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Partying until all hours of the night, cramming for tests, and awkward welcome week ice breakers are all part of the college freshman year experience. What doesn’t have to be part of that experience is settling for boring, bland, or just plain sub-par dining experiences.
Enter Priya Krishna, who has unlocked the secrets to gaming the college meal plan system in her book Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks, which details 75 easy recipes for spicing up the meals and ingredients that you’ll find in most any college dining hall, from four-ingredient eggs carbonara in the morning and spinach artichoke grilled cheese for lunch (put that panini press to good use!), to cheesy “polenta” for dinner (here, polenta means oatmeal with mushrooms and melted cheese on top) and an easy chocolate bread pudding for dessert (pour chocolate milk on top of bread and microwave it. Really!)
We talked to Krishna, food writer and recent graduate of Dartmouth College, about some of her favorite tips and recipes.
What is your general advice to a college student who walks into his or her school cafeteria and feels underwhelmed by the choices, or overwhelmed by so much pizza and fries?
Always start by walking around the dining hall and surveying the choices. Take it all in, the good and the bad. If you are overwhelmed, try zeroing in on a single meal profile (like stir fry, or tacos), or if you find yourself in an all-you-can-eat situation, take a little bit of everything. You can always go back and take more of what you like. If you are underwhelmed, try taking something basic (like pasta, or a simple sandwich) and jazzing it up with condiments, like olive oil, chili sauce, or pesto.
What’s the easiest way to eat healthy in a school cafeteria?
Go tray-less! This prevents you from loading up excess food on your tray that you probably won’t eat. That way, you can focus on making sure your plate at hand is well distributed among the different food groups. Also, balance out unhealthy dessert items with things like fruit and yogurt. Some examples: take a small brownie and load lots of strawberries on top, or take half a piece of pie and put a lot of vanilla yogurt on the side. You’ll satisfy your sweet tooth and not feel cheated.
What should college students keep in their dorm room for food emergencies besides ramen and Easy Mac?
Nuts, apples (they keep longer than other fruits), peanut butter (the kind with no added sugar, to prevent you from straight spooning out of the jar), and plain yogurt. I also like keeping a bar of dark chocolate, you know, for emergencies. And maybe some string cheese.
Which is your favorite recipe in the book?
I am really partial to the dessert recipes because I think that in a dining hall, dessert allows you to be particularly creative. You can combine most sweet things with other sweet things and the result will almost always be pretty tasty. One of my favorites is the bread pudding recipe. There are two iterations, chocolate and apple cinnamon, and with a dollop of ice cream on top, this dish always has that freshly baked taste even though it is made in a microwave.
Are there any quick fixes to making food in college cafeterias taste better?
The foolproof way to make a savory dish taste better: melt cheese on it. Crusty, melted cheese is one of life’s greatest treasures.
For the latest happenings in the food and drink world, visit our Food News page.
Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on [email protected]
15 Ramen Hacks That Will Change Your Life
Some poetry is universal: we all know the Robert Frost poem about the road not taken Shel Silverstein was a straight-up guru Dr. Seuss was either a genius or tripping on acid or both and chances are you’re familiar with good ol’ William Shakespeare, even if you hated having to act out scenes from Macbeth in class.
But only one poem truly resonates with all college students, English majors and non-English majors alike. And it’s this one:
“Peel off the lid.
Pour boiling water into the cup.
Let sit for three minutes.
Stir well and serve.”
To a college student, nothing is more poetic than the directions for making Cup Noodles. These noodles are a member of the College Food Holy Trinity, alongside Easy Mac and Nutella. And it’s all thanks to the hard work and perseverance of Momofuku Ando, Taiwanese-Japanese inventor and entrepreneur, who would be turning 105 years old today.
Ando created Instant Ramen, a flash-fried version of the classic Japanese noodle dish, as a cheap solution to post-World War II Japan’s hunger problem. Since then, it has evolved into the reliable solution for chronic starvation in college. Apart from being hot and comforting, it’s also impossible to screw up, which you probably can’t say about your last Orgo midterm.
So in honor of our noodle patron, check out this definitive guide to pimping out the ramen you’ll be inevitably having for dinner in the library tonight.
1. Ramen Cacio e Pepe
Some people are blessed with Italian grandmothers who can make homemade pasta. Other people are gifted with a knack for cooking. And for the rest of us, at least there’s this recipe.
2. Ramen Salad
Next time you’re paying twelve dollars for a salad you’re just going to eat the toppings off of, imagine yourself eating this instead. And then go make that dream a reality.
3. Hot & Spicy Ramen Chili
Just bomb an exam? Feeling homesick? Love interest hasn’t texted you back in like FOUR hours? Let this chili take you in its warm embrace and tell you that everything is going to be okay.
4. Chicken Ramen Noodle Soup
Because chicken noodle soup is the ultimate cure for everything: whether it’s the flu, Seasonal Affective Disorder or a killer hangover, this recipe is here for you.
5. Egg, Bacon and Ramen Scramble
The early bird may get the worm, but the late-for-class bird gets this ramen scramble. Which I’m gonna go ahead and say is conclusively better.
