Fresh ramen cooks almost instantly.) If using dried ramen, boil only until tender. Do not overcook. it should have some springy texture when you lift with a fork. Drain thoroughly., Place in a bowl and add sponge gourd and pork topping. Finish with sliced scallions and optional dried anchovies.*
TIP: *Dried anchovies are available in a lot of grocery stores. It usually comes in a plastic container and is salt preserved. You can fry the anchovies in a little bit of oil. I do suggest that if you are going this route to skip seasoning with additional salt. The salty fish also adds a crunchy texture which works well with the texture and sweetness of both the carrots and the gourd.
An alternative is to mix a two tablespoons of soy sauce, a drizzle of sesame oil and a pinch of sugar. Toss together with ramen and topping.
SPONGE GOURD OVER RAMEN
In Case You Want to Know
The Sponge gourd is a cylindrical fruit that grows on a climbing, herbaceous vine. It has a smooth, green skin when young, and may feature ridges or ridge lines that run across the skin of the fruit. The Sponge gourd grows up to 60 centimeters long, but is harvested as a vegetable when it is young and tender, at around 12 centimeters in length. The Sponge gourd contains many seeds, which can be around 1.5 centimeters in length. The seeds are also edible but are usually removed before the flesh is eaten. The interior flesh of the Sponge gourd is smooth and creamy-white. Sponge gourd has a mild, zucchini-like sweet taste and a silky texture. Mature fruits are not tasty, being fibrous, bitter and brown. More