Since very few of us make our own ramen noodles, what we're really talking about here is instant ramen noodles straight from the package and then a kind of "amped-up" version using those same noodles with our own homemade additions. For the instant ramen, we'll use our old college standby: Maruchan Chicken Flavor Ramen Noodle Soup. For the amped-up ramen noodles, we'll use the recipe for miso ramen from Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen. All costs were taken from Peapod Online Grocery unless otherwise noted.
• Maruchan Chicken Flavor Ramen Noodle Soup
TOTAL: $1.50 (6 packages/12 servings)
PER SERVING: $0.12
• Miso Ramen Recipe
4 eggs: $0.80
10 oz dried ramen noodles 3 packages of instant ramen = 9 oz. Close enough!): $0.36
1/2 cup fresh or canned bamboo shoots Sourced on Amazon.com: $1.38
1/2 cup fresh or canned corn kernels: $0.25
1/3 cup defrosted frozen or fresh spinach: $0.29
8 cups store-bought or homemade pork or vegetable broth: $4.00
2 teaspoons instant dashi granules Sourced on Amazon.com: $0.75
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste: $0.09
4 tablespoons fresh miso paste Sourced on Amazon.com: $1.11
1 cup fresh bean sprouts Couldn't find fresh online; estimating price: $1.00
1 stalk green onion: $0.09
4 teaspoons chili oil (optional) Sourced on Amazon.com: $0.69
PER SERVING (4 TOTAL): $2.70
• Maruchan Chicken Flavor Ramen Noodle Soup: About 5 minutes
• Miso Ramen Recipe: About 20 minutes
Much of the time for making this homemade ramen involves boiling the eggs (10 minutes) and then re-using the egg-cooking water for boiling the noodles. To speed things up, you could prepare the noodles and broth in a separate saucepan while the eggs are cooking. This would bring the cooking time down to just about ten minutes. Of course, if maximum speed is your goal, you can also just skip the eggs.
Ramen is endlessly adaptable. The ingredients from Jaden's recipe give you some great ideas, and then you can let your creativity loose. Whatever you have in your fridge, freezer, or pantry is fair game here.
What this means is that as long as you have the base ingredients (namely, the ramen noodles themselves), you can always make yourself a bowl of ramen. Even the dashi, miso, and soy in the broth are flexible (I've made ramen before with just soy sauce!).
The seasoning packet that comes with the noodles eliminates the need for any other flavorings, but making your own is not that much more difficult, arguably. And a meal in 20 minutes is still a quick dish in my book.
TASTINESS AND HEALTHFULNESS
This is where the homemade version really edges ahead for me. While the flavor of those instant ramen broths holds a certain taste-nostalgia for most of us, it just doesn't hold up when you compare it to a broth made with ingredients from you pantry.
And when you add fresh ingredients from your fridge and freezer, this quick soup becomes something much more satisfying and delicious than just a pile of noodles in a salty broth.
The ingredient list on a package of ramen noodles reads like Michael Pollan's worst nightmare. Unpronounceable words and obvious additives everywhere. Some of these are in the noodles, but most are in the flavoring packet. Toss the flavoring packet and the soup automatically becomes a much better meal idea.
Want an even better bowl of noodles? Visit your local Asian grocery store and check out the noodle aisle. Lots of amazing dried, fresh, and frozen noodle options there!
MAKE OR BUY?
There's no denying the quick convenience of a straight-up bowl of ramen soup from the packet. But with very little extra effort, we can have a meal that's ten times as good. Sorry, Maruchan, I'm going "make" on this one.
What do you think?
(Images: Peapod and Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen)