Friday, August 12, 2011

Motel Microwave Cuisine For Road Weary Travelers! Chile Tomato Ramen Soup with Ikan Bilis and Wood Ear Mushrooms

     Just about every modern motel room has a microwave oven these days.  When traveling, a microwave oven may be the best choice for a hot healthy meal.  This holds true especially if the driving time extends past normal evening business hours.  In many rural areas in America, small towns go with the old lights out by 10:00PM lifestyle.
     Most restaurants along highways are fast food franchise restaurants.  Fast food is not a very good option for people who drive long distances.  Healthy nutritious choices on a fast food restaurant menu are limited at best.  Roadside diners are good places for soup, salad or a good breakfast.  Avoiding rich food that is loaded with saturated fats can be a problem at diners.  Fancy restaurants are not always an option, because the expensive price of gas limits spending and fine dining restaurants do not always provide casual comfort.  
     Cooking a meal to your liking at a campground or motel is a great way to wind down after driving a long distance.  Cooking your own food while traveling is the best way to avoid food poisoning from dining in restaurants that you may not know the reputation of.  The risk of getting sick from bad food while traveling can be fairly high, especially in states that have cut health inspection budgets.  
     One factor that savvy travelers rely upon for choosing a roadside restaurant is taking a look at the volume of cars in the parking lot.  The more cars in the restaurant parking lot, the better the food must be!  No cars in the parking lot or just a couple of cars in the parking lot can be a sign that the food is not worth checking out.  The brightest lit sign does not always equate to the best food!  
     There are many restaurants along highways that prey on unwitting tourists and travelers for their income, and they could care less about return customers.  Travelers rarely return for a second meal.  Those same kind of restaurants are usually places that the local community clientele avoids.  A restaurant that is full of local community people is usually serving good food.  
     Truck stop restaurants that are busy are good choices.  Truckers are known for driving an extra few hundred miles, just to get to a restaurant that they prefer, rather than to settle for something less.  Truck stops are not like they used to be.  Vegan food and healthy items are on truck stop menus these days, just like anywhere else.  Modern truckers have become health conscious.
     Some tourist traps are a good deal and they sometimes offer good food choices.  All you can eat fish fry restaurants that are near lakes or an ocean are good choices.  I wrote about those kind of restaurants in the "Friday Night Fish Fry" blog entry a few months ago.
     If you ask an experienced business traveler what roadside food is the safest to eat, then you should expect to hear this answer.  Steaks or Italian food!  You cannot go wrong with a good steak.  Italian chefs have a very good sense of quality.  Spaghetti and meatballs by far is one of the most popular meals for experienced travelers.   
     There are stretches of road where there are really no good restaurant choices in sight.  Many rural roadside restaurants close before 9:00 PM.  A sandwich in a sealed plastic container that has been on the shelf at a gas station for far too long is never a good choice for a meal when traveling!  
     Most distance drivers prefer not to mix with local business traffic, just to find a grocery store or fruit stand that sells fresh food.  Convenience stores do offer canned soups, noodles, dried fruits, nuts, canned tuna and lunch meat that can be turned into a reasonably good meal.  Driving on remote highways can leave a traveler with no better choice than to cook a hot meal in a motel room microwave oven.  
    There is a reason why I am writing a few "Motel Microwave Cuisine" recipes.  I am temporarily staying in a motel for one month, before moving back home to Las Vegas where I will be attending school.  Staying in a motel is really boring, especially when saving money for school.  
     So far, the recipes in this food site have been made the old fashioned way with no electronic appliances.  I do not use a microwave in a fine dining restaurant kitchen at all.  I have used microwave ovens in restaurants that were not considered to be fine dining, so I do have some microwave oven cooking experience.  
     For microwaves, it is best to cook meals in stages.  Trying to mimic conventional food cooking techniques with a microwave is a good choice.  Combining microwave reheating techniques with boiling or steaming techniques is the way to go.  Combining canned sauces or soups with fresh or dried ingredients is the easy way to create a tasty nutritious meal.  
     Vegetable dishes can turn out very nice in a microwave if they are not overcooked.  Raw meats and raw seafood are not good choices for microwave cooking, because the microwave can destroy the cellular texture of meat from the inside out.  Reconstituting dried meats and dried seafood in a microwave oven seems to work better than cooking raw meats.  Microwaves are good for reheating pre-cooked or canned meats and that is all.
