Our “Halloween meets ramen” challenge might have been the trickiest yet. Seattle Times readers were tasked with making a dish from leftover Halloween candy, a cake of dried instant ramen, avocado and sesame seeds, with a directive to transform and elevate the ramen. As an added bonus, we enlisted the help of Mutsuko Soma, chef and owner of Kamonegi, to judge the top 12 entries and name winners.
Here are Soma’s picks.
In third place: Ariadne the Ramen Cake, by Paul Shapiro
“This was a joint effort with my stepdaughter, Anya, who recently arrived from Anchorage, Alaska, and my daughter Osani. Though ‘Ariadne the Ramen Cake’ looks peculiar, it is actually four stacked molten lava cakes covered in avocado buttercream frosting. I crushed half of a ramen cake into powder to substitute for flour in the lava cake recipe and melted three Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for the batter, with a sprinkle of toasted black sesame seeds. Once the body was formed, I heated the ramen in a sugar syrup with purple food coloring. I laughed so hard as we created the ‘look’ of Ariadne (or is it the clown from ‘It’?) and voilà — a witch’s brew of a cake sprinkled with sesame and surrounded with Jelly Bellies. It was a challenge to get the family to eat the cake, as they were afraid to cut into it, but it was so good, ‘it was to die for.’ HA-HA … Trick or treat!”
Chef Soma’s comments:
“I love this! This person has carried the Halloween spirit over with the challenge and the cake looks like Pennywise from ‘It’! OMG how scary! The cake and how it is made requires time, and the person has spent time to make the avocado into a buttermilk frosting and food-colored the ramen to look like hair as well! This dessert is spooky enough to scare my daughter if I made this for her! Very spooky and creative.”
In second place: Sesame prawn and avocado in a crunchy ramen tangle with Smarties sour sauce, by Kathy Hunt
“My daughter and I have been taking the opportunity to connect (and compete) with (the Pantry Kitchen Challenge) and look forward to each new challenge. We bounce ideas off each other and then get together on Monday nights to destroy the kitchen in a massive trial-and-error extravaganza. … On this challenge we had both instantly thought of cheesecake to start, but she called dibs and then bailed because if we had both thought of it, then perhaps everyone else had. … We focused in on the idea of ‘leftover’ Halloween candy. Chocolate is never in that category at our house. It’s Smarties, Dots, Dum Dums and candy corn that we still have rattling around till February. (Two hours later, I couldn’t get the Dots to melt, so perhaps we shouldn’t put them in our bodies.) But, the Smarties surprisingly worked well for sweet-and-sour sauce. Deep-fried rehydrated ramen is a game changer and will be revisited for sure! Since I’m not making the Almond Joy cheesecake, I guess I get to eat the entire bag of candy myself. Bon appétit!”
Chef Soma’s comments:
“This dish looks very good! I can see this on my menu at Kamonegi. I like how the person thought of the balance and acidity of the dish and used Smarties to create the sweet-and-sour sauce. Congratulations! I probably like this more than the cheesecake idea you would have originally done. Enjoy the leftover Almond Joy.”
The winner is: Ramen, black and white sesame seeds and PayDay brittle cookie cups with avocado ice cream, by Laurie Kenneth
“I tried to push my creativity here while still making the dish ramen-forward. … For the bowls: I cooked the brown rice (I’m gluten-free) ramen noodles from King Soba, drained and patted them dry, then formed little nests on a baking sheet covered with parchment. I generously sprinkled the noodle nests with the black and white sesame seeds. … PayDay candy bars are sort of a caramel nougat center rolled in peanuts which I thought would make a great brittle. I melted the candy bars down with some added butter and sugar, then incorporated gluten-free flour and vanilla. This mixture was then spooned over the noodles and sesame seed nests and baked until they looked like brittle. Once they had cooled a bit but were still warm, I formed them into cups by draping the brittle cookies over small, greased Mason jars until they cooled.
The ice cream was so easy and delicious (with) only four simple ingredients. I whipped one cup of heavy cream and set it aside. I then mixed two avocados, the zest and juice of one lime and a can of condensed milk until combined. I folded that mixture into the whipped cream and then put it in my ice cream maker to process. The result was amazingly light in texture and super creamy with the perfect amount of lime flavor. It was a nice refreshing element contrasted with the nutty brittle cookie bowl.”
