Instant ramen has long been a college student go-to for a cheap, quick and tasty meal that can be made with just a microwave. As it can often lack significant nutritional value and depth of flavor, here are some tips to elevate your noodles into a satisfying meal.
Most instant ramen does not come with vegetables and the ones that do include small amounts of chewy, freeze-dried peas and carrots that never seem to reach the right texture. There are several ways to level up the vegetable inclusions of your ramen. Fresh or frozen bagged vegetables — such as coleslaw mixes — are great ways to include fiber and crunch in your ramen. You can also add a frozen or canned medley of peas, corn and carrots to your ramen before cooking.
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Like with vegetables, instant ramen is typically void of significant protein. Although bearing resemblance to cat food in the eyes of some, canned tuna and chicken can be easy and fast ways to add protein into your ramen. If that’s not so much your thing, try buying some grilled or rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. You can utilize these to make several meals throughout the week. For those who don’t eat meat, many Asian stores carry fried tofu that can be immediately added into your ramen bowl without cooking. If you have access to a stove, a fried egg is a tried and true way to take your ramen bowl to the next level.
It’s no secret that grocery store ramen can start tasting monotonous and one dimensional after a while. If you’re looking to elevate the flavor, try finding sauces you like, and experiment with different combinations. Soy sauce, duck sauce, hot sauce and teriyaki sauce can all be found at the grocery store. For a quick money saver, saving soy sauce and duck sauce packets after getting takeout is an easy way to keep single-serve sauces that don’t require refrigeration on hand. Chili-garlic oil and sesame oil can also add another layer of flavor to your meal.
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Finally, what would your new and improved ramen bowl be without a fun garnish? Toasted sesame seeds can be found at most grocery stores in a convenient shaker container. Sprinkle them on top of your finished ramen for a nutty flavor and some crunch. Additionally, fried garlic and onion are versatile pantry staples that can be used to add an umami crunch to any savory dish without any prep work needed. If you’re looking for some freshness, try some cilantro or a squeeze of lime juice to garnish.