As far as “it” foods go these days, ramen is it! Whether it’s from a food truck, a high end restaurant or a university dorm room (yes, still), a steaming bowl of ramen is widely available and trending. If you’re lucky enough to enjoy a bowl with fresh noodles, they will of course dazzle you, but if the instant, dried variety is what you have on hand, no worries they are delicious and easy to dress up. I love cooking this dish at home because it’s inexpensive, ready in minutes and loaded with umami magic, making it the perfect mid-winter meal.
Five steps to building your perfect bowl:
1. The base: Broth
Broth is the essence of ramen and will make up the primary flavour, followed by wheat noodles (they are typically used) which are not only delicious but they have the ability to absorb any flavour. If you are so inclined, use your own broth and build the flavour as you go. Alternatively, use the packet included in your instant ramen package and build from there. Common broth flavours are pork, shrimp, beef, chicken, mushroom, veggie and curry. The flavour packets are very high in sodium, so bear that in mind if you intend on adding any flavourings later on as you may run the risk of over-salting.
Tip: Start by adding only half of the packaged seasoning. You can always add more later, as needed.
2. The boost: Seasonings
Once you have your pot of simmering ramen, then it’s time to amp things up! There’s no end to the flavour combinations you can add to your broth. For example, a teaspoon of miso paste will give it a smooth, buttery flavour, and if you’re looking for heat, try adding small bits of hot chili paste. Dry spices such as anise, coriander and chili flakes also work well. But, if you are adding in dry spices, add them into the broth early in the cooking stage to allow enough time for the flavours to come through. The best seasonings to add include: miso paste, sambal oelek, fish sauce, curry paste, sriracha, rice vinegar and gochujang.
Tip: Add seasoning in small batches as the noodles absorb flavours quickly. Don’t overdo it.
3. The bright: vegetables
Vegetables add colour, flavour and some needed nutrition. Almost any vegetable can work as long as it can be cooked quickly. If you are adding sturdy vegetables such as carrots or cabbage, they need be grated or shredded as thinly as possible to ensure they cook quickly. Avoid vegetables that are high in starch as the wheat noodles contains a lot of carbohydrates. Some go-to ramen vegetables are: bok choy, finely shredded cabbage, mushrooms, baby spinach, green onions, broccoli, carrots, snow peas, bean sprouts.
Tip: Finely sliced vegetables cook the quickest and are best suited to your bowl of ramen.
4. The brawn: Protein
Make your bowl a well-rounded meal by adding some protein (almost anything goes). A great starting point is to match the protein with the type of broth you’re making (ie. chicken, vegetable). Precooked meats such as rotisserie chicken and shredded pork work very well and can simply be stirred in. If you are adding raw meat, make sure to slice it very thinly so it cooks quickly. Any seafood will work, and often ramen comes in shrimp broth. Ramen is also a quick and easy vegetarian dish well suited to tofu and of course eggs (scrambled, fried, poached, whatever you fancy).
Tip: raw meat needs to be sliced thinly so it can cook quickly in the broth.
5. The bite: Acidity and freshness
Balance out the wonderful saltiness and umami of ramen with a little bit of acidity. A little bit goes a long way – but a garnish of fresh lime or the addition of lime zest will brighten up the dish and add some balance and tang. Adding some freshly grated ginger to your broth will lift the dish, and adding fresh herbs as a garnish will brighten things up. A good sprinkling of mint, basil and cilantro will make your dish shine.
Tip: Add some acidity and freshness to your dish to accent the flavours and combat the sodium.
My favourite ramen recipe
1 package instant ramen, mushroom flavour
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sambal oelek
1 tsp brown sugar
¼ tsp grated lime zest
1 cup baby spinach
15 g enoki mushrooms
1 green onion, finely sliced
1 small lime wedge
COOK noodles with grated garlic according to package direction in a medium pot over medium-high. Add only 1tsp of the seasoning packet along with fish sauce, sambal oelek, sugar and lime zest. Cook for 1 min.
REDUCE heat to low and stir in spinach, enoki and half of the green onions. Crack egg onto the centre of the noodles and cover. Cook for 3 min.
LIFT out egg gently with a large slotted spoon. Pour ramen into a large bowl, top with poached egg. Serve with a lime wedge, sprinkle with remaining green onions and dot with more sambal oelek if desired.
Ramen noodles themselves are extremely versatile. So think outside the packet, and try using your ramen noodles in dishes other than soup.
Try this fantastic Chatelaine Kitchen ramen hack: Sesame ramen with bacon and eggs.