Chef Soma’s comments:
“Presentation, creativity, probably taste and utility of all ingredients are top notch! All the ingredients used have purpose and are showcased in this one dish. This dish looks amazingly good and I would not be surprised if it was served to me at a restaurant. Hats off to you, chef! Congratulations.”
Here are the other nine entrants who made the top 12. Thanks for playing, everyone! See below for details on Round 4.
Season 2, Round 4: The “Back of the Freezer” Challenge
In the spirit of minimizing food waste, Round 4’s wild card rule is simple: Rummage around in your freezer and find the oldest ingredient in it. Use that. (No cheating!) Use it with these three other ingredients and show us what you can make!
- The oldest (safely edible) item in your freezer. Include a picture of it in your photo if you can!
- Hot dogs (or veggie dogs)
- You have to use all four ingredients. You can use as many additional ingredients as you desire.
- Wild card rule for Round 4: You have to use the oldest edible item you find in your freezer. Also, provide an estimation of how long you think it’s been there.
- Deadline: Create a dish, tell us how successful you were and email photos (JPEG files!), your recipe and a description of your dish to food editor Stefanie Loh (email@example.com) by Friday, Nov. 13.
- Judging will be based on creativity, how well you incorporated the four ingredients, presentation and adherence to the wild card rule. We’ll select several of the most interesting submissions to be published in a future edition of The Mix.
Pantry Kitchen Challenge Season 2 Round 3 Best Reader Submissions
To download a PDF of recipes from this round, click here.
“After checking Chef Soma’s Instagram, I found she had covered most of the concepts I was considering. Then, after watching pastry week on ‘The Great British Baking Show,’ I got the idea to make a tart! Have I ever made one? No, but there is a first time for everything. In order to elevate the ramen, I decided to use it in three components. Since it was not yet Halloween, I decided to have my leftover candies be my favorite — Mounds — and least favorite — candy corn. To avoid total disasters of everything failing together, I prebaked my crust, and made pudding fillings, rather than a baked custard.
All told, there were five packages of ramen used, two for crust, one for pudding and two for topping. I used the soy sauce flavor packet in both the ramen, custard and the brittle to make ‘salted’ caramel. I used the avocado to make a chocolate mousse and used that as a topping over the ramen, much like the sour cream topping of a cheesecake. It helped stick the ramen topping to the tart.
The tart looked beautiful and tasted very good. The brittle on top was outstanding; I think I invented the next caramel corn.”
— Kevin Rochlin
Mummy chicken in ‘midnight’ sauce
“I don’t know if anyone ever thought to wrap ramen noodles around chicken before, and I can’t say it was easy, but it made for a crunchy, tasty twist on chicken satay. For the Halloween candy, my mind went to my favorite, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but it was when thinking of a way to get the ramen to stick to the chicken that I thought to melt down some Jolly Ranchers for a sticky, fruity glaze. I tried using a double boiler at first, but that wasn’t working. It went far better over low-medium heat directly on the burner. With avocado stuffed within the chicken, the glaze and seasonings on, then the ramen, they were ready for the oil. My oil was too hot at first and burned the noodles black in seconds. Adjustments were made. As for the sauce, mixing some favorite Asian flavors in with the chocolate and peanut butter yielded a really flavorful sauce that didn’t taste much like candy. Surprisingly tasty! And my wife is already asking for me to make it again.”
— Doug Walsh
Top Ramen tiramisu
“Leftover Halloween candy, really? How do you define ‘leftover’?
