Mazlan is an engineer by profession and a lover of food. In his free time, he likes to tinker around in the kitchen.
Instant Packet Foods - Instant Ramen Hacks
Instant ramen or instant noodles are precooked and dried ramen packed with flavoring and seasoning powder. It is the best food option when I am too lazy to cook.
Is Instant Ramen Healthy?
They are cheap, simple, and quick to make but not necessarily healthy. With a few add-ons that include protein, fiber, and probiotics, you can make instant ramen taste better and healthier. So, jazz it up with the following instant ramen hacks.
6 Ways to Make Instant Ramen Healthier
In this article, I discuss 6 easy ways to upgrade and make instant ramen better and healthier with the following proteins, fiber, and probiotics add-ons:
- Sliced beef or chicken.
- Fish balls or fish cakes.
I also discuss how to make ramen, not only healthy but also make it a balanced meal.
With the exception of certain probiotics, the above add-ons go well with all types of instant ramen or instant noodles.
Soft Boiled Egg Ramen
Eggs are the easiest way to add protein to instant ramen. I prefer soft-boiled eggs for a soft yolk and solid white. Boiling it for 7 minutes will give you this firm but soft yolk.
After boiling, transfer the egg to an ice bath to cool and to stop the cooking process. Once cooled, peel the egg and slice it in half. Finally, place it on top of your cooked ramen (prepared as per instructions on your ramen package). Enjoy this healthy instant ramen.
Hard-Boiled or Poached Egg
Other options are hard-boiled eggs or poached eggs. To prepare a poached egg, crack open a raw egg into the cooked ramen then cover for 2 minutes (don't stir the egg).
Or you can simmer eggs directly in the ramen - beat egg with a fork until the yolk and white are combined. Then pour the beaten egg in.
Instant Beef Ramen
Beef and chicken are the other good protein add-ons for your quick meal.
I prefer thinly sliced beef with my instant ramen instead of chunky beef cubes. It is easier to eat and looks presentable.
Follow the cooking instruction on the ramen package and add the thinly sliced beef together with ramen noodles and seasoning. Let it simmer for 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Alternatively, you can cook the sliced beef with the seasoning/sauce first. Then add the noodles. You can also prepare your very own healthy ramen seasoning.
I use chicken breast cut into small cubes and boil with instant ramen noodles and seasonings.
You can also slice roast chicken and top it in your bowl of cooked instant ramen.
Or stir fry chicken cubes with garlic and onion and add it to the cooked ramen.
Seafood Ramen Noodles
Seafood is an excellent source of high-protein, omega-3s, iron, B, and D vitamins and is low in calories and saturated fat.
It doesn't take long to cook seafood, yet you get a full-bodied flavor, just right for your instant ramen.
You can go overboard with a handful of mixed seafood that includes squid rings, prawns, scallops, mussels, cooked snow crab meat, and clams. Or use them on their own. For prawns, devein and remove the head and tail.
How to Prepare
I prefer to boil them together with the noodles but you can also sauté or grill the seafood. Then top the noodles with the cooked seafood. Don't overcook them as they can be chewy.
Fish and Noodles
If you prefer fish, the white fish fillet is a good choice. Cut them into 1.5 cm thick slices. You can either boil it with noodles or sauté or grill it.
If you use frozen seafood, DON'T thaw at room temperature but thaw in the fridge overnight.
Instant Noodles With Fish Balls or Fish Cakes
Fish balls and fish cakes are great additions to noodles and are very popular in most parts of East and Southeast Asia. Fish balls are typically made with the flesh of mackerel fish, salt, and flour and are usually "bouncy”. Fishcakes are also similarly made but with the addition of eggs.
Store-Bought Fish Ball
You don't have to prepare them as the store-bought ready-made fish balls and fish cakes are just as good. They are usually cooked through so it is good for the 3 minute instant noodle cook time.
You can use the fishballs or fishcakes, or both for your noodles. For the fishcakes, cut them thinly into few slices. Just add them together with the instant noodle, boil, and serve.
You can also swap or add shrimp balls and crab balls for added flavors.
Ramen With Veggies
Dietary fiber is another essential component of a healthy meal. The easiest way to add fiber to instant ramen is to put in vegetables. That's how to make ramen more filling.
What Vegetables Go Well With Ramen?
Since cooking time is about 3 minutes, your choice is the quick-cooking vegetables. My favorites are bean sprouts, sliced button mushrooms, sweet corn off the cob, thinly sliced cabbage, spinach, bell pepper, scallions, and cherry tomatoes.
French beans, chinese mustard green, thinly sliced carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli are the other favorites for instant noodles but take slightly longer to cook.
For the quick-cooking vegetables, add a few minutes before ramen is fully cooked. For the other veggies, add them together with the ramen at the start of cooking. Make sure the vegetables are not too soft and mushy.
Probiotics for a Healthy Gut Flora
Eating probiotic-rich foods will promote a healthy digestive tract’s cell lining, support immunity, and manage inflammation.
Unfortunately, instant noodles are not probiotic food. But you can add probiotics to boost your gut health, such as adding cheese, kimchi, tempeh, and pickled cucumber or chilis.
Do remember that probiotic foods are “alive”. It is best to add them to food that has cooled a bit otherwise, it will kill off the gut-friendly bacteria especially if you add kimchi to your ramen.
Instant Noodles or Ramen With Cheese
Ramen or noodles with cheese sound strange, but it's a favorite among the East Asian kids and is my son's favorite. It is also an easy and quick way to jazz up instant noodles. Not all cheese are probiotic foods, only gouda cheese, cheddar, and mozzarella contain probiotics. So, use only these cheeses.
