Everybody Loves Ramyun

Ramyun: Simple, Quick, Inexpensive, Nutritious, and Delicious when done right. Please note: This is not what ramyun looks like... I snapped this photo while waiting for the water to boil.

Ramyun, which you may know by its Japanese name “ramen”, is a noodle soup from The Orient. Those of us who are not Asian by origin or ancestry probably think of ramyun as a cheap instant noodle soup, but in Korea and Japan it is an actual food with restaurants devoted to its preparation and everything! The dehydrated product we find on store shelves bears as much resemblance to “real” ramyun as a dry packaged chicken noodle soup does to homemade. The packaged variety is a favourite among Asian students because it costs next to nothing, can be made in just a few minutes, and keeps on the shelf almost forever.

My first encounter with ramyun was in college and desperately poor and hungry. There were little packages of Sapporo Ishiban Ramen for 25¢, I think it was, on the shelf at a local grocery store so I bought a bunch of the chicken and shrimp ones. Starvation probably biased my opinion but they tasted great and they filled the belly.

I became close friends with a classmate of mine and her boyfriend, Khải Xoắn. One fateful day at his apartment, Khải Xoắn invited me to stay for dinner. He had a whole box of ramyun packages, took a couple out, and then went into the fridge. He was adding extra stuff to the ramyun! Brilliant! I was amazed at what a difference a couple of green onions, an egg, a couple of dried shrimps, some fish sauce and some Chinese cabbage could make.

The contents of this package can be used as the starting point for many things, including dinner.

Years later I met the lovely woman who would eventually become Mrs. HoaiPhai. I was teaching English Second Language and she was one of my students. One of the other students, who we found out was a distant relative of my yet-to-be wife, tried to matchmake us — it worked.

One time during his bid to put us together, he invited himself and me over to her apartment for an after-class snack. She was terribly unprepared but did have some Korean ramyun.

For those of you unfamiliar with Korean cuisine, it’s a lot like Japanese except that it’s got a kick. Korean food is loaded with garlic and coarsly-ground chili powder. I’m no stranger to spicy food — I love it. There are no Korean grocery stores in my area so we make a couple of runs per year to near Toronto, and we always pick up at least one throw-pillow-sized bag of the Korean chili powder.

Anyways, she added all kinds of stuff to the packaged soup, like shrimp, chicken, and seaweed, and it was absolutely fabulous. So today I’ll give you some ramyun pointers using the very same type of packaged ramyun that helped sparked a fire in my heart (not to mention a burning sensation in my intestines) for the woman I was to marry.

How to Make Enhanced Ramyun

Maybe you’ll do as I did and try ramyun “unplugged” without adding anything. But to get the most out of those little packs, you’ll really want to take it up a notch and personalize it to your own tastes by adding stuff to it. Here’s how to do it…

1. Run out and buy yourself some ramyun. If you’re into spice, I highly recommend the brand pictured above, Nongshim Shin Ramyun. If you prefer it blander, try something else. Not familiar with the stuff? Take a chance, buy several different types! They cost less than a buck each!

2. Inside the package is one or more envelopes of flavourings and a brick made up of one really long continuous noodle. If you’re like me, you won’t want to fight with the giant noodle all through your meal so you should crunch up the contents while the package is still completely closed. If you enjoy a challenge and have a Black Belt in long noodle handling, skip this crunching stage.

3. Check the directions on the package for the amount of water they say to use, measure it off into a pot, and start heating it up with a boil in mind. Since these are instant noodles, you won’t be draining off the water so use the amount the package says. I always follow directions to the letter the first time I try a product and if I think I can improve upon it, I’ll make a mental note and adjust the recipe the next time. [Doesn’t “Mental Note” sound like a good name for a heavy metal band?]

4. Gather your “extra” ingredients and cut them up remembering that the cooking time is only about five minutes. I like to add chicken or shrimp but you can add or omit any kind of meat, vegetable, or grain. Use up some of those leftovers you have in the fridge!

Chicken goes with everything… add it to your soup!
Add some green! Frozen peas are a natural, but you can add string beans, bean sprouts, shredded Chinese cabbage, onions, celery, spinach, tofu, etc.
Don’t forget the mushrooms! The dried Chinese ones have the full flavour to compliment the broth’s spiciness, but you’ll have to pre-soak them. I made this meal on a whim so I just used a couple of mushrooms leftover from another meal. I like them chunky but they look better sliced.