6. Cheddar Broccoli Ramen
If you’re that person who is chronically running low on dining dollars, invest in a huge pack of Cup Noodles. This recipe is sure to fill you up for at least a few hours.
7. Ramen Veggie Stir-Fry
That’s right. The easiest, quickest dinner idea ever just got easier and quicker with this stir-fry recipe. Because ain’t nobody got time to cook rice.
8. Ram n’ Cheese
Chances are you’re going to eat both Easy Mac and Instant Ramen today, so save some time and just do both simultaneously. This hybrid dish will satisfy every stereotypical college craving you could ever have.
9. DIY Gourmet Ramen
You probably don’t have these eclectic ingredients just lying around, but if you do, this ramen is for you. Also, you’re a freak.
10. 10-Minute Egg and Spinach Ramen
Ten minutes is a little longer than it usually takes to make ramen, but a lot shorter than it takes to make anything else. But this recipe‘s potential for yolk porn is totally worth the extra time.
11. Parmesan Ramen
This bowl of instant noodles screams, “I literally just needed a vehicle for cheese to enter my mouth and I obviously had ramen lying around.” But it tastes great, so whatever.
12. Deceptively Simple Poached Egg Ramen
Confuse your fellow library-dwellers by turning up with these noodles. Everyone will think you smuggled in a personal Japanese chef. We won’t tell anyone the truth.
13. Ramen Egg Drop Soup
The Chinese restaurant version of hot, comforting soup just got a desperate-hungry-American-college-student makeover. But damn, does this dish hit the spot.
14. Ramen Egg Stir-Fry
Your parents would be so proud if they knew you were getting all your food groups in. Unless they’re concerned that you’re sending them a photo of this dish at 4 am in the morning after a hard night of cramming for midterms.
15. Dessert Ramen
TREAT YO’SELF. When your sweet tooth is acting up, make yourself this less alarming, actually delicious ramen version of Buddy the Elf’s terrifying dessert spaghetti.
While you eat, drool over these (slightly) more authentic versions of ramen:
SPICY RAMEN NOODLE RECIPE
Did you eat ramen in college?
I remember it being a popular, cheap option for college kids back when I went to University of Illinois.
Today I am taking that packaged ramen and turning it up a notch &ndash forget that sodium filled seasoning in the package and create your own homemade sauce to go with the noodles.
I like being able to control the ingredients in this recipe and knowing exactly what is in my ramen.
This Spicy Ramen Noodle Recipe takes packaged ramen and adds a spicy Asian sauce along with chopped green onions to create a delicious bowl of ramen in under 10 minutes.
I love pairing seafood, chicken, pork, tofu or vegetables with this easy ramen recipe.
If you aren&rsquot a big fan of spicy food you can take the spice down a bit or add more for those that like an even spicier dish!
I love making Asian noodle dishes like this Easy Chicken Ramen Noodle Stir Fry, Asian Chicken Noodle Soup or these Easy Korean Noodles Recipe.
I also really like spicy food &ndash the spicier the better for me.
If you like spice you have to try this Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup, Spicy Thai Basil Chicken Stir-Fry or this Firecracker Chicken.
3. And choose healthy foods that you actually love to eat. (They exist.)
"You should enjoy your food and go into it thinking 'what do I like and how can I build healthy meals from that?' and it's so much easier," says Andrews.
Plus, certain foods affect people differently, Andrews says, so it's also important to pay attention to how different foods affect your body and energy levels. Just because a food seems healthy, that doesn't mean it's right for you and your digestive system. "Before you worry about cutting fat and sugar, learn the basics of which nutritious foods make your taste buds and body happy."
Recommended Daily Intake (Ages 19-30)
Women: 3-5 Servings
Men: 4-8 Servings
.5 cup brown rice = 1 serving
.5 cup oatmeal = 1 serving
3 cups popcorn = 1 serving
1 cup wheat cereal flakes = 1 serving
1 slice wheat bread = 1 serving
5 wheat crackers = 1 serving
Adding whole grains to our diets reduces the risk of cardiac problems and provides the fiber we need for proper digestive health. Whole grains are particularly useful in weight loss, because they are far more filling than refined grains. Their B vitamins boost the immune system and help form energy-producing red blood cells. Finally, grains are a major source of iron, which helps prevent anemia.
There are two types of grains available to consumers: whole and refined. In whole-grain products, the entire kernel of the grain itself is used. In refined grains, vitamin-packed parts called bran and germ are removed and the grains are further ground into finely textured bits. When grain is milled like this, it loses its natural dietary fiber. Some millers add B vitamins and other nutrients back in, which allows them to label products as 'enriched' grains. Whole grains, like wheat, rye, or barley, used alone or together, are smart and healthy choices, as are brown rice and whole-grain pastas. You'll feel fuller faster and you'll be eating healthier than if you consume refined or enriched grains.
The recommended daily intake for grains is actually much lower than most people eat. College-aged women should eat 3-5 small servings per day and men the same age should eat approximately 4-8. At least half of these servings should be whole-grain.
