Prison Ramen Recipes and Stories

In Prison, Top Ramen Is Worth More Than Cigarettes

Ramen Noodles have become a staple food in American prisons. Where many inmates used to make trades with tobacco, stamps or envelopes, they now trade with soup as their form of currency.  

This new development occurs as a result of poor quality foods being served in prisons today. According to a report by Michael Gibson-Light, a doctoral candidate in the University of Arizona’s school of sociology, food regulations have not kept pace with the rise in prison populations since 1982. Where inmates used to get three hot meals a day, they've been decreased to two hot meals and one cold meal, and only two meals on weekend days.

As Ramen is high in calories, it has become a normal way for populations to get the energy they need to make it through the day. NPR reports that one inmate, Gustavo "Goose" Alvarez, who was in prison for a decade at the California Institute for Men in Chino, has written a Ramen recipe book based on his experience. The book is entitled "Prison Ramen, Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars."

Alvarez was inspired to write this book by a race riot in 2009. In his interview with The Guardian he described the riot as a standoff between Hispanics and African-Americans, and it was settled over Ramen. An older inmate encouraged everyone to settle down and eat, and what was a riot became a group feast. This just goes to prove anything can be solved with food.

Some of the favored recipes include "teriyaki," which is made by mixing soy sauce with strawberry jam, "Ramen Tamale," a mixture of Ramen, Doritos and canned pork and beans, and "dirty Ramen," which includes Vienna sausages, green beans and carrots.

In Prison, Top Ramen Is Worth More Than Cigarettes