Ramen Hacks: Turning Instant into Gourmet
Ramen Hacks: Turning Instant into Gourmet
What comes to mind when you think of eating ramen?
For many, it's associated with being a struggle meal of sorts—made popular by college kids living off it in their dorms. It's also associated with being the food of choice for toddlers and kids, who love the noodles' mild taste and soft texture. However, ramen is a canvas for others—a gastronomic arena where the boundaries between instant convenience and culinary artistry blur. Some may gravitate toward the less liquidy or dry versions, savoring the more concentrated flavors. Still, others go all out, adding various proteins, veggies, and other exotic ingredients that elevate a simple bowl into an Instagram-worthy masterpiece.
The beauty of ramen lies in its infinite versatility. Far from being a one-trick pony, ramen offers endless opportunities for customization, making it an ever-trending topic on platforms like TikTok. Its forgiving nature welcomes experimentation that often result in delightful culinary surprises. It's practically impossible to mess up ramen entirely—it's pretty much always tasty.
The Celeb Factor
Of course, the popularity of ramen amongst the masses is hardly anything new. Big-money celebs also love it. Kylie Jenner, for instance, has been public about her love for a tricked-out ramen dish that's pretty easy to replicate. Her viral TikTok recipe calls for an Instant Ramen Noodle Pack (she doesn't specify which brand), a cup of boiling water, a tablespoon of butter, a teaspoon of garlic powder, a beaten egg, and optional everything bagel seasoning. Cook the ramen according to the package instructions, then add the other ingredients in sequence in a separate saucepan. This simple, quick, and undeniably tasty dish puts a lavish yet inexpensive spin on a pantry staple.
Quick And Tasty Ways To Elevate Ramen
However, remember that one of the quickest ways to elevate your instant noodles is by adding ingredients that don't require extra materials or cooking time.
We're referring to everyday sauces and condiments—miso paste, chili bean sauce, Thai curry paste, Japanese curry powder, fish sauce, harissa, vinegar, and ponzu, to name a few. You can even feel free to drop in the random fast food sauces you stored in that junk drawer. Anything goes.
The idea of "anything goes" also extends to dried spices, such as black/white pepper or the chile flakes that came with your last pizza order. If you have cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, or coriander seeds, you can drop them into the simmering broth to expand the flavor profile. To avoid unpleasant surprises while eating, fish the larger whole spices before digging in.
We can't write this post without stating one glaringly obvious thing. Ramen is tasty, but on its own, it could be healthier. Like anything in a wrap or pita, the idea of soup gives off the impression of being healthy. But ramen isn't healthy. It hardly provides any nutritional value. But that can still be okay, so long as you only use ramen as a meal starting point. Incorporating veggies into it is very easy and can do wonders, adding nutritional value and making it more enjoyable overall.
Plenty of vegetables, such as baby spinach, sliced mushrooms, bean sprouts, or thinly sliced cabbage, can be added right before serving. If you only have heavier veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, or snap peas—you can still throw them in as your noodles cook. Frozen vegetables are another convenient option; they don't require any cleaning or prep. For example, frozen corn and peas can be added directly to the soup as it cooks, without even needing to thaw it beforehand.
When it comes to proteins, the humble egg remains a crowd-pleaser. Eggs are versatile and delicious and can be prepared directly in the same pot as your noodles. From hard-boiled to soft-boiled to egg-drop methods, each has its charm and complexity.
If eggs aren't your thing, consider thinly sliced meats like chicken breast or pork tenderloin. If you have a CHEF iQ meat thermometer, you're in luck; it can help you prepare these meats perfectly. Want something unconventional? Shredded beef jerky, believe it or not, makes a compelling case for itself, offering smoky undertones and a delightfully chewy texture.
Enhancing your ramen also extends to aromatics. Garlic, ginger, and scallions can make a world of difference. If you don't have these ingredients on hand, adding a bit of cheese to the broth can create a creamy, comforting experience comparable to elevated mac and cheese.
In conclusion, while following ramen recipes to the letter can produce delicious results, remember that this dish celebrates improvisation. Got some veggies on the brink of expiration? Toss them in. Got some peanut butter? Mix in a spoon or two. A dash of lemon or lime juice? Go ahead. With ramen, the possibilities are boundless, limited only by what you have on hand and your imagination.