It's time to jazz up your instant Ramen

Quick and easy toppings to step up your Ramen game.

It's time to jazz up your instant Ramen

The delivery driver knocked on our front door. A posted sign requested visitors not ring the doorbell as we had just welcomed home our second son.

With a new baby and toddler in the house, my husband and I had no time to meal plan and cook. The freezer meals and food dropped off by friends had run out, so we turned to the next logical source of rations -- takeout.

In the wintry months following our son's birth, we routinely ordered from our favorite local ramen shop. The warm broth and handmade noodles were the perfect accompaniment to the cold weather. Alas, our budget dictated that we could not live on takeout forever, so we decided to re-create our favorite ramen at home as best we could.

The Instant Stuff

The best ramen takes days to make. In fact, ramen is more of an art form than purely cooking. For our purposes though, we are working with the instant stuff.

But before you run out and buy the noodles in a cup pandemic in college dorms, it's worth exploring some more highly rated brands. Many of these products are available in Asian specialty stores, online, or even some major grocery retailers. My easily accessible favorite is Nissin Raoh (meaning King of Ramen) sold at Costco.

The Toppings

A bowl of instant ramen is merely satisfying on its own. It is the toppings that elevate this dish to a next level meal. Below is a list of quick and easy additions to deck out your ramen. Let your creativity and palate guide your way.

An Egg

The egg is a classic and versatile ramen topping. This high-protein food can be added to ramen in a number of forms including hard boiled, soft boiled, poached, fried, or scrambled. What shape it takes is up to your fancy.

Hot Sauce

Like the egg, hot sauce is a common staple in many homes. Use at your discretion to add some heat to your eats. Sriracha, in particular, is a popular Asian hot sauce made with red chili, garlic, and vinegar, but you can improvise with whatever hot sauce you have on hand.

Scallions

This green onion is available year-round in grocery stores and can be diced up and added raw to your ramen for a mild onion-y flavor. If you want a bolder onion flavor, let some sauteed onions or leeks simmer with your broth.

Protein

It is not uncommon to find meat, poultry, or seafood additions in a bowl of ramen. Because so many proteins pair well with this cup o' noodles, it is one of my favorite ways to use up leftovers in the fridge. Add some cut up chicken thighs or slices of pork tenderloin to create a savory masterpiece.

Togarashi

This Japanese spice blend is a popular ramen accoutrement. Togarashi is known for its spicy, peppery, and citrus flavors. It consists of ingredients such as dried chili peppers, sesame seeds, orange peel, cayenne, and ginger. This spice medley is widely available in the Asian food aisle of grocery stores or online.

Kimchi

Another topping commonly found in the Asian food aisle of grocery stores is kimchi. This fermented cabbage dish is known for its health properties including anti-inflammatory features and ability to aid with digestion. This topping can also serve as a side dish if you prefer it alongside your ramen rather than on top.

A Slice of Cheese

While I haven't tried this topping myself, ramen aficionados swear by a slice or two of American cheese atop their bowl of ramen. This melted cheese increases creaminess and reportedly enhances ramen's rich umami flavor. And if you have a cheese-loving toddler like me, chances are you have a few slices in your fridge.

Your Imagination

Ramen is a beautiful dish with a complex history. Over many decades, it has transformed from a working class food into an offering in many trendy, upscale establishments. How you choose to prepare this fare is subject only to your creativity -- a hallmark of ramen's evolving nature. 

What other toppings do you love using to jazz up your instant ramen?

What's Your Opinion?