DIY Instant Ramen – How to Up Your Lunch Game
Instant Ramen: most of us claim that we wouldn’t have gotten through our early 20’s without these inexpensive packets of bliss. They were a staple in our dorm rooms and first abodes back when being economical took precedence over being healthful. Anything that contained nutrition made our wallets cry–sadly still the case in some areas ($7.99 for a head of cauliflower, Canada? Come on, bro.)
But hey 30-something’s, let’s be real: we aren’t in a position to be painting ourselves with an overly sophisticated brush. A lot of us have been guilty of still having these bad boys kicking around in our pantries being saved for a lazy day and it isn’t uncommon to get a whiff of that unmistakable artificial sodium-rich chicken bouillon from the office lunch room. Convenience is convenience whether you’re 20, 30, 40, and so on.
But shucks–there is zero nutritional value in these instant noodle-y things. I mean, some of them claim to include vegetables only to leave you finding little green and orange sponges that barely resemble minced carrots and peas. Let’s not leave out the flavor pack, which is jammed with sodium, fat, monosodium glutamate (you down with MSG? yeah, you know me!), and other preservatives in which I can’t be bothered to spell out. I will admit, the brick of hard noodles isn’t fantastic either (besides having an uncanny resemblance to Justin Timberlake’s hair circa 1998), but tossing the flavor packet is a positive step forward.
“So you want me to toss the flavor packet and, what, eat the noodles in hot water?” No, silly. I’m about to blow your mind with a DIY Instant Ramen that will up your lunch game and offer you something substantial all while still saving you time. I mean, yes, there is prep involved – but you have to “adult” to some degree in life, right? So put 30 minutes aside, rock your prep, and thank yourself throughout the week.
The first thing you need: jars. I purchased my little cutie jars at The Container Store for under $3.99 each. (ISN’T THAT STORE THE BEST?) You could also use canning jars, or any glass jars that can withstand heat.
Now you need to set aside some time; 30 minutes should be plenty. Come on, don’t be a ninny. In 30 minutes you can boil several batches of noodles. While the noodles boil and cool, you can chop your vegetables and boil your eggs/prepare your protein of choice (leftover chicken or shrimp are dandy).
So, what kind of ingredients do you need? The Ramen world is full of choices–beautiful, huh? Here’s a simple break down of what I use:
Soup Base Paste. This is how you get your flavor, but you want to choose wisely because again, we’re trying to avoid that whole “unwanted preservatives and mystery ingredients” thing. Read the labels carefully. I’ve been using Better Than Bouillon’s Vegetable Base and I really like it. It claims to be free of MSG, though some folks reject that claim due to other listed ingredients that have MSG hidden in them. Curry paste and miso paste are also fantastic for flavor. In addition to the soup base, I like to add a teaspoon of low sodium Kikkoman soy sauce, a tablespoon of sambal oelek, and a teaspoon of minced ginger.
Cooked noodle-y things. Choose your noodles! You can use Ramen, or a long pasta like linguini, or whatever you fancy. I always go Ramen. Cook them as per the packages instructions.
Vegetables. I keep my soup pretty simple. I julienne carrots, add spinach, and top things off with sliced scallions (Ramen, in my world, always has scallions). Shiitake mushrooms are another good addition, but I like my mushrooms cooked so I usually save those for my full blown at-home Ramen bowls.
Protein. Don’t forget your protein, bro! A soft-boiled egg in a Ramen bowl is a total treasure to me, but if I’m packing them for the next day or two, I hard boil them. Something about soft yoke sitting around in a jar irks me. You can also use shrimp, chicken, or tofu.
That’s it. When you’re ready, add boiling water, close your jar tightly, give it a good shake, and let it sit for a few moments.