By Jason McDowell Creative Director Published Mar 04, 2015 at 11:16 AM

The clock hit 6 p.m., and the sautéed scallions and garlic were just becoming aromatic. As I started pouring 16 cups of water, one by one, into the giant soup pot, I knew I should have started this process at least a half an hour earlier. It was going to take forever for me to boil this much water. I was in the midst of preparing a pot of broth for a ramen soup party. Mercifully, this was about the only mistake of the night.

The rest of the veggies – the mushrooms, the celery, the garlic, scallions and carrots – had all been chopped ahead of time, and the soft-boiled eggs had been bathing in their soy bath since 2 p.m. that afternoon.

Everything was coming together nicely.

A few months ago, my friend’s girlfriend was in town. When I asked him what their plan for the night was, he said, "Meet us for ramen at 11." That’s 11 p.m., and of course he was referring to Red Light Ramen, the after-hours pop-up noodle shop that takes over Ardent’s space on Friday and Saturday nights.

We waited in line in the cold for about a half an hour, and we were happy we did. When the doors opened, there was something of a polite hustle as patrons began nabbing whatever seating they could find. The place instantly packed to the brim. I was temporarily surprised, but it didn’t take long to recognize why. The limited seating, the selfie-preventing dim lights and the old school hip-hop – to say nothing of the two-time James Beard semifinalist’s …y’know … delicious food – this was a place that had to be experienced in person.

By the end of the night, I was left with an undeniable sense of cool and a ravenous appetite for GOOD ramen.

Of course, waiting until nearly midnight on the weekends doesn’t make this an everyday experience, so I set out to find a ramen recipe of my own.

I had sent an event invite to a small group of friends titled "Party Ramen" with a simple question:

"Do you like ramen? Would you like to make, and then eat it? I will provide the broth and veggies, soft-boiled eggs and lo mein noodles. You bring a protein."

Nobody protested, and almost immediately the full complement of RSVPs were in.

Ramen turned out to be an exciting and relatively inexpensive theme around which to craft a dinner party. At its very basic, it only requires a few veggies and a handful of noodles, but it has the ability to unfold numerous possibilities like a flower.

And, as my friend Leigh Akin pointed out, unlike a pizza party, where the excitement of making pizza happens at the beginning, during a ramen party there is something of a slow, orchestral build until suddenly the cymbals are crashing, the violin bows are fraying and the tubas are blasting fortissimo.

The broth simmers for a while and then everything must be ready at the same time. Fry the pork, de-vein the shrimp, slice the smoked salmon and tofu. Then drop the lo mein noodles into water and shortly after you’re doling it all out into over-sized bowls of broth.

Then come the accessories. We had halved, soft-boiled soy eggs and put out the seaweed, pickled turnips and freshly chopped scallions. Finally, a brief pause to Instagram the creation.

Before we dug in, I flipped off the overhead light and illuminated the room with some small table lamps in an attempt to create that Red Light atmosphere, and the party moved into our mouths.

I can’t pretend my creation was remotely close to the delicious satisfaction that Red Light provides, but the party itself was a success. There was enough broth and noodles left over for a second helping for those who wanted it, and by the end of the meal, we were all nicely sated, fatted and happy.

It turns out ramen parties make a perfect pairing with the middle of a dry Wisconsin winter.

If you’re interested in my two-hour ramen recipe, you can find it below. It may not be the most "authentic" ramen recipe, but ramen can run the gamut between two minutes of simplicity to several days of complexity; I don’t exactly know where true authenticity begins. It probably has to do with the ramen noodles, but even in that case, I've found that lo mein noodles work quite well, so take that for what you will.

With a little practice, I have been able to knock out this recipe in a couple of hours. But the longer you wait and the more complexity you add, the more tasty you may find it.

If you have suggestions about how to make it better without adding to the prep time, I’d love to hear them.

2-hour Ramen recipe:

  • Serves: 4-5
  • Time: 2 hours


  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs grated or ground ginger
  • 1.5 tbs sriracha sauce


  • 8 cups water
  • 3 chicken stock cubes
  • 3 beef stock cubes
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 2 tbs soy sauce


  • .75lbs carrots, sliced into 1-2 inch pieces.
  • .75 lbs celery, sliced  into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 1 heaping handful Shiitake or Oyster mushrooms, sliced (I basically look at the volume of carrots, and match the mushrooms to that).
  • 10 oz lo mein noodles



  1. Sauté the base ingredients in a large pot until the scallions and garlic soften.


  1. Add the broth ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil.


  1. Add the veggies pot and let cook for at least an hour.


  1. About 45 minutes into boiling, start preparing the protein the way you like. I like a half grilled, half baked Salmon or a grilled porkchop. Other friends have recommended whole shrimps or tofu, which may not require any serious preparation.


  1. About 50 minutes into boiling, bring another pot of water to a boil.
  2. Add the lo mein noodles and boil for three to five minutes.


  1. Put broth, veggies, noodles, and protein in a large bowl and eat.
  2. Here's your chance to get creative. Accessorize with whatever you want: soft-boiled eggs, nori sheets, or scallions.
Jason McDowell Creative Director

Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.

In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.

Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.