5. If the water’s boiling and you have a couple of ingredients that need to be cooked longer than the cooking time stated in the instructions, fire them into the pot taking note of the water level once they’re in. Once these extras are cooked, top off the water to its original level and bring it back to a boil.

6. Carefully open the package of ramyun and remove the packets of flavourings. Add the flavourings to the boiling water and stir for a few seconds. The flavourings provided tend to be very salty and the Shin Ramyun spices are quite fiery (but most ramyun flavours are not piquant). Try adding half the packet’s contents, give it a taste, and add more if you like.

7. Add the noodles and set a timer for the amount of time recommended on the package. Keep the water on a low boil — too rapid a boil will reduce the broth making it too strong-tasting. Don’t overcook! Instant noodles get mushy in a hurry!

This is what a 75¢ ramyun looks like simmering on a $3,000 stove.

8. If you have any ingredients that will cook in five minutes, add them immediately after you put the seasonings and noodles in the pot and simmer uncovered, stirring every once in a while.

9. Once the noodles are cooked, serve into large bowls and garnish with green onion, kim chee, pickled Asian radish, seaweed, coriander leaves (a.k.a. cilantro) or whatever floats your boat. Toss in a couple of croutons or some lobster meat if you like… it’s your lunch. I also add a squirt of lime juice to play with the spiciness of the Shin Ramyun flavour.

This is something like what your ramen should look like if you happen to put it in a white bowl on top of a cutting board that's hanging off the counter a bit.

There you have it. A meal fit for a king! Well, OK, maybe a meal fit for the guy who polishes the king’s shoes, but it is tasty.

Don’t be afraid to experiment not only with different brands of ramyun but with extra ingredients as well. There’s no reason why you cannot add some “western” ingredients, like oregano, a smidgen of BBQ sauce, tomato paste, potatoes, etc.

If you’re really adventurous, you can buy large packages of Asian 5-minute noodles and make ramyun from scratch! For broth boil some pork and chicken bones together with a little minced ginger and fresh garlic (the secret to won ton soup) or use the last bit of Thanksgiving leftover turkey soup, adding soya sauce and/or fish sauce to give it an Asian character.


About HoaiPhai

I'm up late digging up the dirt. View all posts by HoaiPhai

26 responses to “Everybody Loves Ramyun

  • Redneckprincess

    That looks delicious!!!! I seriously would have never thought of adding stuff 🙂

  • The Hobbler

    Sounds great! My kids love Raman noodles, but my husband pretty much hates them, but I bet he would like them if I tried some of your additions. Thanks for the tips.

    • HoaiPhai

      You’re very welcome! The wonderful thing about ramyun is that it’s really cheap so if someone doesn’t want to eat what you’ve made especially for them, you don’t get all depressed like you would if they threw out a truffle-stuffed lobster in Dom Perignon sauce and you can add only the stuff that hubbie likes. (OK, that’s two things)

  • excrementaleducation

    Is that a mushroom or the ornament from a Dodge Ram pickup? One of those two probably should not be eaten.

    • HoaiPhai

      Actually, the pickup truck’s name was The ‘Shroom when it was being developed but they felt associating their vehicle with fungus might not project the kind of image that would move metal. They had already bought a bunch of badges and it was cheaper to convert the stylized mushrooms into a daddy lamb’s head than to scrap them, so that’s how the truck got its present name. And thanks for reminding me… you can also add leftover mutton to the soup!

  • gojulesgo

    I have to tell the Peppermeister to read this! He takes the 35-cent pack and adds lots of yummy stuff (usually including beef), then makes it so spicy I see double.

    I can definitely understand finding true love through Ramyun. That’s a love that will last.

    P.S. – Your captions cracked me up.

    • HoaiPhai

      For The Peppermeister I highly recommend Shin Ramyun, as featured in this post. It’s probably spicy enough for his palate and will put hair in his chest unless, of course, he spills some on his “upper frontals”, in which case it makes a wonderful substitute for Nair. Ladies, you needn’t worry — you seem to be immune to Shin Ramyun’s follicular stimulation properties.

      “Shin” means “hot” and the large black Chinese character on the left side of the package means “shin”. You can remember this easily by imagining the character being a drawing of an old-style oil streetlight (the flame of which is hot…get it?). I really should have pointed out in the body of the post that “shin” in the name of this brand of ramyun does not refer to the part of an animal that is slightly north of the hoof.

