Confession time. Sometimes I actually like instant ramen. You know, those little packets of salty noodles that are only 30¢? I don’t eat them often, like maybe once per year, but when I get that craving I’m totally not above grabbing one of those little packs and going to town. Over the years I’ve found a few easy ways to make them oh so much better, like to the point where it might actually qualify as a legit meal (see Quick Ramen Bowls, one of my very first blog posts ever). So, this week when I got that craving, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with you my six favorite ways to upgrade instant ramen.
6 Ways to Upgrade Instant Ramen
Now it’s obvious that the best way to upgrade instant ramen is to just get real ramen (from a restaurant or good quality noodles from an Asian grocery store), but that’s not what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about when your only option, or your preferred option, is the inexpensive little ramen packets that you can find in just about any grocery or convenience store in America. So, when that’s what you’ve got, here’s what you can do!
#1: Add Ginger (or garlic)
I loooove grating fresh ginger right into the boiling water when I make my ramen. It infuses the the pot with the most wonderful, peppery flavor. Now, I do a lot of cooking, so I just about always have a knob of ginger in my kitchen (usually tucked away in my freezer for long storage and easy grating), but if you don’t keep fresh ginger on hand, even some powdered ginger will make the broth noticeably more delicious. Other options include the macerated ginger paste that you can buy in a tube, or even a ginger garlic paste.
#2 Salad Bar Add-Ins
Salad bars are becoming more and more popular in grocery stores these days and I love them because they allow me to purchase just a handful of vegetables for things like pizza toppings or, in this case, ramen! Fresh spinach and sliced mushrooms are my favorite ramen add-ins, but today I also picked up a few cubes of tofu. That tofu will soak up the delicious flavor of the broth and add extra protein.
I like to add the vegetables (and tofu) when the noodles are about half finished, so they have just enough time to wilt down before the noodles get too soft. NOM.
#3 Drizzle Sesame Oil
A few drops of toasted sesame oil over your finished bowl makes a WORLD of difference. This stuff has a really strong nutty flavor that adds a ton of depth and warmth to your soup. Just a couple of dashes does the trick! (P.S. Make sure it’s toasted sesame oil by looking for a dark amber color. It might not always be labeled “toasted”, but normal sesame oil has a light straw color. Toasting is where all the flavor magic happens.)
#4 Sesame Seeds
Sesame SEEDS are also pretty good. They don’t have nearly the pronounced flavor as the sesame oil, but they have a great texture, which is a lot of fun!
#5 Add a Soft Boiled Egg
Soft boiled eggs are the love of my life. The white is perfectly solid, while the yolk is still smooth and as creamy as can be. Soft boiled eggs are especially good in ramen because once you break that yolk open it mixes with the broth creating a beautifully creamy and flavorful concoction. Here is a tutorial on how to make perfect soft boiled eggs. If you don’t want to attempt that, you could always just fry one up sunny side and get your creamy yolk that way.
#6 Sriracha! (of course)
Seriously though, I can’t even eat ramen without sriracha now. And I mean a LOT of sriracha. Rustic chili garlic sauce or sambal olek is pretty darn good too. Other sauces that I wouldn’t be against putting on my ramen include: plum sauce, oyster sauce, or thai peanut sauce. In other words, sauce is good.
And Many More…
Obviously there aren’t only six ways to upgrade ramen, but these are just six of my favorite ways. Other things I’ve done are: use my own broth (instead of the packet), top with cilantro or green onions, add random leftover vegetables from the fridge, or even top with a little cheese. The possibilities are endless. So, how to do you like to upgrade instant ramen?
Share your favorite ways to upgrade instant ramen in the comments below.
And yes, you can comment anonymously so no one has to know that you still love cheap ramen (comments are held for moderation). Instant ramen haters, just walk on by. This one is not for you. ;)