October 6 marks National Noodle Day, and as well all know, noodles come in various shapes and sizes. In this post, I specifically want to focus on what is perhaps the cheapest noodle of all, RAMEN! (Don’t worry, pasta. I still love you.)
Ramen noodles can easily be identified in stores by their blocky, square shape and low price. A pack of 5 Maruchan noodles can cost as low as $1. They are easy to make too. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, drop the noodles into the pot, and 3 minutes later, add the included packet of seasoning, and ta-dah! Your meal of instant noodles in flavorful broth is ready. For further convenience, Cup Noodles is a popular instant noodle product that requires boiling water and is cooked and consumed within the cup.
But as you probably know, these accessible, cheap instant noodles have been met with criticism due to their high sodium content. I’m certainly no doctor, but as long as you don’t eat them every day, I say Ramen is a-ok.
One of the major reasons I wanted to write about Ramen is their versatility. Anyone can cook instant noodles, but is that all there is to it? No way. Many people prefer to use Ramen as a base for a bigger and better meal. I love watching videos and reading recipes on what people use instant noodles for. The possibilities reach far and wide.
Instant Noodles and Me
When I first tried Ramen all by its lonesome I was disappointed. For such a cheap price, I knew there had to be a way to customize these quick eats to my liking. I looked in my refrigerator and started brainstorming on what ingredients could give me the texture and taste I desired. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I knew what I liked and disliked! Over time, I have used instant noodles in a variety of dishes. Here are a few examples:
My favorite thing to add to instant noodles is cheese. Sometimes I add a handful of shredded cheese or a slice of my favorite cheese. I like to let it melt while the noodles are still warm. Fellow blogger Chocoviv also enjoys using cheese with Ramen by adding an American slice on top of the noodles! Along with cheese, I found a tablespoon of butter and a little milk can give the cheese a creamier consistency.
I incorporated the same creamy sauce in a bigger meal for my family. I added my usual butter and milk to two packs of cooked noodles to reach my desired consistency. Then I prepared 3 chicken breasts, chopped it into chunks, and added it with a steamed bag of frozen mixed vegetables. The noodles gave this meal many portions! (image at left)
I always end up draining the broth in favor of creating my own sauce. And let me tell you, most people would think that’s a ludicrous idea! Broth is often favored by Ramen enthusiasts who enjoy the traditional soup style. EOSurveys‘ Egg Drop Soup features a new take on the popular Chinese restaurant dish. They use a custom seasoned broth of spices like Jamon seasoning by Goya, salt, garlic powder, Umami, or vegetable bullion rather than the seasoning packet included with the noodles. Once the spices are added and 6 cups of water come to a boil, cook the noodles until they soften. In a separate bowl, EOSurveys beats 2-3 eggs and uses a soup spoon to slowly pour in the egg mixture into the hot broth. This creates a ribbon effect, and the warm soup cooks the eggs. You can then add herbs, cheese, meat, or other toppings to make it your own. Voila! Egg Drop Soup can be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home!
TIP: If you want to add a spicy kick to your noodle meal, mix in cayenne pepper!
Finally, one ingredient that I found works surprisingly well in Ramen noodles is none other than stuffing! One box of stuffing with herbs can stretch a small packet of noodles for multiple meals. I’m not kidding!
This would be a good time for me to confess that I once used a block of Ramen to make a pizza. (Yes, you read that right.) A normal package of Ramen has two squares of dry noodles stuck together. I separated the two and put them on a baking sheet, loaded the tops with pizza sauce followed by cheese and pepperoni. In a 400 degree oven, I cooked the noodle squares for 10 minutes. The sauce seeps into the noodles and softens them, leaving some parts of the noodle “crust” crunchy. Another method involves cooking the noodles and transferring to a skillet in order to get the classic round crust (see picture above). Like the oven method, the noodles crisp at the bottom while sauce softens the top layer. Either pizza variety is fun to try, but not one I can recommend consuming on a regular basis. The sodium levels must be through the roof!
Ramen in Prison
Continuing my instant noodle education, a 2016 article by The Guardian states that prison inmates see Ramen noodles as a greater commodity than tobacco! (I’ve also heard packets of noodles are easy to smuggle.)
There’s actually a cookbook called Prison Ramen, written by Clifton Collins Jr. and Gustavo “Goose” Alvarez which compiles some of the resourceful ways prisoners use Ramen noodles and other commissary ingredients to make creative meals without access to kitchen equipment. One of my favorite YouTube channels, Emmy Made In Japan, tried some of the recipes:
‘Ramen Instant Karma’ combines noodles with a Slim Jim, hot sauce, mayonnaise, and onions.
(Hey! You can see all of Emmy’s Ramen recipe videos in this handy YouTube playlist)
What Do You Think of Ramen?
My interest in noodles got me thinking how others cook Ramen for themselves. I sent out a survey to my social media followers to get an idea(s) of their favorite brands, flavors, and preparatory uses. Here’s what I found!
Leave a comment below if you would like to share your insights on instant noodles. I plan to continue trying new recipes and flavor combinations! If you enjoyed this article and want to see more content on my website, let me know about that too! I had a lot of fun putting this together!