When school begins every fall, I often wonder how many cases of ramen are sold to students heading back to their universities. With there being 24 to a case, at somewhere around $7.00 it is a steal for sure! Although the instant noodle was created in 1958, it was not until 1970 that Top Ramen was introduced to the United States market. Since it has been the top selling brand in America.
The noodles are deep fried, which both cooks and dries the product at the same time. Today, you can find a large variety created by a handful of trusted brands. As an adult with one foot in the food industry and the other in the endurance sports space, I prefer air-dried noodles to the OG deep fry method. Either way, rest assured there are always instant ramen noodles in our cupboard at home.
Instant ramen is great on the fly for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacking. Ramen is great to keep on hand for unexpected illness, recovery meals or race food alike. When all you need is water and a bowl, it’s hard to go wrong.
Let’s back up a bit. Yes, in the simplest form the product is great as it. However, it feels undeniable that instant ramen is the obvious vehicle for all the random produce hanging around the fridge. From fistfuls of fresh greens, a quick fried egg, fresh herbs, carrots or peppers, instant ramen is the superstar we didn’t know was living with us all along.
My style of cooking at home is very much plug and play. We always have a roasted chicken and a packet of tofu, random seasonal vegetables and herbs. As long as that ramen is in the pantry, any meal can be had. It’s also a great way to clear out any small amounts of produce or protein that needs to be used up.
Let’s see what Stephanie has to say about instant ramen and its benefits.
As far as a recipe goes, pick your favorite brand. Momofuku is my go-to these days, but any ramen will work. Cook according to the package and add your favorite produce, protein, and fresh herbs from the fridge. A generous squeeze of lime or apple cider vinegar is also a bonus.
On its own, ramen provides very little fiber or protein, making it an ideal choice for a mid- or post-race fuel. Plus, the sodium can be particularly helpful to settle an upset stomach and the salt tastes amazing after consuming a lot of sports fuel. I have vivid memories of coming back from the dead while sipping a cup of ramen post-Western States. So good!
Aside from a magical race elixir, I think ramen is the perfect meal for a cool, rainy day or when you aren’t feeling your best. I like to add an egg to mine, because it combines really well with the flavor. But other proteins, such as tofu or chicken work well here too. It’s important to add some protein to make it a more satiating meal.
For some more nutritional value, consider adding any vegetables you have on hand. I like the addition of carrots, squash or potatoes (yes!), and dark leafy greens. The orange vegetables are full of beta carotene, which elevates the nutritional punch of this meal. But don’t stop at orange- any colorful vegetables have micronutrients bursting at the seam. Think purples- cabbage or eggplant, reds- radish, red pepper, beets, and yellows- corn, ginger, potatoes. All of these additions will add to the taste of your ramen and the nutritional quality. Don’t forget to add some fresh herbs to the broth as well. Adding some protein and fresh vegetables turns ramen into a nutritional powerhouse that not only fuels you well, but also tastes really good.
Momofuko is also my favorite brand, and if you’re lucky enough to be in New York City, treat yourself to a meal there – you won’t regret it. If you choose to make your own broth, make sure to not skimp on the fat. The key to great tasting ramen is the creamy, flavorful broth. Plus, the fat will make the dish more satisfying and nourishing. However, the broth can be a little intimidating to make. In that case, use premade spice packs or store-bought broth. There is nothing wrong with these options! But if you do want to give it a try, here’s the basic formula:
6 lbs Pork or chicken bones
4 oz Mushrooms, sliced
1 Onion, peeled and cut in half
Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 12 hours. Allow to cool and remove the bones and strain. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. This is the base broth recipe. Add things like kombu (seaweed), bonito flakes, rice vinegar, and mirin to the broth to flavor it further.