Turn those noodle bricks into noodle hits!
By Bria Jones, Georgia Southern University
Ramen noodles, instant noodles, oodles-n-noodles or whatever you like to call them have been a cheap and easy food staple since the dawn of time.
Well not really, but it sure seems like it, right? These salty, delicious strips of wheat were actually invented in 1958 by Momofuku Ando, a Japanese-Taiwanese inventor, businessman, and founder of Nissin Foods, which was originally just a salt production company.
During the post-war food shortage in Japan, the Ministry of Health suggested that the people use U.S.-supplied wheat flour to make bread and Ando wondered why, seeing as the Japanese were more accustomed to eating noodles. In response, Ando decided that he would make the noodles himself, saying: “Peace will come to the world when the people have enough to eat.” So, at forty-eight-years-old, after a lot of trial and error, Ando put the first package of instant noodles on the market and the rest is history!
As cheap and filling (i.e., great) as ramen noodles are, they can get kind of boring after about a hundred back-to-back meals. (This phrase is a hyperbole, if you are eating like this please stop! It’s not healthy.) Since Ando’s noodles were created during a food shortage, I can’t imagine anyone thought to give them pizzazz until later, when everything was somewhat back to normal. Even then, extra bits weren’t necessary to make sales, leaving consumers with just a pre-cooked noodle brick and powdered soup base to this day. Bo-ring.
As a result, you must be your own hero; bringing the childish joy of your first (and second and third and-) bowl of instant ramen back to life is all up to you. You can do just that with these five-ish words: broth, eggs, veggies, protein, and creativity.
1. Bettering Your Broth
Everyone knows that the most important part of any noodle soup (ramen, udon, pho, guksu, etc.) is the broth. After all, broth is what gives the noodles most of their flavor. Naturally, the broth is the first focus of this list. Rather than using water and the provided flavor packet, jazz your noods up with miso, beef or chicken broth.
If you’re still pretty partial to the water/powdered base formula—or you want to add even more flavor—just add mix-ins. Condiments, sauces, and spices require no extra cooking, making them the easiest way to pump up your dish. Spice things up with chili pepper paste or everyone’s favorite: sriracha. If not, toss in some ponzu or soy sauce. Want something reminiscent of a hibachi restaurant? Add Yum Yum Sauce. Everybody has a spice cabinet and I can assure you, anything in there will improve your meal, just try not to go overboard with the mixing. Not everything goes together.
Keep in mind that for the saltier options, you definitely want to use less of or omit those little silver packets of Death by Sodium™. If you’re getting the gist of this article, you won’t need them anyway!
2. Eat Your Vegetables
Ramen is not healthy; that’s a straight up fact. One pack of the standard chicken flavored Top Ramen has 910 mg. of sodium—the most of any of the other flavors. Yikes! Since I’m talking about ramen, I won’t say stop consumption all together; instead, try to balance things out a little bit. (In addition to drinking plenty of water), give your bowl some green.
Vegetables such as bean sprouts, spinach and lettuce cook rather quickly and they can be added to the pot just before serving. Broccoli, peas, carrots and other tougher veggies require longer cook time and should be prepared slightly in advance. Here lies the issue of over- or under-cooking; in that case, frozen vegetables are always an excellent fallback. Cucumber is a great, quick cooking option that adds a nice fresh flavor; it is especially refreshing in the spicy Shin Ramyun and Neoguri.
3. The Incredible, Edible Egg
Eggs are an extremely versatile food and pretty much anything you can do with them can be applied to your ramen. The egg can be beaten and poured—or done egg-drop style— to cook with the noodles. Add your egg after cooking the noodles to poach them or add one on top after frying.
For the classic ramen-with-egg look, hard or soft boil them using the same pot, pre-ramen (if you get the timing right.) If you’re not confident in that, a separate pot is perfectly fine. Similarly, if you’re not confident in your egg boiling at all, the store sells them now. Thanks, consumerism! If you want your boiled egg to be extra special, try Shoyu Tamago.
4. Lean, Mean Protein
Meat is a big part of human lives; in fact, people all over the world eat about seventy-five pounds of meat per person in a year. So why not add this staple one of the cheapest meals out there? Use chicken breast, beef, pork belly or even spam.
Any meat that you eat alone can be added. If thinly cut, the meat can even be cooked directly in the pot. Set it aside to be put on top for presentation purposes, or leave it in if you aren’t trying to impress anyone. I know I’m not. Now you’ve got a prime method of repurposing those leftovers.
5. Get Creative
Perhaps you don’t want to eat ramen as a noodle soup at all, or you want those noodles to be as elevated as possible. Have fun with things and make up your own recipes. Making your own might take a lot of experimenting and trial and error, but that’s the fun part. Alternatively, if you’re not into experimenting, follow some of these recipes.
Between Breakfast Ramen, Hawaii-inspired ramen, “Routine” and “Rhepard’s Pie,” the possibilities are as endless as your (and the internet’s) imagination. And if for some reason you can’t cook ramen (for instance, lack of electricity or competence,) there’s always crushing the brick up adding seasoning and eating it like a bag of chips. Boom, call it a day.
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