Cooking Formula: Ramen
Interested in learning how to make homemade ramen that’s just as good as your local noodle shop? Our easy ramen recipes are customizable depending on what you have available, so you’ll end up with the best homemade ramen for your tastes — and you’ll make good use of leftovers!
For many of us, instant ramen was our first foray into “cooking”. Cheap and filling, it served a specific need during a specific period of our lives. But once you’ve had quality ramen, can you ever go back?
These days, ramen is again one of our favorite meals, though the delicious homemade version is hardly a fair comparison to the just-add-water salt explosions of our late teens or early 20s. We love garlicky greens in rich, savory broth accompanied by slices of pork or chicken, that just-right chew of the noodles, and the jam-like orange yolk of a soft-boiled egg melting into the soup.
And it’s not hard to make, either! Just about any cooked vegetables or types of protein work in ramen, which is why we wanted to create this easy-to-follow cooking formula to help you mix and match whatever you have on hand. You don’t even have to use ramen noodles, either. This formula will work with udon, rice noodles, lo mein, or any other type of noodles you keep in your pantry.
1. Broth Base
If you’re in a hurry or just don’t feel like bothering with flavoring your own broth, there’s nothing wrong with buying ramen that comes with a soup flavor packet and building from there. Avoid the cheapest of the cheap options and choose a ramen soup that comes with more than one flavor packet (often a dry spice packet, a liquid packet, an oil packet, and / or a dehydrated vegetables packet), as these tend to have better flavors than soups that contain just a dry packet. Once you taste the broth, you can add in soy sauce, chili oil, sesame oil, ginger, miso, or other flavors to improve your result. You can also up the flavors through your choice of add-ins at the end (more on that later).
Flavoring your own broth, however, will give you tastier results and more control over the flavors. We’ll share with you 3 simple broth recipes to try out. (All make 4 servings.)
Basic Ramen Broth
- 1 Tbsp cooking oil
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 stalks green onions, chopped (white parts only; save the green parts as garnish)
- 1 Tbsp miso paste (any type)
- 2 tsp curry paste (any type)
- 4 cups chicken stock
Heat pan over medium-high heat. Add oil to heated pan, then garlic, white parts of green onions, miso, and curry paste. Sauté just until fragrant, around 1 minute. Add stock to pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low for 10 minutes to let the flavors come together.
Coconut Curry Broth
- 1 Tbsp cooking oil
- 2 shallot cloves, chopped
- 2 stalks lemongrass, finely diced (sub 2 tsp lemongrass paste)
- 1 tsp ginger, grated
- 1 Tbsp curry paste (any type, but we prefer red)
- 5 cups stock (any type)
- 1 cup coconut milk, light
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- ½ tsp brown sugar
Heat pan over medium-high heat. Add oil to heated pan, then add shallots, lemongrass, and ginger, and sauté until fragrant, around 1 minute. Add curry paste, stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer and simmer for four minutes to let the flavors come together.
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 3 Tbsp ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1 oz dried shiitake mushrooms
- 6 cups stock (any type)
- 2 Tbsp miso paste (any type)
- 2 Tbsp ponzu (sub rice vinegar)
Simmer the onions, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, and stock for about 20 minutes, or pressure cook for five minutes. Strain the broth and discard solids, then whisk in the miso paste and ponzu and continue to simmer for five minutes to let the flavors come together.
2. Veggies and Proteins
The great thing about ramen is that you can use pretty much whatever you have sitting around in your fridge or pantry to complete your bowl. This includes leftover cooked veggies from the past few days, especially from stir-fries or roasted veggies, as well as leftover raw veggies, such as salad ingredients (yes, you can top your ramen with lettuce, avocado, or even tomato if you like!). You can also use canned goods, such as bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, or baby corn.
The same goes for meat: Cook it fresh, or use leftover sliced chicken, ground beef (though ideally not leftover taco meat or other heavily spiced beef, unless the flavors work with your broth flavors), or even chopped lunchmeat.
Start by sautéing or stir-frying any raw meat or meat substitutes you’d like to include in your ramen. Add any garlic or other seasonings you’d like. Beef, chicken, and pork all work well here, either ground or thinly sliced. For vegetarian ramen, tofu is most commonly used, though you can also use tempeh, lentils, edamame, or just top your ramen with a soft-boiled egg before serving.
Once the proteins have cooked through, remove them from the pan, draining off all but a tablespoon of grease, if necessary, and cook your vegetables.
Delicate greens such as spinach and kale can be stirred directly into the hot soup or sautéed, and you can also let vegetables such as corn, cabbage, and snap peas cook in the soup if you like. If you’re using mushrooms, these can be browned along with your aromatics when making your broth. For firmer vegetables, we recommend pre-cooking. These include:
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Butternut squash
- Green beans
Any leftover veggies / meat or canned veggies you’re using can simply be heated through in the simmering broth before serving.
You may be able to find fresh ramen noodles in the refrigerated section of your supermarket or Asian grocery store, but dried or instant ramen noodles will work just fine. Sometimes dried ramen noodles are sold on their own, but you can also buy ramen noodle soup packages and simply discard the soup flavor packet if you’re making your own broth. We prefer the kind of dried ramen that needs to be boiled (as opposed to just topped with boiling water).
Alternate noodle options include:
- Udon — A thick, wheat flour noodle with a good chew; find it dry in the ethnic aisle of your grocery store or fresh in the refrigerated section.
- Rice noodles — Especially popular in Southeast Asian cuisine, rice noodles come in a variety of sizes, from flat and wide to thin and round. Sold fresh or dried.
- Glass noodles — Also known as cellophane noodles or bean thread noodles, these thin noodles are made from mung beans and are typically sold dried.
- Lo mein — These Chinese noodles are made with egg in addition to wheat flour. They’re most frequently used in stir-fries rather than soups, but are tasty both ways! Sold fresh or dried.
- Spaghetti — Yes, you can use Italian pastas as well! Use what you have on hand or, for a treat, splurge on the fresh fettuccine in the refrigerated section.
- Zucchini noodles — Also called zoodles, zucchini noodles (or any other kind of spiralized veggies) make a great low-carb or paleo option.
You can even cook any Italian pasta shape you have on hand and toss it in. Don’t have noodles at all? Serve the soup with a scoop of rice. Or leave the noodles out altogether for a lower-carb option.
4. Garnishes and Toppings
Garnishes aren’t strictly necessary, but can seriously elevate a bowl of ramen. We love to add a soft-boiled egg to our ramen, and at the very least squeeze some lime over the top or stir in some chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, or sesame oil to up the flavors.
Some other toppings you can add include:
- Bean sprouts
- Crispy fried shallots
- Dried seaweed
- Furikake seasoning
- Green onion
- Hot sauce, Sriracha, gochujang, chili oil
- Jalapeños, sliced
- Pickled ginger
- Red pepper flakes
- Sesame seeds
Though the possible combinations are endless, here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Basic ramen broth + leftover roasted butternut squash + sautéed spinach + chicken + ramen noodles + green onions
- Curry broth + bok choy + enoki mushrooms + corn + tofu + udon + cilantro
- Miso broth + bell peppers + snow peas + ground pork + rice noodles + red pepper flakes
- Basic ramen broth + carrots + leftover roasted broccoli + lo mein noodles + soft-boiled egg + jalapeños
- Curry broth + sliced radish + cabbage + beef + zucchini noodles + crispy fried shallots
- Miso broth + baby corn + sautéed green beans + ground chicken + edamame + spaghetti noodles + kimchi
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