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How To Make Ramen Better

Explore various tips, tricks and hacks on how to make ramen better, transforming it from a simple, convenient food to a super satisfying meal.

Instant ramen is a pantry staple for many reasons. In addition to being generally tasty, ramen is convenient, warm, comforting, affordable, and, most importantly, quick! Boil water, add the seasoning packet, cook the noodles, and a bowl is ready in 5 minutes. Eating instant ramen as is, is fine; it boasts some nice flavors. However, there is so much you can do to elevate your next bowl. Let’s discuss how to make ramen better.

How To Make Ramen Better

Boost the Broth

One of the best and easiest ways to take instant ramen to the next level is with aromatics. Onion, garlic, ginger, leeks, chives, and green onions are some ideas that never disappoint. For an even deeper, more complex flavor, try charred aromatics. They impart phenomenal flavor and create a super fragrant broth. Another idea is to add a small quantity of your preferred sodium-free bouillon to avoid overly salty broth. Alternatively, incorporating dried spices like ground star anise, white pepper, and garlic powder can amplify the authenticity of instant ramen. Additionally, you can deviate from tradition by introducing flavors like curry powder and cumin. If time allows, you can even craft a personalized ramen-enhancing seasoning blend.

Or Make Your Own

Not a fan of the seasoning packet? Forgo it and prepare a broth. Doing so leaves a lot of room to play. Start a broth from scratch using meat, bones, and aromatics. Going this route comes with benefits, the main one being that there is a delicious protein waiting to be sliced and carefully placed on top of the finished bowl of ramen. Cuts like brisket that need to be cooked low and slow are well-suited for this because as the meat cooks, it also assists in developing a flavorful broth. To make broth when you’re short on time, start with bouillon and any aromatics you like. Choose beef when craving something robust, chicken for a light ramen broth, or a veggie/mushroom base for vegetarian and vegan options. You can also prepare dashi stock to use as the liquid base.

Add Sauce

Sauces are great ways to make ramen better. They’re easy to use and can be added at any stage. There are many to select from; better yet, sauces are impactful. Popular options include:

  • Soy sauce: The liquid condiment is especially helpful when ramen is slightly bland. Add a drizzle, taste, and go from there. If you’re concerned about salt, use low-sodium soy sauce.
  • Fish sauce: Like soy sauce, fish sauce will add umami to any ramen bowl. Stir a splash into the broth to enhance it, and remember to use fish sauce sparingly. Instant Dashi will work too.
  • Hoisin sauce: Those looking to up the sweet, salty tang will want to reach for hoisin.
  • Chili sauce: The great thing is that the sauce goes beyond heat. Many commercial chili sauces have a nice sweet-savory balance. Garlic, ginger, and other yummy elements are also in the mix.
  • Hot sauce: This is always a favorite way to give ramen a flavor boost. Sriracha is a popular choice, but choose your favorite!
  • Teriyaki sauce: Teriyaki sauce adds a combination of sweet, savory, and slightly tangy flavors.

Add Shrimp Paste

Shrimp paste is an incredible ingredient that has a transformative effect on ramen. It consists of fermented, salted shrimp ground into a paste. The paste has a robust, concentrated shrimp taste and is packed with umami. Admittedly, it isn’t the most stunning ingredient, but once incorporated into the broth, the appearance is no longer a problem. There are two ways to add shrimp paste to ramen to prevent lumps:

  1. Add it to the aromatics: Sauté the aromatics in a bit of oil, add the seasoning packet/bouillon, then stir in the paste. This blooms the flavor, and the exposure to heat causes the paste to melt, preventing lumps.
  2. Treat it like miso: Add the shrimp paste to a ladle, add a small amount of hot broth, stir/whisk until the paste dissolves, then mix it into the rest of the ramen broth to avoid lumps.

Speaking of miso, that is another kind of paste you can use to take a bowl of ramen to the next level. The flavor it imparts depends on the color you use, but this addition will quickly yield a richer, more robustly flavored broth.

Try Cream of Mushroom Soup

Numerous creamy ramen recipes online have gone viral because creamy ramen is awesome. This simple addition quickly transforms instant ramen into a rich, creamy, umami-packed bowl. Add a spoonful and whisk the broth, then add the noodles. I also suggest a bit of soy sauce because it does an excellent job of complementing all that is delicious about mushrooms.

Veg It Up

If you’re interested in how to improve ramen without focusing on the broth, add vegetables. A bowl of ramen packed with vegetables is super delicious, hearty, and, dare I say, healthy!? Greens, carrots, cabbage, snow peas, bok choy, bean sprouts, broccoli, corn; there are so many options to choose from. Better yet, you can prepare them however you please. Roast them, fry them, grill the vegetables, steam them, or briefly sauté. This way to improve ramen is also a smart way to put leftovers to good use. If you have leftover veggies from last night’s dinner, don’t let them go bad in the fridge; add them to your bowl! Veggie-packed ramen is so good.

Add Protein(s)

One of the most popular ramen proteins is eggs. A soft (or hard) boiled egg brings so much to a bowl, as does a poached or lightly simmered one. It adds richness to every bite, the broth soaks into the white, and the egg makes ramen instantly heartier. You can also go the poached chicken route; braised beef is wonderful in beef and mushroom-based ramen, and crispy pork belly (chashu) is a satisfying indulgence. If you prefer seafood, steamed fish cake (narutomaki), cod, haddock, halibut, and tilapia are excellent choices, as are shrimp, crab, lobster and scallops. For meatless options, tofu is fantastic, as are edamame, lentils, and beans.

Make it Crunchy

Add crispy ramen toppings like fried shallots, crushed peanuts or cashews, rice crackers, fried wonton strips, bacon bits, toasted sesame seeds, or crushed ramen noodles for texture.

Turn up the Heat

Add a spicy kick to your ramen with chilies (slices, paste, oil or powder), Sriracha, Gochujang, red pepper flakes, hot sauce, spicy kimchi, harissa, or szechuan peppercorns. For a mildly spicy kick try aleppo pepper.

Unique Ingredients

Experimenting with unique ingredients can take your ramen to a whole new level so try adding these ingredients for a distinctive twist: Truffle oil, pineapple chunks, peanut butter, ramen eggs (Ajitsuke Tamago), pickled ginger, cheese, edible flowers, wasabi peas, lemon zest.

Ramen Toppings

Last on the list of suggestions for making ramen better is to go all out on garnishes. When making your selections, keep texture and flavor in mind. Recommendations include bean sprouts, herbs like fresh basil and mint, cilantro, garlic chips, bamboo shoots, nori, dulse flakes or wakame seaweed, scallions, sliced jalapenos, and bamboo shoots. However, the list goes on. Use what is available to make the bowl all your own.

Now you know how to make ramen better, so I think it’s time to whip up a bowl, wouldn’t you agree? There are so many flavor combinations to test. It may not be possible to experience them all, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try.

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Monique McArthur
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