Don’t knock cheesy ramen 'til you’ve tried it
I’m not the first one to put cheese on my ramen. Noah Cho, who authors the Bad Kimchi column for Catapult, writes that he will “fight anyone that says you shouldn’t put cheese on your ramen.” And he’s right to be fired up about it: cheese on ramen is spectacular -- particularly on the spicy and savory Korean instant ramen, Shin Ramyun. The cheese tames the heat while the chile cuts through any of the saturated heaviness that may linger in a slice of American. Though Cho’s preference is a Kraft single, which I also enjoy thanks to its melty nature, I’ve found that a sharp slice of cheddar is wholly welcomed as well. Don’t believe me? Next time you make instant ramen, throw a slice of whatever melty cheese you have into it and watch your ramen transform into something utterly goopy and fantastic.
Try stir-frying it
Drinking the soup at the end of a bowl of ramen or cup of noodles used to be my favorite part of the experience until I realized how completely shitty it is for my body to take in all that concentrated sodium. A way around that is not drinking all the soup, for one. But something else you can also do is eliminate soup all together and craft your ramen into a stir fry. Some instant ramen brands, like Indonesian brand Indomie’s mi goreng, are intended to be eaten as dry noodles. But others, like Thailand’s beloved MAMA, aren’t. That doesn’t mean you can’t just eliminate the soup yourself, though. After cooking the noodles in boiling water, dump out the leftover liquid and add as little or as much of the salty seasoning packet that comes with your instant noodles. Toss in an egg, red chile flakes, and some ground meat for a simple DIY stir fry. It’s nice to mix it up between noodle soups and dry noodles every once in a while.
Dumplings and wontons are always welcomed
If you’re going to boil a pot of water for ramen, you might as well throw in some dumplings too, right? Like the humble egg, tossing a couple frozen dumplings into your ramen is effortless and will enhance the meal tenfold. You can use shrimp wontons, pork and leek dumplings, or whatever bag of frozen potstickers you picked up at Costco.
Add easy-to-cook proteins
In addition to the eggs, veggies, dumplings, and cheese, adding a simple protein that’s already cooked -- or easy to cook -- really ties your upgraded instant ramen together. I like cutting cubes of tofu, adding ground chicken, or even using fried spam, hot dogs, or frozen fish balls to my soup. With all these components, your instant ramen will have varied texture and flavor and might actually keep you full.