Women: 5.5 Servings
Men: 6.5 Servings
1 small steak = 3-4 Servings
1 chicken breast = 3 Servings
3 eggs = 3 Servings
1 oz of nuts (12 almonds, 24 pistachios) = 2 Servings
1 cup split pea or lentil soup = 2 servings
Protein is a basic building block for the human body. We need it to maintain healthy muscle, bone, blood, skin, and cartilage. In its most basic form, protein converts calories into energy. Protein boosts the immune system, transports nutrients in and out of cells, removes carbon dioxide to the lungs, and forms the enzymes needed to create the complex chemical reactions that occur in our bodies.
The body needs more calories to digest protein than other foods, and consequently, protein is useful for weight control. Protein also provides a greater feeling of fullness than many other foods do. The trick for choosing the proper type of protein rests in its source and preparation. It's important to find healthy sources of protein, and unfortunately, many high-protein foods are laden with saturated fats and high cholesterol, or are prepared with trans fats and other harmful byproducts.
To protect your cardiac health, choose lean protein whenever possible. This may be as simple as using lean ground beef for taco night, or substituting beef with ground turkey. Round steaks, roasts, top loin, sirloin, and chuck shoulder are the leanest of red meats, while skinless boneless turkey and chicken are the top poultry options. Opt for sliced turkey or roast beef for sandwiches instead of bologna or salami, both of which are high in fat and low in nutrients. Try to limit sauces and spreads loaded with fat and preservatives.
Depending on your body type, you should be eating about 45 to 55 grams of protein every day, roughly six ounces worth. Most Americans eat far more protein than they need, so this recommended intake may initially seem small. A day's protein might look like an 8-oz. glass of milk, a yogurt cup, and a chicken breast the size of your palm. Plant-based proteins may also be appealing. Nuts, sunflower seeds, and cheeses make great snacks and require minimal storage space.
Women: 3 Servings
Men: 3 Servings
1 cup milk = 1 serving
1 cup yogurt = 1 serving
2 cups cottage cheese = 1 serving
2 slices processed cheese = 1 serving
1.5 cups ice cream = 1 serving
While anything that contains milk is a dairy product, it's important to only count dairy that maintains its calcium content. Items like cream cheese and butter begin with milk, but do not belong in this food group. Hard or soft natural cheeses, processed American cheese, yogurt, ice cream, pudding, and milk in any form all qualify as dairy products.
The primary benefit of dairy is calcium, which bolsters our bone and tooth health. Dairy also contains blood pressure-lowering potassium and Vitamin D, which promote healthy bones. Like foods in the protein group, dairy products must be chosen carefully because they often contain hidden saturated fats. Low-fat or fat-free dairy choices are solid additions to your daily diet.
Typical college students should have about three cups of dairy per day. This could be as simple as drinking three cups of milk. For students who prefer some variety, a yogurt cup, two slices of cheddar, and a 1.5-cup serving of ice cream will also help you meet the daily allotment. Soy products that are enhanced with calcium, like a fruit smoothie, are also healthy sources of dairy.
Women: 4.5 servings
Men: 5 servings
3 5" crowns of broccoli = 1 serving
2 medium carrots = 1 serving
2 cups cooked spinach = 1 serving
1 large tomato = 1 serving
1 cup cooked beans = 1 serving
1 apple = 1 serving
1 banana = 1 serving
16 grapes = 1 serving
1 orange = 1 serving
.5 grapefruit = 1 serving
4 oz. applesauce = 1 serving
Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients like potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and folate. They have no cholesterol and are low in calories.
Potassium-rich diets lower blood pressure, which reduces your long-term susceptibility to cardiovascular problems. The dietary fiber found in fruits and vegetables also delivers a great nutritional boost. Eating fiber can help you lower your cholesterol, maintain proper bowel function, and lead to long-term cardiac health. Additionally, vitamin C helps you fight off infections and keeps your gums healthy, while folate helps your body form red blood cells and is essential for the health of a developing fetus.
Vegetables and fruit are low in calories and fat and contain no artery-clogging cholesterol. Along with their benefit to the digestive tract, fiber-rich foods leave us with a feeling of fullness and may encourage us to eat fewer calories. Eating plenty of fruits and veggies can lower your blood pressure and lead to reduced risk of cardiovascular illness later in life.
Some nutritionists further break down this food group into subparts loosely based on a vegetable or fruit's color: red, orange, green, blue, or white.
To enhance your diet, try to eat something from each of these subgroups daily. Generally, any intensely colored plant is one that packs a hefty dose of vitamins.
College students should try to eat two-and-a-half to three cups of veggies and about two cups of fruit per day, throughout the day. Don't let the amount intimidate you this is equal to 12 baby carrot sticks, a decently sized salad, and two small pieces of fruit. You can also add veggies and fruits to salads or sandwiches. It's important to remember that produce contains more bulk and fiber in its raw form cooked veggies can be just as healthy to eat, but you'll need to eat more of them to meet your daily target.