    This Chile Tomato Raman Soup with Ikan Bilis and Wood Ear Mushrooms recipe is tasty, satisfying and it provide nutrition that a traveler needs.  Some of the ingredients have medicinal benefits.  Ikan bilis translates to sun dried anchovies.  Sun dried anchovies are not "fishy" or salty tasting.  Sun dried anchovies taste nothing like canned anchovies.  They add a nice savory fish flavor to this recipe and they are healthy from a nutritional standpoint.  Dashi broths for miso soups are often made with sun dried anchovies.
     Wood ear mushrooms have many medicinal properties that benefit travelers who are weary from exhaust fumes, new car odors and for those who have tired eyes.  Wood ear mushrooms are often called "meat" in China.  Wood ear mushrooms are a strong antioxidant.  They are good for sore tired eyes.  Wood ear mushroom have anti cholesterol, anti cancer and anti aging properties.  The mushrooms are a strong immune system booster.  They are full of high protein, loaded with nutrients and they have a mild pleasant flavor.  
     Chile peppers have anti pain, anti rheumatism, anti arthritis and anti viral qualities.  Chile peppers are great for relieving stiff joints and sore muscles that come from from driving long distances.  Canned tomato soup is a good source of vitamin C and nutrients.  Ramen noodles are a source of carbohydrates energy that is needed for the next day.
     Packing a bag of non perishable dried and canned food like this is not a bad idea when taking on a long drive on a highway.  If driving past normal business hours and getting stuck in a motel in the middle of nowhere happens, then a nutritious meal can be made with the motel microwave.  For a money conscious traveler, this microwave meal costs less than $1.00 to make!
     The bottom line is that this meal is designed help a tired traveler recover from road fatigue.  This is not a gourmet recipe by any means, but is does taste good!
     Chile Tomato Ramen Soup with Ikan Bilis and Wood Ear Mushrooms:
     Soak 6 to 8 dried wood ear mushrooms in water for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  (Wood ear mushrooms reconstitute quickly.  They will become 10 times as large when reconstituted.)
     Place the reconstituted wood ear mushrooms in a large ceramic bowl.
     Add 1 small handful of sun dried anchovies.
     Add enough water to cook the ramen noodles, later in the recipe.  (about 3 cups)
     Place the bowl in a microwave.
     Cover the bowl with a loose fitting lid.
     Bring the water to a boil on a high heat setting.
     Remove the bowl from the microwave.
     Add the bouillon from the packet that comes with the ramen noodles.  (Shrimp flavor bouillon is best for this recipe.)
     Add the ramen noodles.
     Add 2 pinches of ancho chile powder.
     Return the bowl to the microwave.
     Loosely cover the bowl with a lid.
     Set the timer for enough time to boil the noodles till they are about halfway cooked.
     Add one 10 ounce can of tomato soup.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add a small splash of hot pepper sauce.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Return the bowl to the microwave.
     Loosely cover the bowl with a lid.
     Set the timer and boil the soup till the noodles become tender.
     Allow the bowl to cool to a safe serving temperature.
     Remove the bowl from the microwave.
     Use a fork to transfer the ramen noodles from the cooking bowl into a shallow soup bowl.
     Place the wood ear mushrooms around the noodles, so the mushrooms are against the rim of the bowl.
     Pour the tomato soup and ikan bilis over the ramen noodles.
     Sprinkle a couple pinches of ancho chili powder over the noodles and soup as a garnish.
     Tasty and healthy!  This is a recipe that was designed for a microwave oven.  I used to make home cooked meals that were similar to this when I was driving taxis and limos in Las Vegas.  I guess that makes this recipe professional driver tested!  Driving 300 to 350 miles each day in a Las Vegas taxi is no easy task.  The eye strain is tremendous.  Thats when I learned about how wood ear mushrooms cure sore tired eyes from my fellow Filipino taxi driver friends.
     This recipe is nothing fancy but it does serve a purpose!  ...  Shawna  


  1. I loved ur posts and wat information that u issued is really very usefull for us .. thanks...............
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  2. Thanks!
    After I wrote this, I couldn't believe people liked this post. I was stuck in a motel room in Indiana with only a microwave oven when I wrote this blog entry. Those were some very bad days. I have a microwave in my Las Vegas apartment, but I never use the thing. I should do some better microwave recipes, now that I have a full kitchen again. The ingredients in this recipe are good for giving healthy relief to a road weary driver.