Cooking tips & techniques: Ramen Noodle Soup

Nissin Cup O’Noodles Instant Lunch is a variation on more traditional ramen for a more portable option. Just add boiling water or three minutes in the microwave.

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

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 broth. That is 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 even with those flavor packets, you can make something ordinary into a culinary delight.

Maruchan RamenNoodle Soup packets are a personal favorite and are a good starting point to get creative.
Maruchan RamenNoodle Soup packets are a personal favorite and are a good starting point to get creative.

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

I always have leftover broth in one of those cartons after making some dish. You should always have broth around, but once opened, it won’t last for more than a few days. 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. The broth will have good flavor, the low-sodium version, of course. There are other things to do with the flavor packet if you don’t like throwing things like that away.

Ramen noodles with slices of roasted pork and scallions.

Turn it into a main dish

I’ll put an idea on the Recipes Page, but essentially, you 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 and 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 of the packet to a pot of water for rice or pasta. Sprinkle a little over steamed vegetables with some Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar.

Ramen noodles don’t have to be awful, monotonous and bland. Just use a little thought.