Transform basic ramen into fancy ramen noodles with a few tips, tricks and mix-ins to make them magical.
Basic. Simple. Plain. Ramen noodles are the stuff of college dorm dinners and high school late nights. They come in crinkly, flimsy plastic packages and cost pennies. They’re just reliable, cheap and familiar.
Nothing special, right?
But ramen – good, cheap, reliable ramen — can be something special. Robust. Fabulous. Fancy, even. It’s all in the preparation. Here’s what you need to know.
Start with basic ramen noodles. You know the ones — inexpensive packages found in grocery stores across America. The noodles are good and reliable and the perfect base for fancy ramen noodles.
Follow the instructions for cooking the noodles. This will be your base for fancy ramen noodles. But skip the flavoring packet.
Now, if you don’t have basic ramen noodles (or you want something a little fancier), you could substitute rice noodles, bean threads, soba noodles or udon noodles. Some of these are even available in small packages like ramen but don’t feel like you have to buy those if a larger package is more cost-effective.
You’ll still want to cook the noodles according to package directions.
Well, sort of. You can cook whatever noodles you are making in water (as instructed) or switch it out for a favorite broth or stock.
Season Your Fancy Ramen Noodles
Now, your noodles are cooked. Where’s the flavor?
That’s where a seasoning packet traditionally would come in. And yes, you could still use it. But I typically don’t. Instead, trade the sodium-heavy packet for flavorings of your choice.
If you’ve already traded water for broth, your halfway there. Or, at least partway there. But to get a rich and/or robust flavored broth, it needs more than that.
Here are some ideas:
Chili paste with garlic
Mix and match to get your desired flavor. The first column adds brightness to the broth. The second column adds richness. The third column, which is not for everyone, adds heat.
How much do you add? A little. No more than a tablespoon — total — of flavorings. But you can adjust the seasoning to your liking.
One of my favorites is to mix equal parts hoisin and chili paste and stir that in. Mmm.
Now, what about the mix-ins? These are the things that elevate ramen from ordinary to extraordinary but giving the dish nuance and bulk.
First, add a protein. Here are some ideas:
Second, add some veggies to the mix:
Sugar snap peas
Sauteed bok choy
And then top it off, if you want:
One important thing to note: While proteins should be cooked, many vegetables can be used raw. I’ve indicated which ones should be cooked (ie: steamed broccoli) for best results.
How Do I Choose?
I am so guilty of wanting everything in my ramen bowl all at once. The flavors are all so tempting! But less is more when it comes to preparing your bowl, so be thoughtful about your selections.
A good rule of thumb is to limit your mix-ins like this:
1 protein + 2-3 vegetables + 2 toppings
In the bowl above, I have a poached egg (protein), baby arugula, grated daikon radish (vegetables) and chives with a squirt of sriracha (toppings).
How Do I Eat It?
For this, I take a cue from my local noodle bar. You’ll want two utensils: a soup spoon of some sort and either chopsticks or a fork. The spoon will help you enjoy the well-flavored broth while the chopsticks or fork will help you enjoy all the toppings.
Oh, and don’t be afraid to mix it all together before you eat. After all, you chose those flavors, mix-ins and toppings for a reason, right?