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Is peanut butter ramen the new pineapple pizza?

Does peanut butter have a role in the instant ramen culture?

Ujjainee Roy | Published 15.02.22, 03:59 PM
When comfort foods align: Peanut butter and ramen — yay or nay?

When comfort foods align: Peanut butter and ramen — yay or nay?

Should you add peanut butter to your ramen just because you can and there’s no one around you to say no? The trend snuck up on social media in the past few weeks and apparently peanut butter ramen is now considered… food? Not dorm food or a kitchen fail, but something chefs are whipping up in their own kitchens!

Mumbai-based chef and recipe curator Guntas Sethi Bhasin for instance, added peanut butter to her sizzling, ASMR-inspired hot oil noodles. Her spicy peanut butter ramen ft. sizzling oil recipe seemed like a flawless quick-fix… until she added a dollop of peanut butter to her chilli oil mix. And it looks… we dare say, good! Her recipe video garnered more than 60K likes on Instagram. Which begs the question: Is peanut butter ramen a thing now?

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Traditionally, several Asian noodles like Pad Thais and street-style sesame peanut noodles are made with peanut-based sauces and are known to feature chunky, whole or crushed peanuts. Peanut butter, however, has a very different presence in our kitchens. It’s the ultimate breakfast condiment, that can effortlessly transition into a zero-effort snack, a late-night dessert, a posh cookie topper, a smoothie mixer, a post-workout munchie, cereal dressing and if you want — maybe even an ice cream topping. 

Peanut butter remains uncontested as a protein-rich table-topping but its potential as a cooking agent is largely unexplored and maybe even a little overwhelming. The butter’s nutty profile goes well with soy and Asian pepper sauces. Texturally, too, it makes a lot of sense because it makes the ramen broth creamier and can tone down the spiciness. But then, we have cheese for that. Can the non-dairy peanut butter replace the stretchy, salty, melty cheese?

Maybe not but food experts are definitely considering its possibilities in the kitchen. Chefs over the world have used peanut-based condiments for cooking Asian recipes, that are known for their distinct nuttiness, be it chicken satays, khow sueys or peanut soups. But bringing it to ramen territory feels almost risque, culinarily at least. Most likely because of the cult status ramen has attained worldwide in the instant food culture. 

Ramen is the ultimate lazy meal with gourmet potential, but adding peanut butter to it is the equivalent of pineapples on a pizza or the stigmatised cheese and fish pairing. Nigella Lawson says both are okay, but ordering it publicly can earn you some flak.

Author and television personality Padma Lakshmi made peanut butter a staple for her pandemic pantry. Canada-based recipe developer Meredith Youngson uses peanut butter to cook a Thai peanut chickpea curry. Youngson also swears by flavour basics such as lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, spices and curry pastes, when it comes to stocking her kitchen.  “That’s half the battle. When inspiration strikes, you’ll be ready!” she said recently. Can peanut butter with its subtle, earthy saltiness really take you to umami land?

For those living on a budget, peanut butter is the easiest protein to add to a bowl of ramen if you don’t have meat, eggs or veggies. Peanut butter is known to contain omega-6 which lowers bad (LDL) cholesterol and increases protective (HDL) cholesterol. Nutritionists often recommend it for weekly meals and college students swear by it. But no other food pairing has divided Twitter so intensely in the recent past.

Last updated on 15.02.22, 03:59 PM
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