The cup-o-noodles is an American college staple. On some days, nothing could seem better than coming home from class, ripping open a flavor packet, and cuddling with a steamy styrofoam cup. However, any undergrad with a few extra minutes and ingredients to spare is perfectly capable of taking the instant-classic back to its real Asian roots. With a few tips you can transform your soup skills from basic to authentic.
Ditch the Flavor Packet: While that condom-resemblant gem does wonders for your quick-fix, it doesn’t do wonders for your body. While there are traces of the good stuff (garlic, onion, parsley), flavor packets are for the most part loaded with MSG and sodium. You may not have time to transform pork bones into broth a la the traditional Japanese method, but for something a little closer to home-made, try using bouillon cubes or any stock such as pork, chicken, or vegetable. For extra kick try adding a few dashes of soy, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, and chili.
Use your Noodles: Even without the flavor packet, instant ramen isn’t the best for you. Some of the cheaper brands use MSG and other preservatives. Not to mention the prepackaged portions are tiny in comparison to the big, hearty bowl of ramen you deserve. Brands like Koyo offer dried organic noodles in large portions with ingredients like mushroom, seaweed, and tofu & miso included.
Add a Little Roughage: A little bit of green goes a long way in the ramen world. For a more colorful and flavorful dish, chop up some green onion and scallions and throw in some baby spinach. A sheet or two of dried seaweed also adds a nice amount of saltiness and texture.
Put an Egg on it: A beautiful bowl of ramen isn’t complete without a perfectly cooked egg. A hard-boiled egg can offer some nice texture, while a soft boiled egg with a runny yolk can mix into the broth to create a wonderful new flavor. If you’re looking to impress, quail eggs can be cooked and popped into a ramen bowl quickly, although at around $25/2 dozen they do run on the pricey side. For extra protein throw in a thick slice of pork or fry up some tofu.
Accessorize: Your ramen isn’t perfect without a few finishing touches. The best flavors and textures come from the smallest additions, after all. Add any spices you like, sprinkle on a teaspoon or two of sesame seeds, and throw in a fish cake to get the most out of your dish. What is a fish cake, you may ask? Otherwise known as Narutomaki, this little slice of cured fish is the most iconic element in Tokyo-style ramen (you may recognize it as one of the emojis). Each slice usually features a pink or red spiral swirl, which is meant to resemble the Naruto whirlpools in Japan, but flowers and other shapes can also be used. They can generally be found in international markets. Of course, after you’ve put together such a beautiful and delicious dish destroying it with a fork would be a sin. Grab some chopsticks while you’re at the international market and slurp away.