Time for a confession: I occasionally enjoy instant ramen.
Do you remember those inexpensive little packs of salty noodles that were only 30 cents?
I don’t eat them very often, maybe once a year, but when the urge strikes, I’m not above grabbing a packet of instant noodles and chowing down.
Over the years, I’ve discovered six simple ways to enhance instant ramen to the point where it can actually qualify as a legitimate dinner while still utilizing the leftovers in my kitchen.
So, because it’s a win-win situation, I’m going to share them with you now.
In the shot above, that’s instant ramen in the bowl. And the upgrades were rather low-cost.
The simplest approach to elevate instant ramen is to simply acquire actual ramen (from a restaurant or top-quality noodles from an Asian grocery shop), but that’s not what we’re discussing today.
We’re talking about when the only option, or preferred alternative, is the cheap small ramen packets that can be found in almost every grocery or convenience store in the United States.
So, if that’s your situation, here’s what you can do!
UPGRADE INSTANT RAMEN IN 6 WAYS
1. YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN BROTH
Use your own broth instead of the flavored packet, if you want.
You could use a homemade bone broth, dashi, or even just some miso combined with water instead of Better Than Bouillon (I use half broth, and half water to keep the salt down).
This gives you more control over the salt and other additives, as well as a variety of flavor alternatives!
2. AROMATICS CAN BE ADDED
Adding fresh aromatics to your broth amps up the flavor. Fresh garlic, ginger, and green onion are my favorite additions.
It’s a no-brainer because I usually have all three of these on hand (I keep my ginger in the freezer). Fresh ginger also adds a soothing medicinal element to the soup, which is ideal when you’re feeling under the weather.
Grate the ginger and mince the garlic. Before adding your broth to the pot, sauté both in a little oil for a minute or so. The green onion can be strewn on top, sautéed with ginger and garlic, or both!
3. ADD SOME SAUCE TO IT
If you’re anything like me, you have at least 20 half-used sauce bottles in your fridge. Instant ramen, on the other hand, is a terrific way to use up some of those sauces.
To add flavor to your soup, mix in sambal, chili garlic sauce, sriracha, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, fish sauce, gochujang, soy sauce, or any number of other condiments. Alternatively, use them as table seasoning in the completed dish.
TIP: Adding sauces usually means more salt, so take that in mind when selecting a broth. One of the reasons I prefer to use half broth and half water is that it allows me more flexibility when it comes to adding sauces afterward.
4. INCLUDE VEGETABLES
My vegetable-packed bowl of ramen is one of my favorites. This is when things start to get very interesting and useful.
Look through your refrigerator for any vegetables that need to be used up, such as carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, cabbage, and other vegetables. Frozen veggies such as broccoli florets, peas, or corn can also be added.
TIP: If you don’t have any vegetables in your fridge, go to your local grocery store’s salad bar and get a handful or two of your favorites.
You won’t have to buy an entire package of each one this way. Toss in some proteins like tofu (as seen in the photo above) or rotisserie chicken.
5. INCLUDE A PROTEIN
An egg is my favorite protein to add to my ramen because it’s so simple and I always have them on hand (soft boiled egg or hard-boiled egg).
But there are a plethora of other alternatives! Tofu cubes, sliced tempeh, rotisserie chicken, browned ground pork, shelled edamame, pulled pork, shrimp…the list goes on!
TIP: Break a raw egg into the simmering soup and cook it for 6 minutes. If the broth is vigorously boiling, the egg will break into a million pieces and the liquid will become opaque.
I cooked the egg in the photo above separately, using my simple 6-minute Soft Boiled Egg method, before adding it to the finished bowl.
6. FINISH IT OFF
It’s time to let loose! To give your ramen bowl taste, color, and texture, top it with a variety of exciting toppings.
Here are a few amusing suggestions: sriracha, kimchi, sesame seeds, crumbled bacon, nori (dried seaweed), fresh herbs (cilantro, Thai basil, chives), toasted sesame oil, crushed chilies, furikake, or a wedge of lime are all options.
That’s all there is to it! That’s all it takes to transform a sad little packet of instant noodles into a truly amazing bowl worth at least $8 in a restaurant.
UPGRADED INSTANT RAMEN
- 1/2 Tbsp. cooking oil
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 handful of sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 cup water
- 1 package of instant ramen (seasoning discarded)
- 1 handful of fresh spinach
- 1 large egg
- 1 green onion, sliced
- sriracha to taste
INSTRUCTIONS FOR MAKING INSTANT RAMEN
- In a small sauce saucepan, combine the oil, garlic, and ginger and cook for one minute over medium.
- Cook for another minute after adding the sliced mushrooms.
- Bring to a boil the broth and water.
- Add the uncooked ramen noodles once the water has started to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, or until tender. Make sure the noodles don’t overcook.
- In a separate bowl, wilt the spinach. Reduce the heat to low and crack the egg into the broth, allowing it to sit for about six minutes, or until the whites are cooked but the yolk is still runny.
- To serve, ladle the soup into one or two bowls and top with sriracha and green onion slices.
- Serving: 1 Serving
- Calories: 547.6 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 60.1 g
- Protein: 17.6 g
- Fat: 26.2 g
- Sodium: 1238.6 mg
- Fiber: 3.1 g
SO, HOW ABOUT YOU?
In the comments section below, tell us about your favorite methods to enhance instant ramen. I adore reading about all the different and innovative ramen combinations individuals come up with!