From lazy students to impulse bulk-buyers, everyone adores the occasional instant ramen. Though there’s something extremely disconcerting about eating rehydrated noodles that are apparently immortal, instant ramen is eaten all over the world and beloved by billions. Estimates suggest that around 100 billion cups are served every single year. That’s a lot of stirring and sachet emptying by anyone’s standards.
However, as awesome as even the most budget of noodle brands undoubtedly is, sometimes we need to shake up the old formula. There’s only so much excessively salty seasoning you can stomach before your taste buds start to crave something more exciting. To help anyone who knows there must be more to life than weak chicken and knock-off shrimp, here are eight amazing hacks to take your instant ramen to the next level.
In Japanese cooking, the slowly fermented soybean byproduct known as miso is an absolute gamechanger. Deeply savoury and immensely flavourful, adding a spoonful of miso paste to your boiling water will give you a sensational flavour, without relying on the extremely salty seasoning sachet.
In most ramen, it’s not unusual to enjoy a few slices of gently simmered meat alongside your noodles. If you have some to hand, we recommend adding a few thin slices of raw flank steak or chicken to the broth - it will cook quickly as you boil the noodles and will also add an extra element to what can be a pretty monotone dish.
It might surprise you, but no authentic bowl of Korean ramen is complete without a few slices of processed American cheese. Usually added as a topping to noodles, the cheese melts almost instantaneously, giving you an additional gooey, stringy texture to enjoy.
There aren’t many dishes that an egg doesn’t improve, and adding one to ramen is certainly a winning formula. A popular addition in most authentic ramen restaurants, a gently hard boiled egg will add a real richness to broth which can otherwise end up a little on the thin side.
5. Fish Sauce
One of the many joys of ramen noodles is that they can be used to make almost anything. For instance, by ignoring the seasoning and pan frying parboiled noodles with sesame oil, fish sauce and peanuts, you can create a perfectly delicious pad Thai from building blocks that might ordinarily be associated with Japan.
6. Frozen Vegetables
With the best will in the world, ramen isn’t exactly healthy. The last people to contract scurvy in the UK were a group of students who ate nothing but Pot Noodle for an entire semester. Stave off any nutrient deficient side effects by throwing in some frozen veggies a few minutes before the noodles finish cooking.
If texture is just as important to you as taste, you might want to consider cooking your ramen noodles in the oven for a few minutes prior to serving. If done right, this technique will give your ramen a unique crunchy texture, unlike the ubiquitous floppiness of a normal bowl.
For anyone who fancies taking their instant noodles even further outside the box, try turning them into a Polynesian classic. A mixture of SPAM slices and fresh pineapple will not only make your lunch taste totally unlike anything else around, but will also prove that there are very few ingredients that won’t work well with a bowl of noodles.
When you’re in a hurry, doing anything other than what’s suggested on the side of a packet can feel like the last thing you fancy doing. If time is of the essence, maybe messing around with the classic water/noodle/flavour formula isn’t going to be high on your agenda. But, if you do have a little time, and want a walk on the wild side, these eight hacks are an awesome place to start.