College students have arrived back on campus for the fall semester, some returning, some for the first time ever, and some for the first time after the pandemic. They are experiencing a call back to the traditions of college life. One of the most stereotypical: instant ramen. College students are almost defined by their limited supplies, accessibility, and funds, but something that has been a staple among them due to its easy access and simple preparation is instant ramen. There are thousands of varieties available at almost every store whether it be a gas station, corner, or grocery store. Their popularity can be attributed to its supreme affordability and convenience.
Instant noodles were created in Japan by Momofuku Ando, founder of Nissin Foods, in 1958. Since then, these dried noodle blocks have been insanely popular in households worldwide.
With the omnipresence of social media in our culture and the exponential rise of TikTok in recent years we see people share their favorite recipes and tips in a whole new volume. Whole restaurants and pop-ups have been created in service to “upgraded” ramen, whether it be fusion birria cup-of-noodles in Los Angeles or an exclusive instant ramen cafe in Korea.
The versatility in this small package allows infinite possibilities for customization, alteration, and personalization depending on your taste and ingredients at hand. In order to enhance and upgrade your casual at home ramen experience, the following recipes are ordered by difficulty in order to appeal to all skill levels and flavor palettes. As with any recipe this is just a starting point for you to jump off of and create your own ideal bowl of ramen.
“It’s very quick and convenient, but there’s a lot of sodium so you should probably eat it in moderation,” said Sanaa Palmer, a senior at Howard University.
Many of these recipes can be topped with pantry ingredients that can be found in most kitchens and dorm rooms such as chili oil, hot sauce, green onion, leftover proteins, eggs, vegetables to be used from the fridge, and various sauces. Shavase Shine, a student at Redlands University is able to use items from her campus meal plan to top her ramen later on. For all of these recipes, the noodles and eggs can be cooked to your personal preference. All of the ideas in this list can be topped with whatever you may have at hand.
It is only right to start off with the most classic bowl of ramen noodles, like Rob Preston, who prefers to “keep it simple.” He says, to cook the ramen according to your ideal taste (drained or not), but this time instead of (or in addition) to adding your seasoning packet try adding a tablespoon of butter and a few pinches of your favorite seasoning (curry, cajun, garlic powder, etc).
Next, this creamy ramen hack became popular on TikTok. While you are cooking your noodles, in a separate bowl and a small dollop of mayonnaise and combine with your seasoning packet (and any other sauces and seasonings you may choose). Slowly mix as you add your noodles and you have an easy bowl of creamy instant noodles. Now, it may be intimidating at first, but the mayo only adds creaminess… It should only be a texture component.
As we start to get more complicated, we are going to add a bit more involved sauce. This Southeast-Asian inspired peanut sauce gives you a chance to have a take-out style noodle with just a few ingredients from your fridge and pantry. To make the peanut sauce, in a microwave safe container or saucepan add peanut butter, hoisin/oyster (ideally, but any asian style sauce you have at hand), and a bit of sugar, chili, and water. Heat it up just enough to soften the peanut butter and mix into your precooked noodles.
Finally, we have an indomie stir-fry. This instant noodle dish is a popular street-food and campus meal among students in West Africa. “There will always, always be someone in the kitchen cooking indomie,” says Tina Adjih, sophomore at the University of Ghana. For our most complicated dish, this includes some additional cooking on the burner. As you’re precooking your noodles you want to fry an egg and whatever vegetables are available: onion, garlic, carrots, cabbage, peppers, etc. Add half the seasoning packet to the vegetables and half to the cooked noodles. Finally, add the precooked noodles to the vegetables and egg and stir fry together. Season to taste.
These are just a few simple ways for you to start exploring different ways to expand your go-to recipe arsenal. Instant noodles are a great opportunity to use what you have at hand for quick, satisfying meals that stay within your budget. Just be aware of your sodium intake, and with all things in life, use moderation.