Texas Living

5 Ways to Instantly Upgrade Instant Ramen

By Peter Simek 4.6.22

Instant ramen’s U.S. profile has gone from a college dorm room staple to a food blog darling. Over the past few years, chefs, foodies, and innovative home chefs have been taking simple bowls of quick-boiled Japanese noodles to new culinary heights by adding a few simple ingredients and employing some classic cooking the techniques.

Japanese connoisseurs of ramen soup have been experimenting with ways to upgrade instant ramen for years. Although types of dried noodles have been around for centuries, the product known as instant noodles was pioneered by a Japanese inventor named Momofuku Ando in the 1950s. Ando’s innovation was so beloved that a poll taken in 2000 found that the Japanese believe instant noodles are Japan’s best invention of the 20th century. That’s extra remarkable when you think that post-war Japan is responsible for innovations ranging from the Walkman to Super Mario.

If you haven’t yet jumped on the band wagon and experienced how a lowly bowl of instant noodles can be transformed into a gourmet meal, then you don’t know what you’re missing out on. We’ve gathered some of our favorite ramen “hacks” from around the internet to help celebrate this beloved dish.

upgrade instant ramen
Photo by Natalie Goff and Food Styling by Kylie Valigura

4 Upgraded Instant Ramen Recipes

1. Perfect Instant Ramen. This Korean-American take on ramen is simple, comforting, and requires just a few ingredients you likely have lying around. Begin by preparing a regular bowl of instant ramen. Finish by sliding a soft-boiled egg and a tab of butter into the hot broth. Top with American cheese, chopped scallions, and toasted sesame seeds for the perfect, warming pick-me-up. Get the full recipe from the New York Times.
Recommended instant ramen packet: Any!

2. TikTok Ramen. Instant ramen doesn’t have to mean soup — and a range of recipes going viral across TikTok are ditching the broth altogether. In this recipe inspired by the TikTok craze, you boil the noodles that come in the package and, instead of using the seasoning provided, make a garlicky sauce consisting of butter, minced garlic, crushed red pepper, brown sugar, and soy sauce. Drain your noodles and toss into the sauce, add an egg to the pan, and scramble it. You’ll wonder if you ever need to order takeout noodles again. Get the full recipe from I Am a Food Blog.
Recommended instant ramen packet: Nongshim Shin Ramyun, any flavor

3. Kewpie Mayo Ramen. The secret to this creamy instant ramen upgrade is the addition of kewpie mayo, a Japanese mayonnaise that’s richer and creamier than its American and European counterparts. Adding an egg that cooks while the noodles are boiled gives the soup a heartier texture. Get the full recipe from Christie at Home.
Recommended instant ramen packet: Sapporo Ichiban, original flavor

4. Sriracha Pork Ramen. This is the perfect recipe for when you have some leftovers in the fridge but don’t feel like eating yesterday’s dinner. Simply mix your noodle packet with the seasoning that comes with it in a bowl. Add a cup of boiling water and let it sit for 8 minutes. Then, toss in cooked minced pork, scallions, and a tablespoon (or more to taste) of sriracha. Get the full recipe from Eat This, Not That!
Recommended instant ramen packet: Maruchan Ramen Noodle Soup, chicken flavor

upgrade instant ramen
Photo by Natalie Goff and Food Styling by Kylie Valigura

Build Your Own Bowl

Part of what’s made the upgraded instant ramen trend so popular is that there’s no limit to the flavors and styles you can experiment with in your own kitchen. One of the best ways to explore the possibilities of the world of instant ramen is to ditch readymade recipes and riff with your own ideas. If you’re looking to up your ramen game, follow a few simple steps from famed American ramen chef Ivan Orkin’s “The Gaijin Cookbook” — and get creative from there.

1. Make Your Own Stock: Rather than relying on the flavor packet that comes with instant noodles, try building a bowl with your own broth. You can use any store-bought or bouillon-based stock. Orkin suggests building a ramen broth that is made of half chicken, pork, or vegetable stock and half dashi, a Japanese soup stock that’s easily made from steeping bonito fish flakes and kombu (edible kelp) in steaming hot water.

2. Build Your Own Flavors: As your noodles cook, punch up your broth by adding some base flavors to your bowl. This can include seasoning packets that come with the instant noodles, but Orkin also experiments with miso, salt, soy sauce, sesame oil, and butter. The key, Orkin recommends, is to combine two or three seasonings, including a spice, a salt, and a fat.

3. Add Your Own Toppings: The sky really is the limit when it comes to ramen toppings and garnishes. Classic toppings include soft-boiled eggs, scallions, and pork belly. You can also add vegetables, meats, and pickled condiments. This is where you get to empty the fridge or let your imagination run wild with the infinite range of ramen possibilities.

If these instant ramen upgrades have inspired you to cook more creatively, check out these 30 garlic recipes next.

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