On this installment of Jail House Cooking, we’ll be making Bomb Chino. Based on the name, it’s possible that the dish originates from the California Institution for Men, nicknamed Chino due to its location in Chino, California. Either that or the dish is named after the cropped trousers of the same name, but that seems unlikely.
The “bomb” part suggests that this is going to be an explosion of flavor. Let’s find out.
Sounds easy enough, but when I went shopping for ingredients, I was surprised at how difficult it was to find regular corn chips. After three different corner stores, I remembered that inmates don’t have the luxury of comparison shopping and settled on Bugles. Like Fritos, which is presumably what the recipe calls for, Bugles have a distinctive toasted corn flavor.
The Ramen I used came with the chicken flavor packet, but after the salt bombs of Monday and Tuesday, I wasn’t sure about including it in the mix. I opted not to use the packet and set it aside for later.
I found a sturdy grocery bag and dumped in my ingredients, crushing them in my hand as I went. A lot of these jail recipes seem to involve the crushing of things with hands and feet–is this out of necessity due to lack of utensils or a way to relieve pent up rage?
The directions call for a cup to one and a half cups of water. I chose the middle ground and heated up a cup and a quarter. When I poured it in to the bag, it seemed like a lot, but the chips and Ramen immediately began to bloat as they absorbed the moisture.
According to the recipe, I had the options of wrapping my Bomb Chino in either a towel or a month-old newspaper. Because I did not have a month-old, or even day-old, newspaper, I went with towel. The only kitchen towel I had at my disposal was a bit too floral for jail.
Because I wasn’t starving, I let the mixture sit in the towel for a full 30 minutes. While I waited, I thought about the value of freedom.
The writer of the recipe suggests that you use “a paper plate, paper bag or anything somewhat clean” as a vessel for enjoying Bomb Chino. Because authenticity already went out the window when I decided to use a fancy towel with a botanical design, I dumped my Bomb Chino onto a DRÄLLA chopping board from Ikea. I immediately regretted this, wishing I had instead used something that would be available to inmates.
The recipe suggests adding “spices, meats, vegetables as available to suit your own tastes” but I wanted to try this dish in its pure form.
Because I didn’t have “a fairly clean plastic spoon,” I ate Bomb Chino with my hands.
The Verdict: Of all the jail house dishes I’ve made so far, I had the lowest expectations for this one. I was pleasantly surprised. Bomb Chino is comforting, warm and soft. I’m glad I opted out of adding the chicken flavor packet from the Ramen. The dish was very mild and not as salty as I had expected, which was a great relief. The BBQ flavor faded away, which was a disappointment, but a subtle sweetness remained and mingled delightfully with the nuttiness of the Bugles.
The Bugles melted completely, forming a gummy paste around the Ramen. The BBQ chips remained somewhat intact, giving the dish a complex trifecta of texture.
If I had to do it again, I would add peas for a little dash of freshness and color.
Stay tuned for more Jail House Cooking next time, when we’ll be making a dessert.
All dishes in this series come from this PDF Document, anonymously put together using recipes created by inmates.