Whether you're a penny-pinching college student or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of eating cheap, a good bowl of ramen can be a godsend of a meal — even if it can be a bit messy to eat. The pack of dehydrated noodles may seem sketchy to the ramen novice, but the cheap eat never disappoints. It's hard to resist a warm bowl of noodles that cooks in mere minutes, but also, let's be honest, simply adding hot water to your noodles and spice packet just doesn't do them any justice.
Ramen is a traditionally Japanese dish consisting of wheat noodles, broth, and a number of different additives, from pork to seaweed to green onions. The possibilities are endless. Your 25-cent grocery store ramen provides you with the basics — noodles and broth — but thinking creatively will help you transform your bowl into a more authentic (and delicious) meal.
Thankfully, even someone lacking most culinary skills can amp up their ramen game without breaking the bank. Adding some basics to your pantry and freezer will make you equipped to turn any bowl of noodles into a gourmet meal without the gourmet price. So test out these 10 hacks yourself — I guarantee you'll never look at those dehydrated noodles the same way again.
1. SWITCH OUT THE BROTH FOR MISO
Take a break from the flavor packet for a different, more wholesome taste. Mix in a spoonful of miso paste with your water and your bowl o' noodles will become tastier and healthier — not to mention more authentic.
2. CRACK AN EGG IN IT
Honest question: Is there anything an egg doesn't improve? The possibilities for adding some yolk-y goodness to your noodles are great: Toss in a hardboiled egg, mix in some scrambled eggs, or add a raw egg to the pot and allow it to cook in your broth for a couple minutes.
3. POUR IN FROZEN VEGGIES
OK so maybe a bowl of noodles isn't the healthiest meal — but a cup of vegetables can fix that. Throw in some frozen peas, carrots, and broccoli two to three minutes before your ramen is done cooking for some extra nutrients.
4. SPRINKLE IN SOY SAUCE
If you like things on the salty side, then soy sauce, or shoyu, is for you. Just a teaspoon adds the perfect amount of salty flavor to a bowl of noodles without overpowering it.
5. ADD FRESH GREENS
Frozen vegetables are a quick fix for adding in some vitamins, but fresh green onion and bok choy give your ramen a more traditional dose of green, not to mention a satisfying crunch.
6. MIX IN SOME PROTEIN
Adding in stir-fried tofu or chicken makes a bowl of noodles a bit more substantial, so toss in your favorite protein for long-lasting energy.
7. BROIL IT
You read that right — if you prefer your ramen to be more noodle-based than soup-based, take it off the stove a few minutes before it's finished, drain the broth, and place it in the oven to broil for a minute or two. You'll be left with a perfectly crunchy top layer with deliciously smooth noodles underneath.
8. MAKE THINGS SPICY
Since you can never have too much Sriracha, squirt some on your noodles for a hot change of pace.
9. STIR-FRY IT
A couple minutes in some oil does wonders. Toss your ramen in a wok or lightly oiled pan for a wonderfully carb-filled sauté.
10. GO AUTHENTIC
Since ramen is a Japanese dish, try to find some Japanese toppings. Furikake, a seasoning that contains seaweed and sesame seeds, is always a favorite, and kamaboko (cured fish slices), is the perfect choice for the seafood lover in you. Do your research, see what you can find, and enjoy!
Hey foodies, looking for something else to inspire your tastebuds? Check out guacamole with peas (and click here to subscribe to Bustle's YouTube page for more videos):