We played around with several ideas (note: you can’t melt Swedish Fish), finally settling on elevating Top Ramen into elegant tiramisu. Think of this as Japan visiting Italy on the Mediterranean. First, how to replicate the slightly crispy, yet soft, ladyfinger? We fried the ramen until toasty, then dipped the sizzling ramen in locally made Brown Sugar Bourbon and strong coffee. We then spread a sweet tahini made from sesame seeds and ‘leftover’ peanut butter cups on to the cakes. Tiramisu also needs layers of creamy goodness, so we blended mascarpone cheese with avocado and folded it into a Chantilly cream. The delicious cream mixture was spread over the tahini-covered, bourbon-soaked ramen ‘fingers,’ and repeated for a second layer. Finely grated peanut butter cups topped the decadent dessert. It was, as a neighbor described, ‘oddly delicious.’ Lightly sweet, certainly elegant — we think it’s about time Top Ramen took a trip into the realm of high-class desserts!”
— Steve Venard and Cathy Martin
Chocolate avocado pie dream
“This layered pie sits on a base of toasted ramen, sesame seeds and coconut. It is then covered with a layer of Mounds candy, followed by a creamy middle with chocolate, avocado and coconut. It’s then piled high with a tahini maple, ramen and coconut cluster topping! It’s a superbly rich pie with just the right amount of sweet, savory and crunch! Who knew ramen could taste so good?!”
— Toni Hudson
Ramen poutine with pumpkin mole
“I pondered, ‘What have I never done with ramen before?’ At first, I was leaning toward some sort of California roll-inspired dish. After seeing some ramen fries on the internet, I found my inspiration. We’ve been turning everything into poutine! Well, loaded fries, technically, since we don’t always use cheese curds. But we make corned beef poutine, cheeseburger poutine, and now, ramen poutine! I made a mole sauce with the sesame seeds and some Halloween candy. Then, I made the ramen fries and assembled it.”
— Michelle Christensen
“Halloween candy and ramen instantly made me think of childhood. And while my home state of Iowa is not known for unique local cuisine (we’ll save the discussion of taco pizza for another day), there is one treat every Iowa kid knows and loves, that doesn’t seem to make it out of the Midwest — the Scotcheroo. Scotcheroos are a delicious concoction of peanut butter, butterscotch and chocolate, and as far as I can tell, everyone uses the exact same recipe. So while it seemed a little wrong to mess with an icon, I took my inspiration from the Scotcheroo and ran with it! The ramen adds a crunch to the chewy peanut butter base. I then separated the chocolate and butterscotch into two layers and made a homemade sesame butterscotch — I was surprised at how well the nuttiness of the sesame went with sweet butterscotch, and I liked the gooey contrast of this layer with the harder ramen/peanut butter layer. Finally, I used avocado instead of heavy cream to make a ganache out of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for the top, which tasted and held up better than it sounds. I also made this recipe as a small batch for these pandemic times when it’s harder to share baked goods!”
— Susannah Lewis
Choux au Craquelin
“Got flour? No, because flour is out at the grocery store — talking to you, COVID-19! Grind up those packets of ramen noodles and make ramen flour, duh. I made my Choux au Craquelin with a sweet chocolate and avocado mousse filling. My mom sent me my grandma’s cream puff recipe and I was off to choux pastry testing. The cookie top elevates ramen to a whole new level. Pick your favorite Halloween candy for bottom of the puff. Try not to eat all of them yourself! I prefer the smaller, two-bite puffs, yum!”
— Vicki Schuman
“I hope this recipe appeals to your inner child and also makes you think ‘hmmmmmm!’
I made ‘Ichi-Ichi,’ not an It’s-It, which is a Northern California ice cream sandwich!
I took the ramen and cooked as directed, and while still warm in a mixing bowl, I added four dark chocolate Hershey’s mini chocolate bars, two milk chocolate Hershey’s miniature bars and two mini Hershey’s Krackel bars! I also added one egg and some flour. I baked them at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes, then cooled and froze.
I mashed avocado (12 ounces), added a tablespoon of lemon juice, a half-cup of baking sugar, 1 cup half-and-half and a half-cup water. I blended it thoroughly, then slowly added 1 cup heavy whipping cream. I chilled the avocado mixture until cold and then froze.
Next was assembly: I put some of the avocado ice cream on one ramen cookie. Then put another ramen cookie on top to make an ice cream sandwich. Then I rolled the sides of the ice cream in black and white sesame seeds. Voilà!!! Yumminess! Not an It’s-It … but still very tasty!”
— Wendy Kan