Ramen was a comfort food for me growing up. My father drew on recipes he learned while living in Korea for two years and often made it for our Saturday afternoon lunch. Now, when my teens are tired of their usual comfort foods (hot dogs, mac and cheese, and pizza bites) I follow my dad’s example and pull out ramen recipes, too. My kids love it! The broth is warm, the noodles are chewy, the scent is enticing. Plus, it’s so easy to add nutritious ingredients and adjust basic recipes to your taste.
Ramen is a great meal for you and your teens to learn to cook at home. Follow along, I’ll introduce you to some ramen brands and show you how to improve ramen to turn it into a great meal.
Instant Ramen Hacks
Ramen can be an excellent choice for households and easy recipes for college students pinching pennies, and simply adding a few inexpensive ingredients can elevate brand recipes from basic to drool-worthy.
Nissin Top Ramen is cheap, mild-tasting, and probably the most well-known brand here in the United States. The soy sauce flavor (blue package) is probably the most authentic of all its flavors, and it’s one of my personal favorites. For a similarly mild version of ramen with much better quality, I highly recommend Jin Ramen.
If you’re looking to spice things up, then try Korean ramen. But prepare yourself, because these ramen brands pack heat! One of the newer ramen brands available in the United States is made by Nongshim; it’s called Shin Ramyun and it was, for many years, the top-selling ramen in Korea. This one will burn your mouth if you’re not careful.
Another best selling Korean ramen is a brand called Buldak. With flavors ranging from curry to cheese, this ramen is sure to take your taste buds on an adventure. But I warn you, the spice level is at least five times more intense than Shin and since you cook out the broth, there’s not much you can do to lower the intense heat.
If you enjoy a more subtle, umami flavor, try Japanese ramen. Sapporo Ichiban, Myojo, Nissin, Sanyo, and Itsuki are brands you might find on grocery shelves or in an Asian grocery store. Similarly, you can also try Singaporean ramen, which tends to be more sweet and savory.
Whichever type of ramen you choose, be sure to follow my cooking tips and try adding some ingredients to make it distinctively yours and incredibly delicious.
How to cook ramen.
What you need to make basic instant ramen:
- A package of ramen — which usually comes with a block of dried noodles and one or more seasoning packets.
- Measuring cup.
- Small pot.
- Water for broth (check your ramen package for the needed amount).
- Water for cooking the noodles.
- Soup bowl.
- Extra ingredients, as desired (see suggestions below).
Instructions for cooking instant ramen:
- Add plenty of water to a small pot.
- Bring the water in the pot to a rolling boil.
- Add the noodles.
- Cook for 3 minutes.
- Drain the noodles and set them aside in a soup bowl.
- Refill the pot with a measured amount of water (check your ramen package for the exact amount, especially if you’re not adding extra ingredients).
- Add packaged seasoning to the pot.
- Add your extra ingredients to the pot (see suggestions below).
- When your broth is ready, ladle it over your noodles.
Alternatively, you can add your noodles in the last 3 minutes of cooking time. The key here is to not overcook your noodles because if you do, they’ll come out soggy.
What to Add to Instant Ramen
The secret to good ramen is the broth. You can punch up the flavor of ramen broth with your own ingredients. Here are a few easy ramen toppings you can try at home!
Try adding veggies to your ramen.
My personal favorite addition is green onion, which gives the broth a rich herbal base. You can also try mushrooms, garlic, carrots, or any other herb you think would pair well with soy sauce. Cabbage (especially kimchi) works well, as do bean sprouts and pickled radish.
Try instant ramen with egg.
I’ve added eggs to ramen a couple of different ways. For a fancier version, I make the broth first then add the noodles to my last 3 minutes of cooking time. While the noodles are cooking, I scramble some egg and add it just as the noodles begin to separate. If you’d rather have an over-easy egg on top, try adding a splash of vinegar — I like rice vinegar — while the noodles finish cooking, then turn off the heat, create a whirlpool in the soup with a spoon or chopsticks, then add your egg on top.
Try adding protein to your ramen.
Try adding protein like tofu, shrimp, ham or spam, sliced chicken, sliced steak, chopped sausage, or chopped hot dog.
If you want to make your ramen less spicy, try adding:
- Rice cakes, but not the Quaker patties found in the snack aisle – Korean rice cakes are like thick, chewy noodles made from rice flour. If you have a local Asian grocery store, they’re a must-try. I recommend soaking the rice cakes for at least a half hour before cooking, or they could come out hard.
- Fish cakes. I’m not personally a fan, but the salty flavor is a big hit in Asia.
- Roast beef or chicken, pre-cooked.
- American cheese (Kraft, for example). Cheese is especially good at lowering the spicy heat of the Buldak.
- Peanut Butter. Okay, this choice is not for everyone — but hear me out: add peanut butter to your noodles for a quick and easy spicy Pad-Thai. This is my first choice for navigating the Buldak spice. I give this one a chef’s kiss.
Chapagetti ramen – aka black bean noodles or ramen spaghetti.
Rising to fame thanks to a feature in the movie Parasite, Chapagetti Ramen is a taste most western cultures have yet to experience. Also known as black-bean noodles, this ramen has a little more oil than other varieties but will not burn your mouth.
To make it the Oscar-winning way, cook it with a package of Neoguri (spicy seafood ramen) and add cubes of seared steak and green onion.
Teaching your kids ways to modify ramen recipes is a great way for them to learn to feed themselves delicious and nutritious food without spending a fortune. Encourage them to have fun with their instant ramen ideas. Happy eating!