Cooking tips & techniques: Ramen Noodle Soup

At one time or another, nearly all of us find ourselves relying on ramen noodle soups. This is because they are one of the most inexpensive and filling food items you can buy. Some of you, in a Scarlett O’Hara mood, will say, “As God as my witness I will never eat Ramen again!”

But this is bachelor food. It’s also fashionable food. Noodle shops are springing up around the country like mushrooms. They are popular throughout Asia. And the ramen noodles you buy in those packets are not really different from the popular restaurant noodle dishes. What makes a great noodle soup is the broth. That’s where those packs and cups fall short because they rely on those flavor packets.

Oh, those flavor packets! Salt, salt, and more salt. Yuck. But there are ways to improve not only the flavor but the nutrition of ramen noodle soup, even those cheap packs.

We have a friend who loves those ramen noodles. Often he uses only a small amount of the flavor packet and then other spices, most of them very hot, to the bowl. Try making your ordinary ramen noodles your own by adding some of your favorite savory flavors.

Here are a few tips:

Soup up your soup. Got leftovers? This is a great way to use up those little odds and ends that can accumulate. I know we were all taught to clean our plates, but why not instead save that little bit you don’t really need and put it into a ramen soup for lunch or a quick dinner? This way you don’t overeat and you get a really good soup the next day. Also, adding ingredients and a little water will thin out all that salt.

Use broth instead of water. You should have a can or carton, or if you’re like me a jar of homemade, chicken, beef, shrimp, seafood, or vegetable broth around the house. If you don’t, you should. Use this instead of water. Just turn the heat down to a simmer after you bring it to a boil and put the noodles in. But DON’T use that flavor packet. There are other things to do if you don’t like throwing things like that away.

Turn it into a main dish.¬†Don’t cook the noodles all the way and then drain. Don’t add the flavor packet. Heat up a wok pan adding some red pepper flakes or chili oil to your usual oil. Stir fry some beef or other protein, even tofu, with ginger and garlic. Add enough broth to make a nice soup along with some soy sauce (I recommend Tamari). When hot, add fresh spinach, shredded carrots, and the noodles and stir until everything is hot and the spinach is wilted. That’s it. You can even top it all with some chopped peanuts. It’s really good.

Use the flavor packets for something else. Add part to a pot of water for rice or pasta. Sprinkle a little over steamed vegetables with some Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar.

So, ramen noodles don’t have to be awful. Just use a little thought. Now get cooking.