By Melissa Lee
“You are what you eat” means the food you choose to consume daily is part of your identity. If you think food is merely fuel, think again. Food can tell you so much about a person: their ethnic background, family background, financial
situation, and health condition. Parasite, the Korean Oscar-winning film directed by Bong Joon-Ho, portrayed the class disparities through aesthetics, architecture, body odors, and food. One dish that I saw in this movie and can never forget was the ram-don noodle.
This movie is about the Kims, a low-income family who tricked their way into working for the wealthy Park family. The Parks left the house for a camping trip and decided to drive back home because it was raining. On their way back, Mrs. Park calls her housekeeper, Mrs. Kim, to request that she prepare a bowl of ram-don noodles for her young son and have it be ready by the time they arrive home. Mrs. Kim hung up, confused. She didn’t know what ram-don noodles were. So, she threw together two types of instant noodles and some hanu steak cubes. Mrs. Park was pleased and ate the entire bowl.
You might be wondering what ram-don noodles are just like Mrs. Kim. One day, I was listening to a podcast interview with Mangchi, the Korean YouTube star, and even she was baffled by this word since she has never heard of it. After watching the movie, she said ram-don is basically jjapaguri—a combination of two types of instant noodles. The term “ram-don” was invented for the film by subtitle translator, Darcy Paquet, as the actual Korean name for the dish, jjapaguri, which was too difficult to translate for an English-speaking audience. Paquet figured audience members would be familiar with “ramen” and “udon,” and so he mashed up the two.
What made the ram-don noodles cooked for the Park family special was the hanu steaks—a premium Korean beef, similar to Japanese wagyu. Hanu steak can be twice the cost of beef imported from Australia or the U.S., and the Park family can casually request a good amount of this beef at any occasion, even to add to the humble instant noodles. Because of the high-quality steak, this ram-don noodle is not your average midnight snack.
I was intrigued by this dish, but I don’t want to break our bank to replicate it. I also want to make it healthier, so I decided to add vegetables to brighten the dish and serve it with gochujang meatballs. Ground meat and gochujang glaze are more affordable than hanu or wagyu steak. The price is less than half, but the deliciousness is doubled, especially when you cook this dish with love!
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Feeds 4 People
List of the tools and special equipment:
- Cutting board
- Chef’s knife
Measuring cups and spoons
Heavy bottom large sauté pan
- Paper towels
- Metal spatula
- Rubber spatula
- Medium-large pot to cook noodles
2 packages Chapagetti noodles
2 packages Neoguri noodles
1 ½ cups Beef broth, unsalted (homemade is best but store-bought will work)
1 ea. English cucumber
1 ea. Red bell pepper
2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. Canola oil
1 bunch Scallions, sliced thin
1 ea. Lime, cut into 4 wedges
1 Recipe of our Gochujang meatballs
- Split the cucumber in half with a knife. Heat a heavy bottom sauté pan on high heat. Put in 1 tsp. of the canola oil, and using a paper towel, wipe the oil leaving just a thin layer. The pan should be smoking hot. Place the cucumber flat side down and press down with a metal spatula leaving the pan on high heat. Once the cucumber has a good char on the flat side, remove it from the pan and place on the cutting board to cool. Clean the sauté pan to cook the peppers.
- Cut the red bell pepper in half, remove the stem, seeds, and ribs. Cut the bell pepper into ½” strips. In the large sauté pan on high heat, add in 2 tbsp. of canola oil and let the oil heat to smoking. Carefully add in the peppers and leave on high heat. Continue to cook until the peppers are soft and have a good char but not completely burnt. Moderate the pan heat as needed. Line a plate with a paper towel and lay out the peppers on the plate to cool.
- Once the cucumber is cooled, cut it into half-moon shapes about ½” thick. Add to the peppers and keep aside.
- In a medium-large saucepot, bring 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add the instant noodles and stir to make sure they cook evenly. Cook the noodles for about 2-3 minutes. Test a noodle to make sure it is al dente. Drain the cooked noodles into a colander.
- In the same pot add in the 1 ½ cups of unsalted beef broth. Turn on medium heat. Add in the black bean-seasoning packet from the Chapagetti and only half of the seasoning powder from the neoguri package. If you like it spicy, add the whole pack from the Neoguri package. Bring the sauce to a boil.
- Add in the meatballs and cook for 2 minutes to warm them through.
- Add in the cooked noodles to the pot of meatballs and sauce. Continue to simmer to reduce the sauce and coat the noodles and meatballs, stirring often with a rubber spatula.
- Add in the cut charred cucumber and peppers and fold in the noodles with a rubber spatula. Add in the oil pack from the Chapagetti at the end and fold together. Finish by folding in the thinly sliced scallions, reserving some to place on top.
- Place the noodles into four bowls with the meatballs. Put some of the sliced scallions on top. Serve with the lime wedge on the side and kkakdugi radish banchan. Serve immediately
This dish is best served fresh but could be cooled, stored in the refrigerator, and reheated with a little bit more beef broth or a touch of water in a pan over medium-low heat until hot. A microwave to reheat would work as well.
Cooking noodles should be done in plenty of boiling water and stirred often to promote even cooking. We do not season the water to cook the noodles because the sauce has so much salt and flavor.
Other seasonal vegetables can be added to the dish as well. Carrots, squash, cauliflower, or whatever is fresh and best looking at your local store would work. We add some char to the vegetables to add a dimension of flavor. We suggest you use whatever vegetable you prefer.
This dish is traditionally done with a seasoned and high-quality cut of cooked steak. We are just putting our twist on the recipe with the spicy gochujang meatballs.
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Here are the Amazon affiliate links for you to order the ingredients and tools to create this delicious dish.