Category Archives: Dirt Cheap Lunch Challenge

Super Quick and Easy Tamago Udon

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned my love for the hand-made tamago udon that I had for breakfast in Japan. Well I found a couple of decent recipes online and thought I’d have a go at it myself. This is almost too simple to call a “recipe” as the difficulty level is probably only one step up from instant ramyun. But that’s the beauty of it, super simple, quick and easy to make for those lazy, lonely nights at home. You only need four ingredients:

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First, the eggs. I did some research online about salmonella poisoning and the internet recommends that you use fresh, organic eggs to minimise the risk.

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I’m not actually sure whether these eggs are organic… I just assumed they were the safest available eggs because:

1. I bought them at a health food store

2. There are green leaves and grass on the packaging.

3. They were expensive.

How bad could a bout of salmonella poisoning be anyway? Nothing a few days on the toilet and a course of antibiotics won’t fix.

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Fresh udon noodles – conveniently sold as a single serving size. Koreans like putting udon noodles in a lot of things, so these are really easy to come by. If you’re living in a non-asian country, fresh udon shouldn’t be too hard to find if you can access a Korean grocery or other asian supermarket.

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This is hon tsuyu. I figured this would do the job since I don’t want to bother making a dashi from scratch just for one bowl of noodles. Hon tsuyu is normally used as a dipping sauce, and is diluted when used as a soup stock. However, since I just want to add flavour to my noodles, I will simply add a couple of tablespoons to my cooked noodles.

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Spring onion. WAY more than I needed, but the store didn’t have a smaller bunch.

And here is the cooking process in three ridiculously easy steps:

1. Cook udon noodles (for however long it says on the pack… around 4 minutes should do)

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3. Drain noodles. Do not rinse because you want the warm noodles to cook the egg slightly.

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3. Crack an egg on top, throw in a handful of chopped spring onion, and add two tablespoons of the hon tsuyu.

THE END!

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Looks pretty boring from here, but let me tell you, the simple combination of raw egg, hon tsuyu and spring onion is like an umami explosion in your mouth. It confirms that raw egg is the world’s greatest condiment.

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The egg white gets a bit foamy, which sadly makes the dish look a bit soapy. Next time I’m going to try and track down some tempura flakes (tenkasu) and use wider spring onions, so they are more easily caught by the noodles and chopsticks.

This now officially one of my favorite things to make when I am home alone and don’t feel like cooking. It is much easier and quicker than cooking rice or making a sandwich and I think it would be hard to beat in terms of the cost+effort+time to taste+enjoyment ratio. That is, assuming you don’t get a nasty salmonella infection.*

* Has anyone actually ever contracted salmonella from a raw or undercooked egg in recent history? I would really like to know. I’m starting to think it’s an urban legend.
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Dirt Cheap Lunch Challenge #2

Lunchtime is EASILY the best part of the day. But you know what makes lunch even MORE fun??? DIRT CHEAP LUNCH CHALLENGE!!

Initially, I only added “challenge” to the title of this series because it sounded catchy. But the other day, as I was marching to meet my friend for lunch, with nothing but five bucks in my wallet and a world of dirt cheap possibilities in front of me – I felt like a girl on a mission! In the morning, I had debated whether or not to pack my lunch because I knew the food court where we had arranged to meet (MLC Centre) would not have a lot of dirt cheap options – but then I thought, hold up, a challenge isn’t mean to be easy! I am going to circle this high-roller food court like a hungry vulture until my mission is complete!!

So I did two thorough laps of the food court and the options were truly DISMAL. Unless I wanted to eat a stick of garlic bread or a tofu fritter… the under $5 options were pretty much non-existant. I also realised that if I raise my limit to $6.50 it would make my job a lot easier – but again –  a true challenge is NEVER easy! So I finally decided on a vegetarian pastie from “Live Organic”. It looked fresher than the mass-produced stuff at Muffin Break, but because pastry is teetering on the edge of my “no junk food” rule, I chose vegetarian over the other (much yummier sounding) meat options.

Vegetarian Pastie from Live Organic – $4.50 

Mmmmm not the filling I was expecting!! I was thinking more along the lines of school canteen pastie packed with big chunks of potato, peas and carrot. It was more of a vegie strew in there – lots of tomato, carrot and capsicum. It was just o-kay – and it wasn’t large but it carried me over to dinnertime…. with a little help from 3 Kit Kat fingers, two big handfuls of popcorn and the promise of ramen for dinner.

But this is a challenge. And if my opponent is the high-roller uptown food court, I’ll have to concede that I was bested in this particular battle. You had me this time but one day… one day CHEAPNESS WILL PREVAIL!

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Dirt Cheap Lunch Challenge #1

It is a universal truth that food tastes best when it’s free. “Nothing is as good as mum’s home cooking” isn’t true because of the comfort factor or because “love” is the secret ingredient, it’s because you’re not paying any money for it!!!!

While there IS such thing as a free lunch (sitting through a dull presentation may be considered by some as “payment”, but as far as I’m concerned, the sandwiches that work puts out for lunchtime meetings are free) but they are few and far between. Most of the time we have to settle for the next best thing: DIRT CHEAP LUNCH.

Working in the city, especially towards the north end, its easy to spend $15 just for lunch, and about $20 per day if you include coffee, drinks etc. Cheap lunches are like endangered species. They’re rare, hidden and need to be hunted down by skillfull warriors armed with the helmet of hunger and the sword of stinginess. Many have tried and failed, succumbing to the convenient temptation of paying $10 for one choice and rice at Hokka Hokka or $8.95 for mixed greens and canned tuna at Sumo Salad. I, however, am determined. I am well equipped to take on this challenge because I know that my desire for food and my aversion to spend money are the two strongest forces within me. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

Here marks the start of a new series – I’ll try to do a new one every week. Dirt Cheap Lunch Challenge isn’t an every day challenge – sometimes you need to splurge at Sopra, or get that $9 laksa that is worth every cent of those 9 dollars. But when you’re halfway to pay day and you only have coins in your wallet… Dirt Cheap becomes even more than a challenge… it’s the only option.

I’ll set a few ground rules:

1. “Dirt Cheap” means under $5. Exceptions will be made only where the meal represents RIDICULOUSLY good value.
2. The meal has to be somewhat substantial, not necessarily filling, but at least satisfying. One sushi roll does not count.
3. The meal has to be somewhat healthy. I use the word “healthy” VERY loosely, but this rule is just to cut out 5 x $1 Maccas cheeseburgers or  $5 worth of hot chips. We’re an obese nation, junk food is the cheapest food, so to prevent this turning into a “Super Size Me” challenge, I’m disallowing it.

I’ll start with my current favourite dirt cheap lunch:

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Vietnamese vermicelli salad : rice noodles, lettuce, carrot, shredded cabbage, a generous portion of juicy, marinated chicken pieces topped with fried onions and shallots – in a LARGE takeaway container. Sauce also included. The price? FOUR DORRAS!!! From (where else but) Hunter Connection – which will feature heavily in this series as it pretty much holds a monopoly on dirt cheap lunches in the CBD. Luckily, a certain standard of food hygiene is not one of my ground rules.

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