In Japanese cuisine, ramen is a satisfying noodle dish that can range in flavor from delicate to complex and from spicy to subtle. Here in America, however, we're more familiar with ramen's less fancy cousin, a cheap prepackaged block of dried noodles accompanied by a sodium-rich seasoning packet.
Many of us probably don't even eat instant ramen on a regular basis, but this dish can be more than just a quick fix from the office vending machine. We've found that with just a few simple tricks and fresh ingredients, ramen noodles can easily become the main attraction of a respectable weeknight dinner.
For proof, here are five recipes from around the internet that showcase ramen's true potential.
"The cold, hard reality of packaged ramen doesn't have to smack you across the face quite so hard," writes College Culinarian's Kathryn VanderMolen, a recent grad and food blogger who won the Food News Journal's "Best of the Blogs" award in May and June of 2011. She came up with this recipe for Fancy(ish) Ramen after returning to college from a Thanksgiving break to find very little food in her cupboards. With the addition of a few simple ingredients, she was able to turn ordinary ramen noodle soup into something much fancier(ish).
- 1 egg
- 1 package instant ramen noodles
- 1 small green onion, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
- Sriracha sauce, to taste
Cook ramen noodles to package directions, but use only half of the included seasoning packet and discard the rest. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium high heat. Add a bit of butter and crack the egg into the skillet. Sprinkle with a pinch of pepper. Cook until the egg white is almost set, then add a teaspoon of water and cover. Cook until white sets fully and yolk is still runny, about 30 seconds. Pour noodles into a serving bowl. Top with the fried egg, green onion, sesame seeds, and Sriracha.
Ramen Noodle Crunchy Coleslaw
Kathy Maister of StartCooking.com admits that she was skeptical when her friend told her about this recipe for Ramen Noodle Crunchy Coleslaw, but now describes it as "fantastic." Perhaps the most interesting part of this dish is the fact that the instant noodle "brick" is never actually cooked, but rather crushed into smaller pieces and mixed with the slaw to add an unexpected and satisfying crunch.
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1 package ramen noodles, chicken flavor
- Sesame seeds
- Sliced almonds
- 6–8 cups shredded cabbage (or prepackaged coleslaw mix)
- 4 green onions, sliced thin (green parts discarded)
Make the dressing by whisking together the first four ingredients along with the chicken-flavored spice packet from the ramen noodles. Next, toast the sesame seeds and almonds in separate frying pans over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until they start to brown and become fragrant; remove from the heat and set aside. Place the shredded cabbage in a large bowl and add the toasted sesame seeds, the toasted almonds and the sliced green onions. Crumble in the dry ramen noodles afterwards, then gently toss everything together. When it's time to serve the slaw, add the dressing, toss the slaw and serve immediately.
Grilled Kimchi’n'Cheese Shinwich
Hans Lienesch, otherwise known as the Ramen Rater, has reviewed almost 1,000 different brands of packaged ramen on his extremely thorough website. When he's not slurping down a bowl or seeking out new varieties, Hans is experimenting with ramen recipes like this Grilled Kimchi'n'Cheese Shinwich (named partly for the brand of ramen he used). "It's really good," he says. "The noodles that end up sticking out end up a little crunchy, [and] the cheese is really nice and drippy too."
- 2 large slices sourdough bread
- Kimchi (can be found in Korean markets or most large supermarkets)
- 1 pack instant ramen noodles (preferably Nongshim Shin Ramyun)
- 2 slices American cheese
- 2 slices pepperjack cheese
- Non-stick olive oil cooking spray
Bring 1 and 1/4 cups of water to a boil and add the ramen seasoning packet (this is intentionally less water than the package calls for, which helps the seasoning soak into the ramen). Add the noodles and cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. Drain the noodles and set aside. Layer each slice of sourdough bread with two slices of the cheese, and top each with a forkful of kimchi. Add the ramen noodles on top of the kimchi, close the sandwich, and lay it in a hot skillet which has been coated liberally with cooking spray. Cook until the bread is toasty and the cheese is melted, flipping only once, if possible.
Ramen Noodle Stir Fry
"A friend of mine gave me this recipe a few years ago and it's been our staple 'go-to meal,'" says Katie McClary of her Ramen Noodle Stir Fry
. Busy moms like Katie will also appreciate how quick and easy the dish is, dirtying only one skillet and using items commonly found in the fridge. "If all else fails and there's nothing else to cook ([and] when I actually turn on the stove instead of the microwave), we usually have the ingredients to throw this together," Katie writes on her blog, Thirteen Acres.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 packages beef ramen noodles, broken up
- 1 large package frozen stir fry vegetables (Katie prefers Birds Eye mix with water chestnuts and broccoli)
- 1/3 cup soy sauce (or more, to taste)
- 1 cup water
Brown the meat over medium heat, then drain it and return it to the pan. Add the frozen vegetables and the broken ramen noodles. Stir in only one of the beef seasoning packets (discard the other) along with the soy sauce and water. Simmer everything over low heat until the noodles are thoroughly cooked.
Asian Chili Ramen-Wrapped Shrimp
You've already heard of bacon-wrapped shrimp and coconut shrimp, but now thanks to Chris Simmerman at Food Thoughts of a Chef Wannabe, you've heard of ramen-wrapped shrimp. Chris' "closet love affair" with ramen noodle soup inspired her "to come up with a way to incorporate it onto something people would be more open-minded about eating," and the result was her recipe for Asian Chili Ramen-Wrapped Shrimp. "I knew I could get [ramen] to hold a special place in a special dish where it wouldn't be made fun of, ridiculed for its unhealthy existence, and not just be referred to as a joke!" she writes.
- 1 package chili-flavored ramen
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha (optional)
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 8 large shrimp (or several more smaller shrimp)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Peanut oil for frying
Prepare the ramen according to package directions, but add only Sriracha to the boiling water (if using) and not the seasoning packet. Once cooked, drain the noodles and return them to the pot, stirring in the seasoning packet and butter. Once the noodles are evenly coated, remove from heat and let cool completely. In a deep pan, bring peanut oil to 350 F. Devein the shrimp, being careful to leave the tails attached; pat them dry and season with salt and pepper. Wrap a small amount of cooled noodles around each shrimp, taking extra care to make sure they stick and stay in place during cooking. Fry the shrimp for two minutes on each side (depending on their size) and drain on paper towels. Serve with wasabi, duck sauce or extra Sriracha for dipping.