The instant noodle pack is more than just a quick snack; it’s manna from heaven during petsa de peligro and a beacon of light shining down on starving late-night tummies.
Ever since Momofuku Ando invented the instant noodles in 1958, countless hungry nights have been saved by this five-minute meal prep. The beauty of a pack of instant noodles is in its simplicity. But while this makes them cheap and easy to make, after your umpteenth pack it can become a bit bland and boring.
Fortunately, you can supercharge your noods with a little help from your basic pantry items. By pouring on some simple sauces or going extra with a few added ingredients, you can elevate your hangover remedy to haute cuisine.
After this article, you won’t go back to your plain noodles. Ever. Again.
The best brands
Not all noods are created equal. Some are tempting and tasteful while others are just tacky and boring.
There are a ton of noodle brands available in the market; however, there are a handful of brands that are definitely subpar. It could be that the broth is bland or too salty or that the texture of noodles make them unappetizing.
Whatever the reason, don’t settle. Just because their cheap doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be quality.
With that in mind, we selected a few brands that are worth your money. By themselves, they’re already a good eat, but get all the more glorious when you make them extra special with a handful of ingredients. Stock up on these:
- Lucky Me! Instant La Paz Batchoy (readily available anywhere)
- Nissin Ramen Seafood/Spicy Seafood/Creamy Seafood (readily available anywhere)
- Nissin Yakisoba Spicy Chicken (readily available anywhere)
- Nongshim Shin Ramyun (available at large supermarkets and convenience stores)
- Indomie Mi Goreng/Mi Goreng Pedas (available at select supermarkets like Wellcome, Shopwise, SM Hypermarket, and Savemore)
- Koka Laksa Singapura (verified groceries carrying these are Landmark and Cash and Carry Mall)
- Nissin Pasta Express Creamy Carbonara (readily available anywhere)
- Maggi Kari (verified groceries carrying these are Assad’s Indian Mini Mart and Sta. Lucia East Supermarket)
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Now that you know which brands to get on your next grocery run, it’s time to talk about one of the most important components of the instant noodles: the broth. After all, it’s where all the flavor is.
Your typical noodle pack comes with a seasoning powder that is either too bland or has fewer characters than old Twitter. To boost the flavors, you can either tweak it a bit with a few spices or ditch it altogether.
If you choose the former, one of the most basic things you can do is toss in a few umami-rich vegetables like dried mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, celery, and carrots to spike the flavor.
Adding pantry staples like patis, soy sauce, and bouillon cubes are also good ways to boost your instant noodles.
A more satisfying way to create your noodle’s broth is to make some soup stock from scratch. For a simple stock, you can combine water, animal bones, celery, onions, carrots, bay leaves, herbs, and peppercorns.
Boil the mixture for hours, skimming occasionally for the scum and other impurities. When you have a clear, amber-looking liquid already, pass it through a fine-mesh sieve and let it cool.
Your stock can last for weeks in a freezer, allowing you to take what you only need. From there, you can build your instant noodle’s soup base. Stock is also a staple ingredient in a variety of recipes, so you can use it when you want a home-cooked meal as well.
Protip: If you’re too busy to make stock or add any extras, just cook it as the pack says. Just make sure to use less water than recommended and add the flavor packet’s contents before bringing the water to boil. This will result in a richer flavor.
Spice up your pantry
You can get better and more sophisticated flavors in your simple instant noodle dish by adding the following ingredients:
- Fish sauce
- Curry powder
- Spices like chili flakes, ground cumin, and black pepper
- Hot sauces like Tabasco, Sriracha, and sambal
- Fats like butter, sesame oil, and animal fat
- Nori sheets and furikake (Japanese dry seasoning mix)
Protip: For seafood-based instant noodle soup packs, you can either add coconut milk or full-cream milk and level it up with curry powder to make your bowl heartier.
We all know that instant noodles are not exactly “health” food, but tossing in a few vegetables can improve the dish’s flavor and add some color, texture, and nutrients.
For starters, you can add quick-cooking greens like spinach, bean sprouts (togue), Chinese cabbage, spring onions, and Baguio beans as the soup boils. By the time your noodles are al dente, your veggies will be ready as well.
Carrots, dried oyster mushrooms, and broccoli may take longer to cook, but they’re also worthy inclusions in your boosted noodles. Frozen veggies are also great, but make sure to thaw them before cooking.
Eggsactly the point
One egg can make all the difference.
Since your noodles are all sodium and starch and fats, it won’t hurt to add some protein to your meal. However, there are many ways you can make the humble egg work for your dish.
For wet noodles, you can either boil an egg based on your preference and just garnish it before wolfing down your bowl. However, you can add some sophistication to your dish by poaching or dropping it.
