10 Foodie-Approved Hacks for Upgrading Ramen
Ramen is quite arguably the #1 food group when you’re in college. Whether you’re late night cramming for an exam and have the munchies or need a quick bite in between classes, it’s guaranteed comfort food and cheap AF. In a quest to take it to the next level, we asked a bunch of ramen-loving chefs, food bloggers, and Instagrammers how they spruce it up (in a small-space kitchen or dorm room), so you don’t get bored of the staple noodle soup by the second semester.
1. Rando Add-Ins
“I love to add ingredients to bring instant ramen up a notch. Some of my go-tos are a poached egg, a slice of American cheese melted on top, leftover barbecue pulled pork, tofu puffs, and romaine lettuce.” — Mike Stark, executive chef of Shojo, BLR By Shojo, and Ruckus Noodle Shop
2. flavor boosters
“To punch up the flavor profile, try lightly toasting the spices before adding them to the liquid. This adds a smokey element and another flavor dimension. Also, instead of throwing away your herb stems and veg scraps from other meals, make a flavor bomb by blending them with oil and a little chili and form a paste. A spoonful of this stuff in your finished ramen goes a long way.” — Richard Hales, chef/partner of Bird & Bone
3. last-minUTE toss-ins
“Crack a whole egg directly into the pot as you’re cooking it on the stovetop. Give it a quick stir to break up the yolk. It’ll make the broth richer. Also feel free to throw some vegetables (fresh or frozen) into the pot. Another hack is to buy thin sheets of dried seaweed and nori and add to your ramen just before serving.” — Benjamin Liong Setiawan of HungryEditor
4. Asian Market Scores
“I’m not proud of this, but I can remember a time when I would steal butter packets from the dining hall to use for ramen. I would bring water to a boil, cook the noodles most of the way, then pour out half to two thirds, add the flavor packet and butter chips, turn off the heat and stir until combined. Grocery stores are getting better, but Asian markets are like an entire building devoted to cheap ramen toppings — if you’re adventurous enough. Dried sliced shiitakes are around $1 for a big bag (and easy to throw in boiling water or with butter). By the time your noodles are cooked, the mushrooms are soft. The top ingredients you need to expand your ramen skills: Sambal chile garlic paste, kimchi (any kind, which you can cook the same way as mushrooms), scallions, and if you have money to spend, buy bacon… it lasts a long time and cooks just as fast as noodles.” — Brian Reilly, chef/ramen bushi at Mẹcha Noodle Bar
5. chilled version
“When you want to gourmet-ify 99 cent grocery store ramen (in August, when it’s still hot, even if you’re back at school) try a chilled ramen salad. Cook the noodles the normal way you would. When they’re the texture you want, take them out and shock them in ice water. Then, make a simple vinaigrette of soy sauce, olive oil, lime juice, and a couple shakes of the flavor packet. Give that a whisk and spoon over the noodles, before topping with rotisserie chicken, carrots, tomatoes, and radishes (or any other veggies you like) and a soft cooked egg.” — Jamison Blankenship, Morimoto alum and chef/co-Owner of Chuko
6. Porcini Broth
“Take a Nissin Cup Noodle (beef flavor) from the pantry, add a piece of dry porcini mushroom to the boiling water [used for the noodles], and shave off a generous amount of truffle [on top] with a drizzle of white truffle oil. The beef flavor works well with truffle, since it’s essentially a consommé. The porcini broth adds a deeper flavor while rehydrating those dried condiments.” — Masahiro Urushido, managing partner, head bartender, & director of deliciousness at Katana Kitten
7. Vegetarian Style
“I love using zoodles for ramen but to ensure they don’t get mushy, add them in right before serving the ramen so they still have a little crunch — just like al dente noodles. Also, to make a filling (and vegetarian) ramen, try pan-seared tempeh! It adds a robust flavor from the tamari ginger marinade, gives the soup a meaty texture, and adds a ton of protein, which makes this zucchini noodle ramen meal-worthy.” — Brittany Mullins, health coach and Eating Bird Food blogger
8. Curry Powder
“My favorite ramen hack is S&B Oriental Curry Powder. I usually heat up some water, add the curry powder (along with whatever seasoning package the ramen comes), and sometimes I’ll add some Hon-Dashi for even more umami flavor. The ultimate trick is to add S&B Chili Oil With Crunchy Garlic to your ramen. It’s honestly the best condiment in the world. I put that sh*t on top of everything. All of these condiments can be found at most Japanese or Korean supermarkets and are relatively cheap.” — Jonathan Whitener, chef/co-owner of Here’s Looking At You
9. Seasoning Mix
“Spicing up your dorm room ramen is as easy as having a few staples on hand. I like furikake, a Japanese seasoning mix, and for some spice, I always reach for shichimi togarashi powder. Also a few drops of sesame oil and some sesame seeds add a great richness and some crunch.” — Nick Sorrentino, chef/director of culinary operations at Cocktail Kingdom
10. Something Green
“Most ramen comes with a smattering of green onion or scallion, and thicker soups tend to match well with boiled spinach. Even collard greens or kale — though not very Japanese — could work. Seasoned, half-cooked eggs or roast chashu pork are a step above. Though these take time to prepare, you can save the rest for later, and both make a great snack.” — Brian MacDuckston, author of Ramen at Home and the blog Ramen Adventures
What’s your favorite way to make ramen? Tweet us @BritandCo!
Brit + Co may at times use affiliate links to promote products sold by others, but always offers genuine editorial recommendations.