When To Use Instant Ramen Flavor Packets And When To Throw Them Out

Instant ramen is one of those foods that many tend to associate with their college years. You're young, you might be low on money or short on time. You're busy and you need to scarf something warm down before you run off to class. For a long time, in the United States, there was kind of a jokey stigma around ramen, but that began to change after the most recent turn of the century. In the early 2000s, with more and more Americans showing interest in international cuisine, you might have noticed that ramen shops and ramen bars began to pop up in neighborhoods. And there's a good reason — when ramen is made well, it's incredibly delicious and satisfying.

With a surge in popularity, more and more people are heading back to instant ramen to see if they can have the same tasty results at home, and with a bit of finesse, you can. That said, those flavor packets that come with the noodles might be hurting more than helping.

If you've purchased your ramen from an Asian market, then you can have a bit more confidence that the flavor packets contained within will provide appropriately traditional spices. With that said, if your ramen looks to be less authentic, then you might want to let go of those flavor packets and add some of your own flavorings and spices to create a more traditional flavor. Let's explore.

Seasoning at home

Most flavor packets that come in Americanized instant ramen are going to contain either a lot of salt or preservativesand you never know which brands are doing this unless you check the labels. The truth is you can create better flavor using more wholesome ingredients, so if you see a lot of additives on the nutrition facts label, ditch the flavor packet.

Purchasing instant ramen from an Asian grocery store means that the seasoning is more likely to impart good, traditional flavor, but you may still want to check the ingredients. Instead, if you season your instant ramen with your favorite seasonings and sauces at home, you're bound to get a better flavor than any packet could provide. Soy sauce packs the umami flavor without harmful chemicals, and it adds a nice sweetness too. If you're looking for heat, try adding chili oil or your favorite Asian-inspired hot sauce. In a pinch, you can even add red pepper flakes from your pantry. If you're looking for a bit of a nutty flavor, try topping your ramen with a slight drizzle of sesame oil or even a few shakes of sesame seeds. To add even more yumminess, add some fresh produce and protein.

Produce and protein

In addition to seasoning your ramen appropriately, you can add fresh ingredients that will give you great flavor. While you might not have time to make marinated eggs, adding in a hard-boiled egg that's still jammy in the center is a great treat to add to your ramen that will boost the protein and give your bites a wonderful texture. Snipping in some fresh scallions adds a nice flavor and a bit of crunch. If you're looking for more vegetable crunch than that, try adding bok choy or bean sprouts to the bowl. Want a bit more salt? Add a sheet of dried seaweed to the bowl to get a wonderful depth of flavor.

If you are looking for more ways to add protein to your ramen, try adding some leftover chicken or pork. After all, many ramen restaurants will offer pork ramen (Tonkatsu) which contains pork belly, and chicken ramen (Shoyu), which contains white meat chicken. Adding leftover meat to your ramen breathes new life into your leftovers and makes your bowl even more satisfying. By adding just a few whole-food ingredients to your instant ramen, you're bound to have a healthy and delicious bowl of noodles that might even make you feel like you're at your favorite neighborhood noodle bar while you hang out in the comfort of your own home.