A longtime neighbor recently called on a busy morning and asked me to come to lunch. I winced because of some early afternoon appointments but she insisted, luring me with the news that she had made a fresh pot of ramen from scratch. We both share the experience of growing up in Hawaii and eating good Asian foods. That was all the push I needed to walk down the street for a meal. Her homemade ramen was perfect, with bits of fresh fish, crunchy bean sprouts and a smooth and delicious broth with just enough salt. It left me craving more. So, this week, our panelists tried some of the instant ramen packages found at local grocery stores and a popular oriental food market. All of the beef-flavored options were prepared on the stovetop and are listed here in order of the judges' favorites.
Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent