Instant ramen is… you know, instant ramen. Addicting, delicious (don’t try to deny), dirt cheap, and essential for surviving college. The Internet is overflowing with recipes, from ramen burritos to ramen rolled steak. (Heck, there are even books on the creative use of instant ramen.) While some of these recipes are practical and quite genius, others are just plain unnecessary. I mean, who puts ramen in a chocolate cake? And ew, why in hell would I want ramen in my jello?
Here I present you 16 foolproof ways to dress up the humble noodle, and I promise no hassle, no fuss and definitely no ramen pizza. Enjoy!
Leave it as it as, but experiment with toppings: The simplest way to bump up the nutrition value in your ramen is to add some green vegetables: spinach, watercress, bok choy will wilt in a matter of seconds. Mushroom, cabbage, tofu or broccoli can be dropped in the water to cook along with the noodle. If you already have cooked protein on hand, whether they are leftover turkey slices or cocktail shrimp, pile them on.
Miso: the ramen favoring packets is a sodium overdose, so kudos to you if you can ditch the seasoning and make your own soup base. For one cup of hot water, stir in one tablespoon of miso paste and feel free to throw in some tofu, seaweed and chopped scallions.
Kimchi: the serious chefs will make their own kimchi, but we can opt for the store-bought option. For one package of ramen soup, discard the seasoning and stir in 1/2 cup chopped kimchi (with juice), a tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of Korean red pepper paste (go chu jang).
Breakfast: hard-boiled, soft-boiled or fried, eggs are a match-made in heaven for instant ramen. My favorite breakfast ramen has a poached egg and crispy bacon bits. You may also lightly beat the eggs in a bowl before dropping it in the soup to create your own “egg drop soup.”
Ponzu: in Japanese cuisine, Ponzu sauce is a sauce with citrus juice. You could easily pick up a bottle of ponzu in the Asian section or grocery store, or follow this easy recipe.
Kung pao: a traditional Chinese sauce, Kung Pao is salty, spicy and very pungent. Make it with 1 teaspoon of light soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce, 1 1/2 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon corn starch, 2 teaspoons vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoon hot water and a dash of sesame oil. Don’t forget to fry up some dried red chili, peanuts and chicken bits with the sauce before you stir in the noodle.
Teriyaki: a no-brainer. 1. Drain cooked noodles. 2. Stir-fry it with a tablespoon of teriyaki sauce. 3. Serve.
“The college ramen”: scrap up every kind of frozen vegetable you have in the fridge – peas, corn, broccoli or green beans, cook them in some olive oil, salt and pepper, onion and garlic and add in cooked and drained noodle at the end.
Pad Thai: some peanuts, bean sprouts, cilantro, pad Thai sauce and a protein of your choice, and you’ve saved yourself a trip to pick up your Thai takeout. Just swap the rice noodle with ramen.
Asian salad: toss the cooked noodles with cabbage, sugar snap peas, mandarin oranges, carrot slices and a handful of crunchy nuts. A sesame dressing goes quite nicely with it: 1/4 cup canola oil, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce. 2 teaspoons sugar, and ½ teaspoon sesame oil.
Three-bean salad: mix the noodle with Italian dressing, equal parts of kidney beans, cannelloni beans and chickpeas.
Ramen cake: soak a bag of noodles in hot water. Drain and toss it with a teaspoon sesame oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil in a non-stick pan and cook until both sides are golden, 5 to 8 minutes per side. Top it with herbs.
Trail mix: for an afternoon pick-me-up, shake together chocolate chips, raisins, almonds and broken noodles (no need to cook it).
Chocolate covered ramen: taste almost as good as chocolate dipped pretzels. Almost.
Sauce it up: the same way you would cook pasta, coat the ramen in tomato, Alfredo, or pesto sauce. And no, don’t worry about keeping the noodle al-dente.
These are just a few recipes to turn your ramen into a fulfilling meal. But then again, if you can make instant ramen pad Thai, chances are you can whip up a real pad Thai dish. The point isn’t saving money or time here; it’s about being creative, fun and reminiscent of the college days. You have to admit: as important as it is for a frugal college student, ramen does become a part of your college memory. And sometimes, to savor the good ol’ days, only the add-hot-water-pack will do.