Ramen Hacks: 30+ Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Instant Noodles
Cook the noodles according to package directions, using only half of the seasoning packet. To the broth, add the juice of 1 lime, a tablespoon of sugar, 2 teaspoons of fish sauce, and a good pinch of pepper flakes (if desired). Transfer to a serving bowl then add 1 to 2 ounces thinly sliced flank steak (it'll cook in the broth), a handful of bean sprouts, and some mixed herbs (basil, cilantro, mint, as desired).
Ramen in the U.S. has come a long way. Once known only in its 10-for-a-dollar instant-lunch form—a staple of offices and dorm rooms all around the '80s and '90s—high-end real ramen shops are springing up left and right on both coasts and everywhere in between. As a half-Japanese kid in the '80s, I grew up eating instant ramen at least once a week, and it still holds a special place in my gut. The real stuff is great, but sometimes only the add-hot-water pack will do.
That said, my tastes have changed and expanded considerably over the years, and sometimes that little flavoring packet just isn't enough. As such, I've spent a lot of time devising ways to upgrade my ramen in cheap, easy ways. Ghetto gourmet, if you will.
As a card-carrying member of the Ramen Transmogrification Society of Greater New York,* it is my duty, my honor, and my privilege to share with you some of our methods and recipes.
For full, step-by-step instructions on any of these dishes, please click through the slideshow above.
*Our membership is pretty thin right now—care to join?
The easiest way to quickly upgrade a bowl of instant noodles is with ingredients that require no extra cooking. I'm talking simple sauces and condiments like:
I'm a condiment hoarder (I've got a whole double-layered shelf of my fridge plus the entire door and a full pantry cabinet devoted to them), so this is a particularly easy thing for me to do. The key is not to go overboard with too many different competing flavors. I often make this mistake after long nights out, assuming that when it comes to hangover cures, more is better. Not the case. Keep it simple. Bear in mind that if you're using a salty condiment, you should omit some of the seasoning packet. You can also add:
- Spices like white pepper, sichuan pepper, or chili flakes to the finished dish, or try adding a cinnamon stick, star anise, and coriander seeds to the simmering broth (remove 'em before serving!)
- Fats like toasted sesame oil, chili oil, or an animal fat (pork, chicken, or duck are all awesome)
- Citrus juices—a quick squeeze of lemon or lime right before serving can go a long way to brightening flavors.
But imagine this scenario: you're in college, the power went out in your dorm room, and you obviously had no choice but to finish all the beer in the fridge rather than let it warm up. You're hungry, but you can't use the water kettle. Keanu Reeves pops up in your brain and asks: What do you do? What do you do?
Here's the answer: Just crunch up the noodles in the bag, tear off a corner, add the seasoning packet, hold the torn corner and shake it up, then consume. Lick your fingers clean after this one. It's like eating Cheetos, but with delicious "Oriental flavor" fingers instead of "orange cheeze."
Let's face it: Ramen ain't health food. But it's pretty simple to add a bit of roughage to your starch.
- Quick-cooking vegetables like baby spinach, romaine lettuce, bean sprouts, thinly sliced cabbage, watercress, and scallions (amongst others) can be stirred into the soup right before serving. They should wilt in a matter of seconds.
- Longer cooking vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, snow peas, shredded carrots, and whatever else your heart fancies can be added to the noodles as they're cooking. It may take a bit of finagling to get the timing just right, but I have faith in you, young grasshopper.
- Frozen vegetables can work great—corn and peas in particular fare well frozen (often being significantly better than their fresh counterparts!). I like to thaw them out by running them under hot water straight out of the tap for 30 seconds or so. They can then be drained and added directly to the hot soup just before serving.
Ramen are pretty much all starch and fat (with most inexpensive ramen brands, the noodles are dehydrated by deep-frying them!). What about adding some extra protein? Eggs are cheap, delicious, and in most cases, can be cooked directly in the same pot with the noodles or the broth. Here are a few simple ways to do it. The World Society for Ramen Egg Cookery (an organization which I founded, chair, and am the sole member of) has divided ramen-eggs into 5 levels. It is unadvisable to attempt a higher level process until you've completed each of the levels preceding it.
- Level 1: Hard boiled eggs are the easiest—just add the eggs to a pot of cold water, bring it to a boil, then drop in your noodles. The egg should be pretty perfectly hard boiled in just about the same time that it takes to cook the ramen through.
- Level 2: Soft boiled eggs are a tad trickier, because they involve a time. Drop them into the pot after it's come to a full boil, start a timer, and pull them out after 3 minutes for super-soft, or 5 for a fully-set white and semi-liquid yolk. I like to cut the eggs open and stir the yolk into the broth as I eat it.
- Level 3: The egg-drop method creates small curds of egg blossoms that float in the broth and coat your noodles. Lightly beat an egg in a small bowl. Once your noodles are cooked, swirl the noodles and hot broth gently around the pot. While the broth is moving, slowly drizzle in the beaten egg. It should set into fine ribbons.
