Whether you’re a fan of the instant version or prefer to prepare your noodles at home, you can still enjoy this comforting and nourishing Japanese dish. Ramen is not just about the broth and noodles; toppings are just as important and can give the soup a unique flavor. In this article we’ll share some simple tips to enhance the flavors of ramen with easy to find ingredients you may already have in your pantry, fridge or freezer.
The first step to a great ramen is making the broth. This process can be made much easier by using chicken or vegetable broth that is low in sodium (you’ll still want to add a little salt later).
Aside from reducing sodium, the other key factor in a good ramen is umami, a richly savory taste. Umami can be easily added by using dashi (fish stock), bonito flakes, or dried shiitake mushrooms. Adding any of these to the broth will give it a deep flavor and complexity.
Another great umami addition is simmered corn kernels. These are common in some iterations of miso ramen and can be purchased pre-simmered at most Asian markets. Cooked kernels are a delicious and crunchy addition to any bowl of ramen.
Leafy greens are also a popular choice to top a bowl of ramen. Simmering bok choy or Chinese cabbage in the broth will soften them while their stems remain a bit crunchier for a nice contrast to the texture of the rest of the soup. Another popular leafy ramen garnish is shredded cabbage which can be found in most supermarkets. The crunchy and refreshing flavor of this veggie will add a welcome change to the otherwise smooth soup.
For a little heat, sprinkle your bowl with furikake. This is a traditional Japanese seasoning blend of various spices and can be easily bought pre-mixed at most Asian markets. It contains dried fish, sesame seeds, sugar, salt, MSG, and small pieces of seaweed. This seasoning blend is also commonly used on sushi rolls for a subtle kick of flavor and can be an excellent replacement for wasabi in Asian cuisine fusions.
Finally, a dash of yuzu kosho will provide a subtle pop of citrus and spice to your ramen. This fermented paste is a great alternative to wasabi and has a pronounced umami.
You can even add more texture and flavor to your ramen by adding a soft-boiled egg, sliced scallions, or a drizzle of garlic chili oil (we like the S&B Crunchy Garlic with Chili Oil). For those trying to cut down on carbs, try substituting the regular ramen noodles for zucchini noodles or kelp noodles. For those cutting down on dairy, a splash of coconut milk can be a nice addition to the broth as well. Try replacing the soy sauce in the ramen with tamari or Bragg’s. Finally, for a complete bowl of comforting ramen, don’t forget the shaved black radish and bean sprouts!