Beef Up Your Ramen Without Slimming Down Your Wallet
There are plenty of ways you can make your ramen noodles healthier and more appetizing. Some ideas mentioned here include adding protein or vegetables.
Making Ramen Your Mom Would Approve Of
Ramen noodle packages are a great option for a quick, cheap meal. But let's face it: a brick of noodles and a sodium-laced flavor packet don't meet any of your health needs.
We've already covered how to cook ramen without a stove, so even if you have a lack of traditional equipment, you can still make yourself this classic dorm food dish. But even if you're not watching your weight or sodium intake, relying too heavily on what's in the packet isn't the healthiest option. And while we realize that the goal of ramen is to produce a quick, cheap meal, there are some less expensive and easy-to-prepare options that can help you turn your noodle bowl into a well-balanced meal.
Protein is an important part of making a meal more filling and satisfying in the long-term. Traditional sources of protein - chicken, beef and pork - are decent options. Let's look at some others.
Eggs are actually common accompaniments to ramen dishes in Japan. Whether you pre-boil the egg or add it in during cooking, either by cracking it directly in or beating it first for a more scrambled effect, eggs are a great way to add healthy protein to your ramen. One or two should do the trick for most people. Just make sure the egg white is cooked through before eating it. If you're using the microwave or boiling water methods of cooking ramen, make sure you add the egg while everything is still hot and steamy, and let it sit for a few minutes to make sure it's safely cooked.
Tofu doesn't have a lot of meat-eating fans in the U.S., but it's a common addition to soups in Asia. Though it's bland when plain and uncooked, tofu takes on the flavor of whatever it's cooked in, so it'll just end up tasting like the ramen. Just get a package of extra-firm tofu, cut one serving size into small strips or cubes and add it at the beginning of the cooking process. Tofu is safe to eat 'raw', but it'll taste better if it's warm. Plus, it's usually just a few dollars for a package that contains three or four servings, it's soft enough to cut with a butter knife and doesn't require too much cleanup.
Veggies Add Much-Needed Vitamins
Vegetables are a great addition to ramen, because they can cook in the broth and add healthy vitamins, minerals and fiber to your meal. They'll also add some color to the dish, making it look more appealing. Once you get the hang of adding vegetables, you can experiment with all different kinds.
Fresh veggies will take a little bit of prep work, but will add a lot to your ramen. Start with easy, cheap vegetables like carrots, celery, onions or broccoli. Root vegetables like carrots and onions, or crunchy stuff like celery, will need a little more cooking time to get soft, so you can add those at the very beginning of the cooking process along with the noodles. By the time the noodles are soft, the vegetables will be too. Things like broccoli are likely to get soggy and bitter if you cook them for too long, so you might want to add those toward the end of the cooking process.
There are a lot of different frozen vegetables available, and they're usually very cheap and pre-chopped as well. Because frozen vegetables are pre-cooked, they won't require as much time in the hot broth as the fresh suggestions above. Plus, you don't want to cool down hot water required for cooking the noodles with frozen veggies. Instead of dumping them in the broth fully frozen, either thaw them in the microwave or in a small, separate container with a little bit of boiling water before adding them to the dish. That way, everything will stay hot.
This is the second article in a series of tips on cooking ramen in your dorm room.