To enjoy cheese with instant noodles, prepare it as per the package instructions. Next, transfer them to a serving bowl, then add the cheese of your choice (the easiest is to use cheddar singles). Let the steam melt it for 2 minutes before serving.
To make spicy instant ramen milder, add cheese.
Kimchi with Instant Ramen
Kimchi, a fermented Korean side dish, is made with cabbage, garlic, scallion, red chillis, ginger, and salt. It has a unique lactic acid bacteria found only in kimchi, the Lactobacillus kimchii, as well as other lactic acid bacteria that support healthy gut flora. As kimchi also boost collagen production, it is good for people looking for better skin elasticity and healthy, youth-looking skin.
So, have it with your instant ramen for better digestive health and a healthy complexion.
Once your cooked ramen has cool a bit, top it with kimchi and kimchi juice (if you want that extra oomph). As kimchi is already spicy, it goes well only with instant ramen that is not hot and spicy flavored.
Tempeh, the fermented soybean patty that is popularly used as a high-protein meat substitute, is also rich in probiotics. So tempeh is good for a vegan instant noodle dish.
To prepare simple tempeh without the trimmings, slice tempeh lengthwise into strips. Then, pan-fry it with some garlic and onion.
Add this perfectly crispy tempeh to your cooked instant noodles.
Pickled Cucumber or Chilis With Your Instant Ramen
Eating pickled cucumber or pickled chili is another easy and fast way to enjoy healthier instant ramen as they are already prepared in advance.
They are a great source of healthy probiotic bacteria and you eat them straight with your cooked instant ramen.
Keep in mind that pickled cucumbers and chilis are made in a solution of salt and water and not in vinegar as pickles made with vinegar do not contain live probiotics.
They are left to ferment in this salt and water solution using their own lactic acid bacteria. The only downside is they tend to be high in sodium.
Pickles made with vinegar do not contain live probiotics. So, use only pickled cucumber and pickled chilis that are made in a solution of salt and water.
What are Probiotics and Prebiotics?
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria found in food as described earlier. Prebiotics are food for these probiotics bacteria.
Seaweed in Instant Noodle
An example of prebiotic food that goes well with instant ramen is seaweed.
Seaweed is also good for thyroid health and a complete source of protein with essential amino acids.
So, don't forget to sprinkle your instant ramen with shredded seaweed the next time you have one.
Turn it Into a Balanced Meal
We read how we can add protein, fiber, and probiotics to instant ramen to make it better and healthier. But that is not a balanced meal. Mixing them up will make your instant ramen a balanced meal. So, choose and add from any of the protein, fiber, and probiotics items for the healthiest ramen option. Or follow my suggestions below:
- prawn, soft boiled egg, bean sprouts, and kimchi.
- sliced beef, mushroom, and mozzarella cheese.
- fish ball, fish cakes, Chinese mustard green, and pickled chilis.
- chicken cubes, soft boiled egg, carrots, and tempeh
You can also add more from each group if you prefer, for the healthiest instant ramen!
Good Ramen Toppings and Garnishes
Finally, the toppings and garnishes. To add color and texture to your instant ramen, try these easy ideas for your next bowl of instant noodles:
- sliced red chilis.
- green onion cut into small pieces.
- fresh Thai basils.
- fresh mint leaves.
- sesame seeds.
- dried seaweed.
- fried shallots and shallot oil.
For Additional Flavors, Add:
- garlic, minced.
- freshly grated ginger or finely sliced ginger.
- low sodium soy sauce.
- sesame oil.
- fish sauce.
How to Make Cup Noodles Better?
The main difference between cup noodles and packet noodles is the method of boiling the noodles.
You add hot water to your cup noodles but with packet noodles, you can use a stove to boil and add other proteins and veggies, etc to make it healthier.
So, with the limited heat from boiled water in your cup noodles, you can only add:
- Pre-boiled eggs, fish balls (soaking in boiling water using your room kettle).
- Veggies that can be eaten raw such as carrots.
- Pickled cucumber or chilis.
For the healthiest cup of noodles, add the toppings and additional flavors as listed above.
Healthy Instant Noodle Recipes
Here are some of the healthy instant noodle recipes with added nutrient and flavor boosters that I prepared and shared on HubPages. However, probiotics are missing in these recipes but you can have them with pickled cucumbers or pickled chillis. Check them out.
- Simple fried noodles are dry noodles without the gravy and topped with fish balls, fish cakes, and Chinese mustard green.
- Curry Mee Using Instant Noodles are spiced up with fish balls, fish cakes, egg, bean sprouts, tofu, and coconut milk.
- Chicken Noodle Soup With Instant Noodle is boiled in homemade chicken broth and ginger slices, and the following are added: chicken cube, Chinese mustard green, bean sprouts.
What to Serve With Instant Ramen
If you really must have a complete meal, serve a big side salad, fresh fruits, or bread with your instant ramen noodles for the healthiest ramen option.
Can Instant Ramen Be Healthy
Yes, you can if you include the add-ons as suggested earlier.
So that’s it! That’s all it takes to turn instant ramen into a better and healthier meal. If you have other great instant ramen hacks, I would love to hear them.
- The 10 best probiotics for vegans - MedicalNewsToday
- Lactobacillus kimchii - a lactic acid bacterium found in kimchi
- Pope L, Alpaugh M, Trubek A, Skelly J, Harvey J. Beyond Ramen: Investigating Methods to Improve Food Agency among College Students. Nutrients. 2021 May 14;13(5):1674. doi: 10.3390/nu13051674. PMID: 34069308; PMCID: PMC8156074.
- Gulia N, Dhaka V, Khatkar BS. Instant noodles: processing, quality, and nutritional aspects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(10):1386-99. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2011.638227. PMID: 24564594.
© 2021 Mazlan