- Level 4: Poached eggs will never come out perfectly shaped, but who really cares? Just cook the noodles until they've just started to separate from each other (about halfway through their total cooking time), pull the pot off the heat, break a raw egg into the center, place the lid on the pot, and let the whole thing sit for a couple minutes until both the noodles and eggs are cooked.
- Level 5: Fried Eggs require the use of an auxiliary pan and heat source. This is hyper-advanced stuff, and not to be trifled with until you've mastered all of the first-level egg techniques.**
**Not really. It's still pretty darn easy.
Simple Simmered Meat
Thinly sliced meats can be cooked in a matter of seconds directly in the pot. Chicken breast, pork tenderloin, or flank steak are all great candidates. I like to pick the pieces up one at a time and swish them back and forth in the hot broth until cooked while the noodles are simmering, then set the cooked meat aside and put it back on top right before serving. Cured meats like ham or bacon are great as well, as are cooked meats like leftover chicken or steak, or hot dogs. Want something really interesting? Add a bit of shredded up beef jerky as your noodles cook. It lends a nice smoky saltiness to the broth, and achieves a really delightful tender-chewy texture.
And that's about it for the basics of ramen cookery. Once you've mastered all of the simple methods, upgrading your noodles is simply a matter of combining various techniques to achieve delicious end results. The most obvious ones are simplified, ramenified-versions of classic East Asian dishes. A dash of fish sauce and lime juice along with some beef and herbs quickly converts a bowl of noodles into a delicious Faux Pho (pictured up top). Add some shrimp and coconut milk, and you've got yourself a quickie-version of Thai style Tom Kha Goong.
With care, you can even make drier stir-fried or cold noodle dishes. The key here is to stop cooking the ramen just before it's completely done, then drain it. It'll continue to soften a bit from the residual heat, as well as cooking further when you stir-fry it or add a hot sauce. As with all stir-fries, the goal is to have your pan hot enough before adding ingredients that you get a nice quick sear before anything can overcook or turn to mush. When stir-frying ramen, I like to use part of the seasoning packet as a marinade for my meat. Cook the meat and vegetables in a hot skillet with oil before adding then noodles and whatever sauce you'd like (plain old oyster sauce with a touch of sesame oil is an easy crowd-pleaser). I like the simple combo of flank steak with snap peas.
Fake ramen-based Pad Thai also makes use of this technique, adding fish sauce, peanuts, vegetables, and a touch of lime and tamarind paste (if you've got it) for a quick, easy stir-fry that's actually better than most of the oversweetened, gloppy stuff you get from second-rate Thai restaurants. Do things right, and nobody will recognize your ramen when it's wearing its new Thai hat.
Aloha Ramen! combines Spam, pineapple, and a fried egg for some authentic, hyper-traditional Polynesian island flavor. Instant luau—just add hot water! Peanut butter and coconut make for a great chilled ramen salad, and you can get in touch with your inner Chinese-American steam table by throwing together a simple ketchup and pineapple-based sweet & sour sauce (Sriracha optional).
For more complete instructions, click through the slideshow above.
Of course, there's no reason to stay in Asia here. Ramen takes well to Western flavors as well. How about some cheesy chili ramen or a poutine-like dish of toasted raw ramen with gravy and mozzarella? (Use real curd for authenticity's sake, or just go with the shredded stuff if you'd prefer.) Stir together cooked ramen with a simple gooey cheese sauce (see our recipe here), or if you'd prefer, just a block of microwaved Velveeta thinned out with a bit of water, then pop the whole thing in the toaster oven for a Ramac & Cheese with a melty center and nice golden-brown crust.
Remember when Spaghetti Tacos were a thing? Well, here come Ramen tacos to take their place. Adding a pack of crunched up ramen noodles to the beef filling in a standard American taco kit add bulk, texture, and a whole boatload of fun! (and yes, that's fun! with an exclamation point!). Go Go Ramacos!
Canned soups can be bulked up nicely with instant ramen. Cream of mushroom, onion, whatever you'd like will work, but my favorite is to add a can of creamed corn, some sliced bacon, and perhaps a shot of heavy cream or milk to a pot of simmering ramen for an instant sweet and smoky corn chowder. A sprinkle of freshly sliced scallions completes this elegant soup, from a more civilized age. Wear a jacket, and don't let your tie dip into the bowl.
But for the ultimate in fusion-comfort food, Ramen-topped shepherd's or cottage pie is the way to go. Mashed potatoes can be a pain in the butt to make for such a simple dish. Why not just boil some noodles, and use them as your pie crust instead? The top of the noodles dry out and become super-crisp under the broiler, while the noodles underneath remain tender. It's a uniquely delicious textural contrast, and one that I believe can help bring the world together.
Of course, we're barely scratching the surface here. Ramen may be one of the cheapest foods in the supermarket, but with imagination and a bit of cross-cultural, cross-class love, it can be one of the most versatile staples in your pantry.
Check out the slideshow for more recipes and ideas, then tell me: What do you do to fancify your ramen?
