Unique Flavors to Spice Up Your Ramen
Chicken, Beef, or Shrimp? Phht. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of ramen noodles.
For me, growing up, there was just one kind of ramen: Nissin Top Ramen, Oriental Flavor (in the blue package). You could get it at the supermarket, sometimes 10 or more for a dollar. It was probably the first dish I ever learned how to cook all by myself.
But after several hundred bowls of deliciously salty instant ramen, you get a little restless — even when you’re only 10. I used to slice Claussen Dill Pickle Spears into mine or add a packet or two of pilfered Taco Bell hot sauce — a trick I learned from my dad. Anything to literally and figuratively spice it up.
Turns out, I wasn’t alone. People do all sorts of crazy things to their beloved instant noodles: they add Velveeta, tomato juice and smoked sausage; Parmesan cheese and butter; sour cream, and even Doritos (!!!).
Not to be outdone, ramen companies stepped up. Right there next to the staid Maruchan ramen with chicken or beef flavor packets, you’ll find some truly inspired ramen flavors: New England Clam Chowder Cup Noodle and New Orleans Style Gumbo ramen. There’s Bacon Ramen from the U.K., and Pizza Ramen from Pakistan, Mexi-Ramen from Mexico, and Ratatouille Ramen (from… Japan?). There’s ramen with cheese. Ramen with curry. Ramen with cheese and curry. Picante beef and picante chicken. And, not surprisingly, the Taco Cup Noodle — which I bet my dad wishes he copyrighted way back when.
By the time I left for college, I had graduated from Top Ramen to Costco-sized boxes of Neoguri Korean ramyun noodles. The spicy seafood-flavored noodle soup made my nose run and my face sweat — and I loved it for a late-night snack. (And still do.)
Now that we are in an age of high-end restaurant ramen, I’ve morphed once again, aspiring to a more “authentic” ramen experience at home. I’ll add 6 ½-minute jammy eggs, lots of green onions, wakame, furikake, bamboo shoots, and pickled ginger. But still … there’s something to be said about the totally weird world of instant ramen. You never really leave it behind.
Here are some of the best flavors of ramen noodles I've found on Yummly, from classic to kooky.
There are countless flavors of ramen noodles, it’s true, but for me, it all comes back to pork. This recipe, from Taste, is no 12-hour tonkatsu broth, but it’s pretty darn good for something you can make at home in just over an hour.
This ramen noodle recipe, from Ang Sarap, takes pork and chicken and kombu and bonito flakes and soy sauce (plus 18 other ingredients) and brings them together in a complex broth that is time-intensive — but totally worth it.
Instant Pot Ramen
Ah, the magic of the Instant Pot. It takes a four-hour ramen recipe and whittles it down to 15 minutes. For those who love chicken ramen in particular, this recipe from Rasa Malaysia is truly an instant lunch.
Vegan Mushroom Ramen
Part of the wonder of ramen is that it’s endlessly flexible. Here, Living Food Love gives ramen broth the vegan treatment with two types of miso, two types of mushrooms, wakame, garlic, and sesame oil, then tops it off with buckwheat noodles, bean sprouts, more mushrooms and wakame, and cilantro. Healthy and hearty (and no monosodium glutamate in sight).
Kimchi Miso Ramen
This Bon Appetit recipe is more or less just one step above instant ramen noodles. Chicken stock, miso, black bean paste, and “kimchi juice” provide all the backbone you need for a spicy but otherwise straightforward bowl of ramen noodle soup.
Spicy Miso Ramen EXPRESS
Don’t be deterred by the 34 ingredients on the list; this recipe from Food52 actually does come together in less than an hour. Not quite “express,” but let’s not argue over such details. The fatty ground pork and umami-rich soup base really makes it worth your while.
Speaking of pork flavor … You don’t have to pull bacon ramen off the shelf in some obscure British convenience mart: 40 Aprons has a perfectly bacon-y recipe, inspired by David Chang (of Momofuku fame), that only takes a half-hour or so.
Vegan Curry Ramen
It took me a long time to realize that curry and ramen can (and do) go together, and I’m glad I got over the weird boundaries I had between the two. This recipe, from Midwest Foodie, uses red curry paste, coconut milk, and a host of fresh veggies for some quick, weeknight Asian fusion I can really get behind.
Ridiculously Amazing Asian Ramen Salad
One of the first off-label uses of ramen noodles I ever experienced was my best friend’s dad’s signature broccoli salad, which was topped with uncooked ramen noodles. It seemed both weird and decadent to me at the time, and I ate serving after serving if it was there at a potluck or dinner party. In this recipe, from Table for Two, just substitute pre-made coleslaw for the broccoli and add a simple Asian-inspired dressing.
The riffing on ramen noodles has gone waaaay beyond soup as of late. Case in point: the ramen burger. I first heard of ramen burgers when Ramen Burger opened up a brick and mortar spot in LA’s Koreatown back in 2014. That place closed, but the concept persists — and now even home cooks get their chance, with this recipe from PopSugar.
Ramen Noodle Bake
The Cutting Edge of Ordinary brings instant ramen noodles to an otherwise Betty Crocker-esque noodle casserole dish. Note: You still need a beef flavoring packet to make it properly.
Mexican Cheesy Ramen
Ramen goes Mexican. Or, rather, Mexican-ish. The Charming Detroiter adds 8 ounces of cheddar cheese to ramen along with ground pork, onions, and bell peppers, then tops it all off with fresh cilantro and green onions. It’s not authentic — but it is quite tasty.
Ramen Pizza Crust
In the just-because-you-can-doesn't-mean-you-should category: ramen pizza crust. “It looks like pizza, smells like pizza, it even tastes a little like pizza, but it's not pizza,” writes J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats. Try it for yourself.