If your meal prep is assigning 21 different packets of ramen as your weekday and weekend breakfast, lunch, and dinner…. you’re probably a broke college student. Or a recently divorced dad. Either way, you’re definitely looking for a quick bite that won’t break the bank. Unfortunately, having ramen for every meal can get pretty boring pretty fast. But what if we told you that ramen doesn’t have to be boring?
Here are the 5 steps to better ramen:
Step 1: Boil the Noods
No reason to shake things up to start. You’re familiar with this one. Put the brick of ramen into a pot of boiling water until the noodles are al dente … unless you want crunchy ramen.
Step 2: All About That Base
This is where we’ll ask you to pivot from your usual strategy of dropping in the powdered blend that says “Chicken” on the outside. If you think the flavor packet is the only option you have when it comes to making ramen, you’ve been missing out. Toss the packet and decide what you’re craving: Spicy, Savory, or Salty.
- Spicy: Bring on the H E A T
Sriracha, the most basic of all the spicy condiments for food pairings and one of the best. The beauty of sriracha is that its basic-ness means you’re likely to have some laying around. Try mixing a bit of sriracha and chicken broth in with the noodles. You can even swap out the sriracha for a red chili garlic paste.
Other sauces to try: Buffalo, peanut, and chipotle sauce.
- Savory: The Taste That Is Not Spicy, Sweet or Sour
Ever heard of a little thing called alfredo? Well, it’s known for its cheesy and savory goodness. Introducing it into your ramen mix is a perfect way to bring a little – emphasis on a little – fine Italian dining into your dorm.
Other sauces to try: Brown or cream gravy, chicken broth, or butter and sage sauce.
- Salty: Not Just Being Bitter
The last 10 years have possibly irreparably damaged the meaning of the word salty. Now, it’s rare anyone thinks of the mineral that completes an average dish of food when they hear salty. It seems everyone just thinks of their most recent bad experience with an ex.
But you, sophisticated ramen sampler, won’t be thinking of your ex when you take a bite out of your ramen topped with a dollop of Daisy (sour cream) and just a bit of lemon juice and salt.
Other sauces to try: Pesto, garlic and oil, or tomato sauce.
Pro tip: Don’t try to combine different types of flavor. A bowl of tuna alfredo ramen with a pineapple garnish is not going to sit well and might be an actual crime in certain regions of the United States.
Step 3: Fresh or Frozen Produce
Look, we don’t want to sound like (Insert Your Mom’s First Name Here), but you should probably eat some veggies. Yeah, yeah, yeah we know – it’s your body and it’s your choice with whatever you do with it. But if you’ve been choosing to pull all-nighters, binge watch Game of Thrones, and overdoing it on the wine coolers … it’s safe to say you may not be making great decisions for your body. So do it some good and eat a damn vegetable.
Fun Fact: Vegetables are not only good for you, but they’re also good for your wallet. Plus, it’ll give your meal a bit of color. Just imagine how many more likes your homemade bowl of ramen will get with a few chopped veggies or sliced avocado. Do it for the gram.
Veggie Options: Avocados, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, kale, onions, mushrooms, spinach, and tomatoes.
Step 4: Pick Your Protein
If you get hungry around an hour after eating a meal, you probs don’t have enough protein in your diet. Protein will not only help you stay full longer and curb cravings, but it will also boost your metabolism and build muscle. Did we also mention that protein helps slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream? That’s right, eating a protein-filled meal can help you avoid AND cure a hangover.
Protein Options: Beans, beef, chicken, eggs, fish, pork, tempeh, and tofu.
Step 5: Class It Up
Get ready to get your fancy pants on, because it’s time to “garnish” your meal. The purpose of the garnish is to complement and round out the meal. That doesn’t mean you need to say nice things to your food to make it feel special or add a weird sauce design on the edge of the Batman bowl you got at Goodwill, but you can add a few toppings to make it go from a 10 to a certified 20.
Garnish Options: Bacon bits, basil, cilantro, cheese, chives, and cracked pepper.
Voila – you now have the knowledge to make a meal that could put Chef Boyardee to shame!