By Brent Ramirez
Blog Content Contributor
Every college student at one point in their career has been exposed to the magical instant food we know as ramen. It’s one of the ever popular remedies to hunger, a side effect caused by the age-old epidemic pauperibus scholasticus, more commonly referred to as “broke college student-itis”.
Seriously, instant ramen is every college student’s best friend and if you haven’t gotten to know him yet, you’re either doing just fine and you don’t suffer from high blood pressure caused from excess sodium, or you just went about life without beautiful ramen. In either case, there is something you should know about instant ramen. There is a significant difference between instant ramen and a traditional bowl of ramen. Traditional ramen is an out-of-body experience and truly something special. I highly recommend everyone go out and get a real bowl from a ramen restaurant just understand how the two compare.
While instant ramen is no experience like the real deal that is traditional ramen, it’s still a tasty snack that you can enjoy at any time of the day. It does suffer from being a bit boring at times, considering your typical packet of ramen consists of only noodles and powdered flavoring. Some packets come with dried veggies and proteins, but for the most part, instant ramen can get boring. Here are some little hacks that you can apply to your mundane bowl of instant noodles to give it that extra character!
1.Flavor it up.
Yes, your ramen will more than likely contain powdered flavoring, but sometimes it’s way too salty, not the kind of flavor you want, or just plain weak sauce. Some great things you could add that can change the flavor of your ramen include:
- Soy sauce
- Hoisin sauce
- Peanut butter
- Sesame oil
- Curry powder
- Miso paste
These are just some of the many options you have when it comes to flavoring your broth. Feel free to go through the spice cabinet or hit that citrus up with a few drops of lemon or lime as well. Just remember not to over do it. Try not to put too many things into your broth, because it could be overkill. Too many flavor profiles could be the death of your soup if you’re not careful. Less is more!
Now I know peanut butter may sound strange, but it definitely gives you that pad thai taste. If you think that’s weird, another common add-in is cheese. This isn’t one that I’ve ever tried, but apparently, adding a slice or two of cheese is a popular choice for some. If you decide to include other add-ins that are high in salt like cheese or soy sauce, you don’t have to include all of the packaged flavoring. Excess sodium could kill your soup.
2. Add some heat.
Heat is definitely a personal preference. Not everyone enjoys it, but for those who do, there are tons of different ways to turn up the heat in your soup. My personal favorite is the classic sriracha, just because it provides not only heat, but its own unique flavor as well. Tabasco, Texas Pete, crushed red pepper, chili oil and chili paste all do the job too. It’s really up to you fire breathers as to how you heat up your soup. Stay spicy my friends.
3. Go for the mean greens.
I’m talking about vegetables folks. I know I said greens, but really any vegetable of your choosing will do. Adding veggies to your soup will give it that good oomph and will make it feel like a much more substantial dish overall. My favorites include green onion and bean sprouts. I also like adding leafy greens like spinach, just as I take the ramen off of the stove since it cooks quickly. Vegetables like broccoli and carrots need a bit more time to cook, so throw those in while your noodles are still cooking. Frozen veggies work just as well. They come pre-cut and don’t take too long till they’re ready to eat. It’s a win-win.
4. Get that good protein.
If you really want to make your ramen more hearty, toss in some protein. Pre-cooked and leftover meats tend to work best when it comes to a quick meal. I’ve used things like cold cut turkey to leftover fried chicken. They both work just fine. Bacon’s always great and so are meatballs, but if you’re feeling a bit more on the fancy side, throw in some thinly sliced raw beef into the hot soup. Swish it around and you got some really tender cuts of meat cooked in what used to be a boring bowl of instant noodles.
Now, if you’re familiar with the canned meat, or you don’t mind giving it a chance, spam could work wonders in your ramen. Pan sear some slices on the side and top it off when your ramen is done, or julienne some spam strips and toss them into the pot while it’s cooking. Spam’s not the most-liked party guest, but if you get to know him, you might find out just how cool of a dude spam can be. Don’t sleep on spam.
5. Add an egg.
Last, but definitely not least, you gotta add that egg, fam. I said it with the pizza and I will say it again with ramen, adding an egg just gives it that extra dimension. If you’ve never had an egg in your ramen and you decide to try it, you’ll soon realize just how empty your instant ramen experience has always been. It’s another great source of protein and just absolute yolky goodness. Try cracking an egg into your soup half way through the cooking process and stir to get that egg drop soup feel. If you’re feeling a bit cooler, try go for a poached egg to keep everything intact, or if you think you’re Bobby Flay, I suggest you go for the soft boiled egg; a true egg masterpiece. However you decide to add it, I promise you won’t regret it!
These are just a few options when it comes to customizing your instant noodles. You can always opt out of meats for seafood, or if you’re looking for a vegetarian option, try adding fried tofu squares to your soup. Some ingredient combinations may not work out the way you want them to, but I encourage you to experiment until you come up with a recipe that you do enjoy. Ramen can be a plain ole’ boring noodle soup, but it’s what you make of it.
Featured image by Jennifer Servellon.