Kylie Jenner Ramen Noodles
Kylie Jenner Ramen Noodles are an extraordinary dish that you wouldn’t expect from this famous celeb. This is insanely tasty, we’re happy someone came up with it.
1 pack of Ramen noodles (we went for chicken)
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of salted butter
- Take a pan and following the packet instructions boil the amount of water suggested.
- Add the ‘cake’ of ramen noodles. If you are going to use the packet seasoning then we suggest you add this now, then the noodles can soak up all that lovely chicken flavor.
- In a small bowl beat the egg and season with black pepper.
- When the noodles are approaching the time when they would be done, drain about 2/3 of the water, leaving a little behind in the pan. Do not return the pan to the heat.
- Tip your eggs into the pan and stir continuously for 30 seconds
- Add the butter and the garlic powder and stir for another 30 seconds
- Serve in a bowl or on a plate. Don’t burn your mouth!
Like this recipe?
Everything you need to know about tare, the secret sauce to superior ramen
Tare (pronounced “tah-reh”) means “dipping sauce” in Japanese, but, it’s a lot more than just sauce in the ramen world.
Imagine ramen as a living organism. If soup represents the body of ramen, and noodles are the bones, then tare is the blood. It pushes everything, it gives ramen life. Without it, ramen is a paltry, unseasoned mess.
Tare is the primary seasoning agent of ramen, the sole source of salt in the final soup, and in many ways, a source of a lot more. It’s added to the bottom of the bowl before the soup is poured in, allowing the two to mix and mingle. Usually it’s a saucy consistency, but it can also be a paste—either way, it disappears into the soup.
One of the reasons it’s relative unknown is because tare is often intentionally secretive, given its power in changing and modifying a dish. Chefs safeguard their tare recipes and techniques more than any other component—even from their own cooks. I know a few chefs who still make all of the tare themselves, just to prevent their cooks from making off with their recipes.
I am not that kind of guy, however. I share. Overshare . So I am here to regurgitate a lot of information about tare. Even if you don’t anticipate ever making tare yourself, by understanding its role and purpose, you might navigate ramen menus better and understand the why. And ultimately, isn’t that what we love about food?
What kinds of tare are there?
Historically, tare can be broken into three categories, depending on its primary flavoring mechanism:
- Shoyu, or soy sauce, is the oldest style of tare. Ramen doesn’t exist without this one, because the origins of ramen lie in Japanese cooks re-imagining Chinese soups with local tastes in mind. It was the late 19th century in Japan, and meat was rarely consumed by locals. You have an influx of immigrants, many Chinese, who cooked dishes that were meat-based. According to Slurp! A Social and Culinary History of Ramen , the story goes that Japanese cooks, put off by the smell of meat and garlic found in these foreign soups, wanted to adopt these Chinese noodle soups for a more local audience. To temper those unfamiliar and unsavory meat scents, they used soy sauce—and thus the first iteration of ramen was born.
- Shio, meaning salt, is a salt-based sauce, which is meant to be more about amplifying the existing flavors of the soup than contributing its own flavor. Since the base soup is unseasoned, this tare acts more as a backdrop, adding saltiness and complexity. It often contains a host of dried fish products and blends of different salt (more on both later). It also, ironically, can contain small traces of soy sauce. Again… what are rules even in ramen?
- Miso, the newest tare style, is based on—you guessed it—miso. It’s not just a soup served before your California rolls arrive—miso is a common ingredient in Japan made from mashed legumes and grains (typically soy beans and sometimes wheat), plus koji, a fungus with enzymes that convert protein and starches in legumes into complex flavor compounds. Technically, miso can use any sort of protein rich source (my friend Rich made miso once with ricotta cheese !). The use of miso in ramen originates from Sapporo in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan (those who read my first column know it has a special place in my heart ). Miso ramen was invented in the mid 1950s, in a small shop named Aji no Sanpei, whose chef fed hungry workers by adding noodles to a pork miso soup. Or so the lore goes.
These three tares are often major points of delineation on a menu. Chances are you look at a menu, you’ll see at least one of these. Maybe all three. Maybe others too!
But the point is, tare is always included. If you see a ramen shop not using it, question everything.
Tare contributes two things:
- Glutamic acid, or compounds that increase sensation of glutamic acid on the palate.
We’ll start with salt. Because it’s easier.
Salt makes food taste like food. We all know how awesome salt is for flavor. Tare is the sole source of salt in the broth, so without it, the broth tastes like nothing. Just like you wouldn’t eat a steak without salt and pepper, you probably wouldn’t eat soup without at least some salt. So we get reason one for tare, which is salt = able to taste ramen. I hear folks who have embarked on the ramen-making journey say this all the time when they forget tare: “Why does my soup taste like nothing?” Because it has no salt! You’re just drinking bone water!
Since ramen soup is mostly water, you need a lot of salt to bring the flavor out. A typical bowl of ramen has anywhere from 1-2 grams of sodium. By comparison, 20 pieces of McDonald’s chicken nuggets contain nearly 1.5 grams of sodium. Makes my muscles hurt just thinking about it.
