The instant ramen packet is cheap, quick and comes in an endless variety of forms and flavours diverse enough to satisfy even the pickiest of the peckish. Instant noodles have long been a mainstay of the student diet, in fact they’re so great that they’ve even overtaken cigarettes as the most popular prison currency (not that we’re comparing your student room to a cell!).
As fab and flavourful as they are, the packs often leave a little to be desired in the veggie department: a handful of dehydrated peas and a ketchup packet is probably as close as you’ll get to one of your 5-a-day with these bad boys. SO. Here are a few tips to bring your ramen creation to the next level, while keeping it cheap, easy and doable with the limited resources of a cramped student room.
What’s that? You don’t want to read a whole article? Can’t be bothered to think too hard about all this? You just want straightforward instructions to blindly follow? Then scroll to the bottom, my friend, where you’ll find the recipe for my fave easy-pimp’d ramen!
1 . Choose your noodz wisely
There really are oodles of noodles to choose from (sorry), but not all instant ramen is created equal. While the flavour is really up to, I have found through frankly excessive research that noodles in handy plastic cups really aren’t the one. Although they win on convenience, the square-block-in-a-packet format tend to be better for taste, variety, cost and (key to this post) allow more options for customisation. I’d also recommend visiting the world foods aisle to find the Asian style packs for a super authentic ramen experience (the Nissin packs are often on 3 for £1 offer at my local Tesco).
2. Big Bowl Microwave mantra
So, you’ve run out to Tesco and grabbed as many square-packs as you can carry on the dodgy bike you bought off a year above. But how can you cook these tasty treats? If, like me, you don’t have access to a stove, or you just don’t fancy braving the bombzone that is a shared student kitchen, you can do your noodles easily by just pouring water from a kettle over the entire packs contents and leaving everything to get to know each other for a few minutes. However if you plan on taking your ramen experience to the next level, you wanna get a big ol’ microwavable bowl and (surprise surprise) a microwave. This will allow you to cook stove-top style creations without running the risk of burning your halls to the ground.
3. Phat not fat
Something that I can’t deny however much I champion the old ramen pack is that, in their most basic form, they aren’t super healthy. The crispy Goldilocks style squares of noodles are actually dried out by deep frying after being cooked in the factory, meaning they are tragically, quite fatty. Personally, I tend to take my chances and pray my arteries remain clog-free despite this, but if it’s more of an issue for you, try cracking the noodle block in half and using 50/50 packet noodles and dry rice noodles, available in the same aisle as the noodle packs and with 0g fat (although the cook time might vary).
4. Don’t be salty
Shocker, the flavour packets included with instant ramen have a tonne of sodium, from MSG and good old salt. They are, however, pretty much the only thing stopping your bowl of tasty goodness from being nothing but hot water and noodles, so they are difficult to part with. If salt is a concern for you, try either substituting half the sachet, or completely replacing it, with low sodium soy sauce, a little garlic/onion/ginger powder, some miso paste and/or korean gochujang and stock of your choice.
5. Buy one get one freeze
A fab way of packing some green goodness into your bowl is by whacking in some frozen veg. My personal favourite is frozen peas - you can literally just pour about a cup into your broth and they’ll be done in a minute. If you don’t have your own freezer, check your JCR for a communal one. This may lead to you being spotted wandering around campus with a mug of frozen petit pois (speaking from experience here) but it will be worth it. Other healthy additions might include sweetcorn, carrot, mushroom, spinach, and if you’re feeling really authentic maybe some spring onions, baby bok choy and seaweed. All of these are happy to just be chucked into the hot soup along with other ingredients
6. A good egg
Potentially my favourite addition to a bowl of noodles is an egg (or three). In proper ramen, it’s soft boiled and marinated. Screw that. I just crack it straight into the bowl. This way it sort of half poaches, half becomes one with the soup in a very satisfying way. The best way to do this if using a kettle/microwave only is the crack the egg into the bottom of the bowl with dry ingredients and pour your boiling water directly over. Following this, a couple of minutes in the microwave should be about right, this will vary depending on the microwave of course.
The most invaluable piece of advice I can give you is to experiment! I didn’t just wake up one morning with this expert level ramen know-how (if you must know it’s a result of over three years’ worth of practise… really). At only 50p a pack, it’s really not the end of the world if an attempt goes wrong. Try different things, see what you like and what works best with your set up. You can’t really go far wrong though, so have a rummage in the fridge and embrace all the funky combos your leftovers inspire.
Super simple top shelf ramen recipe
Psssttt! This hearty broth n noodle combo is also my go to hangover cure!
Prep time: like 5 mins Effort: minimal Enjoyment: extreme
Instant ramen packet (I recommend Nissin Demae Ramen)
- 1 mug frozen peas
- 2 eggs Optional:
- ½ tsp gochujang paste
- Pinch garlic powder
- Dash soy sauce
- Knob of butter
Grab yourself a LARGE microwavable bowl and set about a pint of water to boil in the kettle. Empty anywhere between ½ to the whole sachet of seasoning, gochujang (a spicy, smoky korean hot sauce), garlic powder, plus any oil that might be included in your pack into the bottom of your bowl.
Pour a splash of the boiling water over your seasoning and mix to dissolve (this prevents all the powder getting trapped in egg white) and place your dry noodle block in the bowl.
Crack the egg into the bowl and pour the rest of your boiling water directly over it. You’ll probably see the egg white begin to cook straight away. The water should just about cover your noodles.
Give the whole thing a very gentle stir if you don’t want to break the yoke (alternatively, smash that yoke and make the whole broth thicker and richer) and whack into your microwave for about 2 mins.
Have a poke around with a fork to see if everything looks happy and cooked. Pour your frozen peas straight in and mix in. They just need to defrost and they’ll be fine. This also helps cool down your very hot ramen, meaning you can get it down you even quicker!
Finish off with a knob of butter for extra indulgence if desired and you’re done! No way will you be feeling peckish after this tummy-filler!
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