The former works by adding a raw egg to your noodles before they cook. Remove the pot from the heat source and let it sit for a few good minutes. You will have an imperfect poached egg there, but who really cares?
Meanwhile, the egg-drop technique is just adding your raw beaten egg to the soup while stirring, making the broth thicker and adding bits of egg curds to your final product.
For dry noodles, the best way to still add an egg there is by frying it. For maximum effort, make your eggs over easy, then break the yolk and mix it quickly with the noodles to make your sauce thicker.
Meat me halfway
Out of all the ways you can modify your instant noods, adding a meat component may be the toughest one to do.
After all, meats require marinating and pre-cooking. Anyway, what’s the point of eating something “instant” if you’ll do a lot of prep work?
One of the easiest, and quickest, ways to use meat to create a better noodle dish is by just tossing in whatever frozen meats you have in the soup. You can also just add thin slices of pork or beef and shredded cooked chicken as toppings to your cooked bowl of noodles.
For seafood-flavored noodle soup dishes, adding some fish balls, squid balls, and crab sticks as the broth cooks can work wonders.
Now that you know how to turn your simple pack of instant noodles into gourmet cuisine, it’s time to put your newfound knowledge to good use. We’ve come up with some tricks we’ve personally tried before. If you’re claiming, “pics or it didn’t happen,” let’s just say they’re too good for the ‘Gram.
1. Poor man’s budae jjigae
Literally translated as “army stew,” budae jjigae is one of the heartiest noodle soup dishes you can make—with the help of a few canned and frozen meats.
This is a toned-down version of the dish that you can make with a pack of instant noodles and ingredients rummaged from your freezer. Use Nongshim Shin Ramyun. Your taste buds will thank us.
To start your poor man’s budae jjigae, slice up some hot dogs, ham, whatever canned meat you can get (protip: we get great results with Spam), Vienna sausage, scallions, and vegetables (bean sprouts and thinly sliced cabbage will do).
Prepare the noodles by following the instructions on the packet. Toss in the additional ingredients as your noodles cook.
Protip: If you have kimchi, add a generous serving on top and stir it. You’re welcome.
2. Serving suggestion Indomie
Want your instant mi goreng as appetizing as its serving suggestion? Fortunately, it’s easy to do!
Before you cook your Indomie Mi Goreng or Mi Goreng Pedas noodles, sauté some chopped bacon and add all the sauce components in a pan with a few tablespoons of water.
When your sauce is ready, sprinkle a good amount of curry powder, add some julienne carrots and string beans and set the sauce aside.
Cook the noodles making sure to haul them out of the water before it becomes al dente and toss with the sauce to let the noodles absorb some of the flavor. Top it with eggs over easy and serve!
We bet your serving of Indomie Mi Goreng will look better than the serving suggestion displayed on the pack.
3. I seafood, you seafood
While instant noodles are best-cooked stovetop, you can also prepare them with the microwave oven.
Cook your noodles as usual through the microwave, get some fish balls or squid balls from your freezer, quarter them, and toss it to your noodles. Eat it with gusto as your family members stare in envy.
Protip: This works with either Nissin Ramen Seafood or Koka Laksa Singapura.
4. Fiery Instant La Paz Batchoy
Lucky Me’s instant batchoy is good enough as it is, but for the spice lovers, here’s how to add a little kick.
Cook the noodles as instructed and add a generous amount of your favorite chili garlic brand. The garlic bits will add a nice bit of crunch and texture while the chili will add the fiery kick you crave.
Protip: this is the perfect bowl to make to add some warmth during a cold, grey, rainy day.
5. Nissin creamier carbonara
Every now and then, we enjoy generous servings of Nissin’s instant carbonara. For a creamier version of it, top it with a nice dollop of your favorite cheese spread. It’s sinful and delicious, which is everything you need from a quick snack.
6. Parasite’s ramdon (or Chapaguri)
By this time, you’ve probably hopped the Parasite hypetrain (and we cannot stress enough how important this film is, so go watch it if you haven’t). One of the most memorable scenes there is when Kim matriarch was cooking Chapaguri, a combination of Nongshim’s Chapagetti (black bean sauce noodles) and Neoguri (spicy seafood noodle soup).
Since hanwoo beef is difficult to find here—and using expensive beef is imprudent during these trying times—you can sub any pork or beef cut for the dish. Boil the Neoguri noodles first, then add the Chapagetti noodles halfway through the cooking process.
In a separate pan, lightly fry your protein to your desired level of doneness and cut it into cubes. When you’re done, combine the fat used to cook the meat with all the seasoning packets from both noodles, add a few tablespoons of pasta water, and mix together. Throw the cooked noodles in the sauce mixture and top it with beef.