For most college students, the feeling of opening your fridge to nearly empty shelves and an assortment of seemingly random groceries is all too familiar. What are you supposed to do with half of an onion and a nearly expired pack of sliced cheese? You complain that there’s “nothing” to eat in the house and slam the door shut, until you remember the 30 packs of instant ramen you bought at the local supermarket to save you from days like these.
Instant ramen is a staple meal found in most college students’ pantries, and for good reason. Not only does it take up to five minutes to cook, but it’s also wallet-friendly, with one pack starting at 25 cents. But eating the same flavors of ramen can get boring, especially when it’s the only meal you’re surviving off of for the week.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways you can spice up your ramen noodles with simple ingredients that are probably laying around in your fridge. Here are some tips on how to turn something instant into a high-quality dish.
Skip the packets and add your own broth
Most instant ramen packets offer some type of protein-seasoning flavor ranging from chicken and pork to vegetables, but these flavorings are anything but healthy. A majority of ramen’s high salt content comes from these packets. For a more gourmet and healthy taste, skip the seasoning and add in your own broth as the soup base. Using your own broth is healthier and just as easy and time-saving as using the packets. Just bring the salted broth to a boil and add the noodles until they’re separated and soft.
Easily upgrade boring instant ramen to a filling meal by adding in your own protein. Some proteins you can include are ground pork, chicken, shrimp and tofu. If you’re vegetarian, tofu is a great option because it lasts forever in the fridge, and it’s packed with protein and other essential ingredients. If you’re looking for a richer taste and have some time to meal prep, marinate your proteins. For an easy marinade recipe, mix oil, rice vinegar, a little bit of sugar, green onions and ginger. Cover your protein of choice with the marinade and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours or until you’re ready to cook.
Pack it with vegetables
Adding a generous amount of fresh vegetables is another way to turn your ramen into a more sophisticated dish. Just browse your fridge for any vegetables you may need to finish up before the break hits, whether it’s carrots, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli or peas. You can also add in frozen vegetables if they’re taking up space in your freezer.
Top it off with sauce and seasonings
If you’re into strong flavors and spices, this is where you can go wild by topping your ramen off with an assortment of add-ins. For a spicy kick, add in some sriracha, kimchi or gochujang, which is a Korean red-chili paste. Fresh herbs, like basil or cilantro, are also great additions and instantly upgrade your ramen by adding some texture and making it look like a fresh, homemade meal. If spice isn’t your thing, stick to some sesame oil and add in sesame seeds for some extra flavor. For a more complex taste, use some hoisin sauce, a Chinese barbecue sauce that combines umami with sweet and salty. You can’t go wrong with adding toppings, and you definitely can’t add in too many.
Crack in an egg
Cracking in an egg is an age-old trick that creates some flavor in your ramen and is extremely simple. While the ramen is cooking in your broth, just crack in a raw egg and let it cook. Make sure the ramen is at a gentle boil, or the egg will turn the broth cloudy. For an even more elevated look, pop a soft-boiled egg into your bowl after your dish is done. Different from a hard-boiled egg, soft-boiled eggs feature a creamy yolk instead of a crumbly middle. There’s tons of easy, follow-along recipes for soft-boiled eggs, and all of them take roughly around six minutes to cook.