Eau Claire eats

Nick Porisch

More stories from Nick Porisch

The Highlight Reel
May 10, 2023

When Riverview Cafe doesn’t sound appealing, Midwest Meals prides itself on being a healthy alternative.

Cheap, filling and easy to make. These are some of the things college students often look for while skimming recipes to make in their dorm kitchen on Pinterest. There’s another group that has been perfecting recipes with these qualities for decades — long distance hikers and backpackers.

Backcountry meals are designed to only require a few non-perishable ingredients and the most basic cooking supplies while still being filling enough to refuel after a long day of trekking through rough terrain (or a late night of cramming for finals). 

The best recipes rarely cost more than a few dollars for ingredients, and the fact that ingredients are non-perishable means one trip to the grocery store can leave a dorm pantry stocked with easy meals for months.

So, here are two easy backcountry meals perfect for the great outdoors, your dorm room and anywhere in between:

Mango Fried Rice

Instant rice is a classic staple of any backpacker’s diet, and for good reason. One serving packet of ready-to-make rice is usually priced between a dollar or two at most and easy to find in all grocery stores.

What You Need:

  • Two cups of instant rice
  • One-half tablespoon of garlic powder
  • Two tablespoons of sesame oil
  • One-fourth cup of soy sauce
  • Two tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • Two and one-half cup of dried or freeze-dried mangos
  • (Optional) One tablespoon of sriracha

These are the recommended ingredients, but the spirit of the backcountry is found in creativity and desperation. One common substitute is from sesame oil to something more common like vegetable or olive oil.

To begin, prepare the rice according to the package instructions. Before cooking the rice, but after adding water, stir in the garlic powder.

Turn on the stove burner to medium heat, then combine the cooked rice, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar in the cooking apparatus of your choice. Any pot, frying pan or, ideally, wok will get the job done. For a little extra heat, add sriracha at this step.

Cook for three to five minutes, constantly stirring, until the liquids in the pot or pan have mostly evaporated or been absorbed by the rice. If using a deep pot, stir more frequently.

Add the dried mangos and continue cooking for another minute before taking off heat and letting cool.

This meal is a great way to transform a very basic food staple — rice — into an easy to make and tasty meal.

Extra-Easy Pad Thai

Important allergy warning: This recipe does include powdered peanut butter and peanuts as main ingredients.

This meal is an easy, simplified version of pad thai that can be made in only a few steps.

What You Need

  • One to two servings of thick rice noodles or fettuccine noodles
  • Two tablespoons of salt
  • Two cups of powdered peanut butter
  • Two tablespoons of ginger powder
  • One cup of unsalted, dry roasted peanuts
  • (Optional) Four tablespoons of sriracha

Start by turning on your burner to high heat. Combine your noodles with roughly two cups of water and boil until your noodles are soft.

Lower your burner heat to medium-high, and add the salt, powdered peanut butter and ginger powder. Again, sriracha can also be added here for some additional heat.

Cook for roughly two minutes, stirring throughout. Add the dry roasted peanuts and cook for an additional sixty seconds. Remove from heat and serve.

These two recipes are simple, cheap meals that can be made with bare bones cooking supplies and entirely non-perishable ingredients. Whether you just hiked twenty miles or are starving after a rough exam, these are guaranteed to leave you satisfied.

Porisch can be reached at [email protected].