As a side note, I want you to ignore anything you hear about specific types of salt. Tare is normally a liquid, which means the effects of salt’s crystal size or shape are non-existent. And since the salt comprises a small amount of the total bowl, the mineral content isn’t going to have an effect on flavor. Those shio shops that tout five different salts in their tare? Pure marketing.
The second aspect of tare is much more provocative. And that, my friends, is glutamic acid. Tare equals umami, the fifth taste.
Umami is weird. All umami is, at its core, the sensation of glutamic acid, or free glutamate*, on your tongue. Glutamic acid is an amino acid, so it’s basically like saying you taste protein. But, that’s technical and hard to understand on its own. So we call it “savory” or “umami.”
* Technically there are two types of glutamate, free and bound, but we really only care about the free, since that’s the one you can taste. So, moving forward, I’ll be referring exclusively to free glutamate.
Part of the reason I reluctantly use the term umami is because the sensation is hard to describe, but very distinct. It’s like when you bite into a steak and it tastes super meaty and rich. It’s how you know torn-up jackfruit isn’t the same as pulled pork unless you douse it in BBQ sauce, or why black bean burgers just feel flat compared to ground beef patties. It’s that intense, almost mouth-watering quality that cheese contains. Sun-dried tomatoes have it. Mushrooms have a lot of it. Bacon and ham too.
The easiest way to taste umami is by sprinkling monosodium glutamate (MSG) on your tongue ( No, MSG is not bad for you ). MSG is pure umami, no fillers, flavors, or anything else. It’s a glutamic acid molecule with a sodium ion attached. Tasting MSG may horrify or delight you, but I assure you, you’ll understand the flavor if you test it this way. And MSG’s use in ramen in Japan is extremely common, though other sources of glutamate are definitely out there.
So, to really nail it, you need to get some form of glutamate into ramen. Even if you include MSG, by definition, tare typically uses ingredients that contains tons of glutamate.
But glutamate isn’t the whole story. And this is where things get even crazier.
In addition to just loading up your tare with glutamate-rich products (and maybe MSG), most shops also include some ingredients that include compounds called “synergistic nucleotides,” a fancy term for ingredients that rapidly increase how much umami you can taste. There are a bunch of them (easily over 40), and certain ones are more common than others, but many ingredients also include these mysterious molecules, such as shellfish, mackerel, niboshi (small dried sardines), chicken, pork, and anchovies.
Coincidentally, Japan stumbled upon the combination of “synergistic nucleotides” and glutamic acid by developing dashi. Cooks found that by combining kombu (kelp) with bonito (dried tuna flakes), it created a base that was chock full of savory flavor. (If something tastes “Japanese,” it’s likely dashi’s doing.) And this is entirely because the glutamate in the kombu interacts synergistically with the compounds in the bonito. Separately, it would not be nearly as complex or delicious, but together, they build on each other and create extraordinary flavor. It’s umami alchemy.
Ramen chefs, being the nerds they are, are actively using ingredients with high amounts of both glutamate and compounds that make you taste more glutamate, to make the dish feel as intensely savory as possible. Particularly for shio, which only uses salt as the core salty source, these tares tend to have fish products high in glutamate and glutamate-boosting compounds. That’s what the fish is for: Not so much to add a seafood flavor, but more to round out the bowl and give it the crazy umami sensation you expect in ramen.
The goal is just to bring both salt and umami front and center. Which brings us to our first big takeaway: Consider adding products with both glutamate and glutamate boosting properties to your regular cooking. Chili feeling a little flat? A touch of fish sauce will liven it up. Pot roast tasting kind of dull? Add some soy sauce and mushrooms to the braising liquid next time. You’ll be surprised at how much more delicious food can be when you harness the power of that savory, meaty quality that these ingredients provide.
16 DIY Ramen Recipes That’ll Make You Forget About Instant Noodles
If thinking about ramen summons images of Styrofoam cups and seasoning packets with enough salt to make you dry up like a prune, you haven&rsquot lived&mdash when it comes to noodle soup consumption, anyway.
Ranging in flavors from bacon and egg, to spicy sriracha, to vegetarian miso, these ramen recipes outdo any packaged variety and are almost as easy to make.
Bonus: It&rsquos a heck of a lot cheaper to go DIY than splurge on $10 noodle bowls. It&rsquos time to start noodling around.
1. Winter chicken ramen
This seasonal recipe is broken down into 6 simple steps, with everything cooking in the broth for maximum flavor.
Add in a healthy dose of cabbage, spring onions, and hard-boiled egg, and you&rsquove got yourself a protein-packed, feel-good weeknight meal.
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2. Mason jar &ldquoinstant&rdquo ramen zoodles
Taking a cue from the OG Cup Noodles, these elevate the form to whole new heights. And with fan favorites zoodles, coconut oil, and all of the vegetables, these guys are a make-ahead meal you&rsquoll feel better about.
