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How to turn Ramen noodles into dinner

May 24, 2010

packaged ramen noodles. personal flare added.

I am heavily inundated in a food culture that is, for the most part, unrealistic for the rest of the country. I have 3 butcher shops within walking distance of my Brooklyn apartment, an incredible farmers market that operates all year round 4 days a week at union square and access to any and all of the worlds specialty foods in shops and restaurants throughout the five boroughs. However, just as almost everyone else in the country, I have to feed myself everyday and my funds and time are limited. Packages of ramen noodles have become such a staples for families in the U.S. they may have superseded Apple pie as being “as American as…” Growing up our family, just as any other, kept packages of ramen and cans of soup in our cupboard for quick meals. What was different was how our father prepared these things. My father could feed a family of 5 heartily with two packages of ramen noodles. He would add broccoli, eggs, meats and herbs. Anything he had on hand that he felt would go well in the soup. The package was merely a base with which he could build a quick meal.

If you look at the back of a package of ramen there are instructions on how to cook them. Usually something along the lines of, “boil 2 cups of water, add noodles, add seasonig packet. Serve.” What we are often less inclined to notice, or perhaps understand, is the suggestion they slide in usually along the lines of, “try adding chopped scallion or egg to your ramen.” My advice is to heed these seemingly benign suggestions with gusto. Dried packages of ramen should be a vessel with which you can add anything your heart desires or refrigerator needs to be cleansed of. The best and heartiest of these would be proteins such as meat, eggs or tofu. Other great things to add are vegetables, fresh herbs and additional seasonings like sesame oil or fresh lemon juice. A few mushrooms and some thinly chopped green onions can work wonders on a simple bowl of packaged ramen. Below are some suggestions for additions to ramen that can make the dish awesome, or even borderline epic.

EGG

–       eggs can be added either raw or cooked. Raw egg should be added right before the ramen is done. Drop it into the hot brothy noodles and beat it gently with a fork just unitl it turns into cooked strands of egg. Remove from heat and add a big handful of something green. Chopped scallions, cilantro and spinach would all be great choices.

BROCCOLI

–       Broccoli is a well loved vegetable and easy to get. To add broccoli to ramen put it into the hot broth the same time as the noodles. It will be ready as soon as the noodles turn soft.

MEAT

–       Meat, like eggs, can be added either raw or cooked. Leftover meat is great for adding to ramen. If the meat is already cooked you can simply toss it in when the ramen is done just to warm it back up. If you are starting with raw meat it should be cut into chunks and seared in the pan first thing. Once the meat has begun to turn brown you can add your water and flavoring packet. Once it is brought to a boil you can finish it with some lemon and or fresh herbs.

MUSHROOMS

–       I prefer my mushrooms pan roasted, but they can be sliced thin and added to the hot broth at anytime really. To roast them heat the pot you are going to cook with first. Add a bit of oil and when the oil is nice and hot toss in your mushrooms and cook until browned. When you are ready add you water and seasoning packet and proceed.

GARLIC

–       depending on how you like it, garlic can be added at anytime during your meal.  Most people have very strong opinions about the right way to use garlic (their way). I would suggest slicing it thinly and adding it to the hot broth towards the end, but you can use garlic any way that you see fit.

HERBS & SOFT GREENS

–       herbs & greens are a simple way to brighten the dish. Some of my favorites for ramen are cilantro, basil, bok choy, watercress, scallions or spinach. These tender greens should be added at the very end right after the ramen is turned off and should only be wilted into the broth. Over cooking can deaden their flavor and color.

OTHER

–       There are countless different seasonings that can be added to the soup to give it more character. Hot sauces and fish sauces and plum sauces. Check out your grocery store fro some asian spices you might like to try and toss a bit into your ramen to kick it up. Some of my favorites are sriracha, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and fresh lemon (though not all at once).

Feel free to chime in with any of your own tricks that people might want to hear.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura permalink
    May 24, 2010 11:49 am

    So as you may or may not know, I have a bit of experience with ramen. I like to add spam, eggs and kimchee for my Hawaiin version. The kids in Korea now use the ramen noodles in spicy stirfry dishes with rice cakes. My issue with the ramen is the seasoning packet. It is loaded with MSG and sodium which isn’t going to kill you if you have it once in a while but really isn’t healthy if you eat it on a regular basis. Sometimes I substitute chicken broth instead of water and add my own seasoning. My favorite ramen is nappa cabbage, egg, and roasted pork. Your blog is wonderful Alex.

    • learninglifefromscratch permalink*
      May 27, 2010 8:47 am

      thanks for the tips. If you have your own stock that you make it would be an excellent substitution to ramens flavoring packets. also, YOU are wonderful!

  2. DIVIT permalink
    May 27, 2010 9:07 am

    I agree about the seasoning but there are many brands of Ramen available at natural food stores that have whole grain noodles and broth that is not just MSG laden crap. They cost more money but but it only adds about a buck to the overall cost of the meal. I also suggest that every one should keep some Minors base in their refrigerator. It is the best stock base I have found and the one Anthony Bourdaine used to cheat his way through culinary school. They make tons of varieties and they are one of the only soup bases that does not have salt as the first ingredient. Of course making your own stock is always the best way to get the flavor you want.
    I take ramen backpacking and my favorite way to prepare it is to take fresh garlic and ginger and chop them up and mix them with toasted sesame oil in a small container that I pack with me.I add it to the noodles in the pot with a little bit of fresh broccoli or sliced fresh beans and cilantro and a dash of cayenne pepper and you have a backpacking lunch that tastes great. Works at home too!

  3. Jenny Silberberg permalink
    November 14, 2012 1:44 pm

    To those Cup ‘O Noodles or big ramen bowls with the veggies (like dehydrated peas, carrots and cabbage), I boil the noodles with the water/seasoning packet broth in the microwave for three minutes or as directed on the package. Then I drain the broth and add a couple spoonfuls of mayonnaise & toss. Maybe even a bit of margarine or olive oil. This makes it taste like pasta salad-it may not be the healthiest addition but the fat and flavoring in the mayo rounds out the starch and sodium in the ramen for a really satisfying meal. One day I’m gonna try to make satay noodles by adding peanut butter, sesame oil and scallions (with maybe a pinch of sugar) to beef or chicken ramen. The possibilities are endless… Happy eating!

  4. January 26, 2013 1:03 pm

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into sttniarg my own blog and was wondering what all is required to get setup? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very web smart so I’m not 100% certain. Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated. Appreciate it

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