Souped Up: How To Make Instant Ramen Into A Gourmet Meal

Everyone loves instant ramen, but eating the same starchy Maruchan crap every night is boring. Here's a short list of ingredients that'll help you doctor your ramen - and save you from feeling like the broke-ass that you truly are.

We spoke to Toshio Yamamoto, who writes the ramen review blog i-ramen.net to get some tips. He has taste-tested nearly 4500 flavours of instant noodle, but not without the help of some added ingredients to spice up his bowl. In other words, dude knows what he's talking about.

Cabbage

Crunchy and slightly sweet, cabbage not only cuts the instant-noodle grease, but adds some much needed texture to your bowl. By hand, tear off a chunk the size of a golf ball, and scatter it on top of your steamy meal.

Nippon Ham Sausage

You can get 'em in packs of six at any Asian market (that's six meals, or three days per pack), and, because they're pre-cooked, you don't have to buy a second pot to cook one. Slice across the sausage to make little rounded trapezoids, and add a little protein to your salty broth.

Egg

The secret weapon of every hungry Japanese teenager with a couple hours before dinner, the venerable tamago is the oldest trick in the ramen-hacking book. Either crack a raw one into a super hot Maruchan bath and let it cook for two minutes, or slice a pre-boiled egg into pieces and lay it on top. Either way, this is one part of the meal that's actually good for you.

Corn

A quarter-can should do. Sprinkle on top for a sweet and yummy crunch in your soup. If you're feeling adventurous, lightly charring the niblets in a hot, buttered skillet will add a whole new level of flavour to your soup.

Moyashi Sprouts

Sounds exotic? Don't worry, they're not. The pre-bean form of the mung bean, moyashi can be found almost anywhere these days - from Chinatown to Whole Foods. And in Asian markets, a bag shouldn't set you back more than a buck. They have a crispy, slightly spicy bite, and aren't half bad for you either.

Nori

Half the fun of cooking with Nori is watching it change texture. What starts out as a brittle sheet transforms into a delicate film on top of your soup. Packed with B vitamins - not to mention flavour - and sold in packs of, like, a zillion sheets, Nori's a great thing to have around. And it's so good!

Parmesan Cheese

You probably never thought you'd see cheese as a suggested topping for ramen, but it's salty, savoury punch really compliments the inherent flavour of ramen.

Butter

Yes, we're suggesting you butter your soup. Stay with us: Butter adds a silky smoothness to your ramen that instantly thickens the thin, watery, instant broth into a luxurious soup.

Scallions

'Scallions' in the west, 'negi' in Japan, the green onion is a must-add to any doctored instant Ramen.

Nippon ham images courtesy of Seattle Dream Homes (left) and Susan Mernit (right).

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