3. A farmer&rsquos ramen
We&rsquore definitely not farmers, yet our love for this farmer&rsquos ramen is no less. Loaded up with greens like bok choy and kale, this is the perfect dinner to balance out those office days when we&rsquore lucky to see a nutrient.
There&rsquos a recipe for noodles from scratch, and if you&rsquore feeling ambitious, obviously go for it &mdash but no pressure, store-bought is also acceptable.
4. Thai peanut chicken and ramen noodle soup
You no longer have to make the difficult choice between ordering Japanese or Thai food, thanks to this amazing Asian fusion dish.
Made with plenty of veggies like sweet potato, cremini mushrooms, and red peppers, then doused with just the right amount of peanut butter, your taste buds won&rsquot know what hit &rsquoem &mdash but they will know that they like it.
5. Smoky grilled chicken with zucchini ramen noodles
We&rsquore in love, we&rsquore in love, and we don&rsquot care who knows it! (With zoodles, that is.) A delicious gluten-free and low-carb alternative to regular ramen noodles, zucchini helps totally load this recipe with veggies.
This one&rsquos super easy to make vegetarian, too: Simply sub tofu for chicken and use veggie stock in place of chicken stock.
6. Miso ramen with shiitake and chicken
The optional jalapeño slices give this one an unexpected twist, but don&rsquot worry, it also has key staples like bok choy, scallions, shiitake mushrooms, and plenty of miso paste.
Pro tip: Experiment with meats like pork and beef, or vegetarian proteins like tofu, to keep things interesting.
7. Homemade ramen with bacon and soft-boiled eggs
Bacon and eggs shouldn&rsquot be limited to breakfast &mdash though you can definitely replace your go-to morning meal with this recipe!
Here, the crispy breakfast favorite tops a hot bowl of miso broth and ramen noodles, which is accompanied by a soft-boiled egg to create the ultimate combo of carbs, protein, and warmth.
8. Slow cooker pork ramen
If your mouth wasn&rsquot watering by this point on the list: Ready, set, go.
This recipe includes easy-to-follow directions &mdash only 30 minutes in the cooker. Plus, it&rsquos packed with succulent braised pork, so it&rsquos both simple and delicious.
9. Slow cooker beef curry with ramen noodles
With a prep time of 10 minutes and a pretty short ingredient list, this dish looks way more complicated than it is. Just throw this one the slow cooker in the morning, Instagram like you slaved over it, and watch the likes roll in.
10. Beef ramen noodle soup
This one is packed with veggies (carrots, celery, green onions) and sliced steak. But if you think of it like turning on the stove and waiting, things get less intimidating.
Hidden bonus: There&rsquos also some sriracha tucked inside this brothy goodness.
11. Vegetarian miso ramen with roasted sweet potatoes
Another dish that brings out the best of both (noodle) worlds, this recipe is gluten-free and chock-full of healthy ingredients like shiitake mushrooms, and sweet potato.
Pro tip: Miso makes an awesome hangover remedy, so drink away on those painful days.
12. Healthy homemade kimchi ramen
Kimchi tastes great on its own, but tastes even better mixed in a bowl of piping hot noodles. Made with DIY kimchi or a store-bought variety, this meal is as easy to pull together as blending a smoothie.
The toughest part is finding the ingredients, but most Asian speciality stores should have them &mdash and we promise you&rsquoll find plenty of reasons to use them again.
13. 20-minute spicy sriracha ramen noodle soup
This recipe can be ready in half the time it takes to decide on dinner, order delivery, and wait for its arrival &mdash ideal for those hangry nights when spending your life savings on delivery feels worthwhile.
To bulk up the veg, add ingredients like mushrooms, broccoli, and kale. Top with fresh scallions and cilantro to feel extra fancy.
14. Easy vegan ramen
Basic isn&rsquot always bad, and this ramen is proof positive. Spinach, carrots, and mushrooms play nice (how could they ever not) in this quickie recipe.
The freshly grated ginger and garlic will get your sinuses flowing, too. Just what we look for in a soup, really.
15. Gluten-free instant noodle cups
Even though instant noodles are often overloaded with sodium and lacking in nutrients, there&rsquos something comforting about having a hot meal ready in less than 5 minutes.
This recipe solves the insta-cup woes with DIY seasoning and plenty of healthy additions like baby spinach, carrots, and chicken or tofu.
And best of all: You can pre-make these bad boys and store them in heat-safe jars. Is it just us, or did lunch just get way better?
16. Mexican chickpea noodle soup
How&rsquos this for a twist on chicken noodle soup? Sub chickpeas for the chicken, and ramen for the linguini, and you have a perfect vegetarian-ramen for cold winter nights.
We love how the Mexican flavors &mdash oregano, cilantro, green chilies, lime, and avocado &mdash give this recipe a fun kick.
Allow the dish to cool completely before storing it in an airtight container in the fridge. It should last up to 4 days refrigerated.
You can freeze this recipe! Just prepare your meat, veggies, and sauce and allow them to cool completely before storing in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove when ready to eat. Cooked ramen noodles don’t freeze well so cook them when you’re ready to serve your supper.