      Indeed, my love for my wife certainly has stuck to my ribs for the long haul and is usually ready in only five minutes!

  • theplaceswevebeen

    Looks delicious! I myself, have added things to my ramen since being here in Korea.

    • HoaiPhai

      Ahh, you’re so lucky to be living in the ramyun homeland! You have access to all kinds of great stuff to put in, like gobi namul, etc. Another thing is that in Korea they have the hardcore Shin Ramyun… the stuff they sell here in Canada is a bit tamer than the product destined for domestic use. Bon appetit!

  • Mike Lilly

    Ah, the memories come flooding back! As a desperately poor college student at WVU I basically survived off ramen noodles. 25 cents a package is exactly what I remember paying as well. Unfortunately I had no idea that at the time that they could have been even BETTER with some added ingredients! Why couldn’t you have posted this in 1988??

    I have to admit that I haven’t bought any ramen noodles since leaving college, but reading this has given me inspiration to give them another go. And hey, maybe the kids will like them- cheap sustenance!

    • HoaiPhai

      I find it strange, and personally embarrassing, that people are often introduced to ramyun as college students but it rarely dawns on them to add stuff to it. Like the comedian Gallager once said, “College students think they’re so smart but they’re in college so something’s not together. After all, you don’t go to the hospital and find people bragging on their health!”

      Now that we’re older, and hopefully slightly better off financially, we can take those 25¢ packages and elevate them to something gourmet-like, by adding crab or something. I come from the province where poutine (French fries with cheese and gravy) was invented. Originally, it was a working-class food sold in cheap restaurants and chip wagons. I now work in wine country and there is a five star restaurant here that makes it with lobster and it costs $18!! There are opportunities out there for people who can boil water and add an ounce of expensive ingredients to a package of ramyun! The profits might pay for a nice macro lens!

  • Martina

    Just wanted to wish you Happy Birthday! 🙂
    It looks really yummy 😛 I might give it a try…;)
    Hope you’re having a great day!

    • HoaiPhai

      Thanks Martina! Actually, my birthday was brutal at work…17½ hours of work and training and then I had to come back 6½ hours later to start my next shift. I had just enough time at home to yawn hello to my wife, sleep a bit, and yawn goodbye to her again. I doid get a lovely card from a grand-niece in Korea and a niece in California, though.

      Do try to spruce up ramyun! It’s very quick and you get a feeling of accomplishment when you’ve customized it to your liking.

  • jennygoth

    id love chicken and mushroom in those noodles looks a great treat to me and not fattening either xxjen

  • betharr

    you are an excellent writer, Hoai.
    I do not know ‘ramyun’… well anything like that (with this name).
    we have many asiatics produts here. of course! the global world!…
    many Japaneses, Chineses and Corean restaurants but I prefer to cook at home. I think that to taste & to test different foods is nice.
    let’s go to the cuisine. :-))

    • HoaiPhai

      Thank you! I don’t know if you noticed but the title is a play on the title of one of my favourite TV shows, “Everybody Loves Raymond”. I got the idea for this post when eating ramyun while watching “Raymond”.

      You might be able to find ramyun by looking for it with the Japanese name, “ramen”. There was an excellent Japanese movie made, a comedy called Tampopo about a woman who has a ramen restaurant and meets a man who helps her make it the best ramen place in Tokyo. It’s a comedy and goes off on all kinds of siide stories.

      Unfortunately here in Niagara we don’t have very many Asian grocery stores so we have to travel about 125 km to Toronto to get hard-to-find foods. There are a lot of different types of restaurants here, though.

      About 15 minutes from where I live is a Brazilian BBQ restaurant but it must be expensive because it’s near the casino and they advertise on the radio all the time. Part of what they say on the radio is “Immerse yourself in Brazillian culture…come to our restaurant”. Are we there to eat or get a history lesson? Isn’t that strange? What do they do in that restaurant? Does the waiter come to your table dressed in a 511-year-old costume and say “My name is Pedro Alvares Cabral and I discovered Brazil in the year 1500. Can I take your order now or would you like a few minutes to look over the menu?”What happens if you try to run without paying? Are the busboys trained in Capoeira and will they give you another lesson in Brazillian culture that you’ll remember for a long, long time?

      • betharr

        hahahahah!… could be anothers persons. not Brazilian ’cause’ Brazlian is not a smart people to make money so easier like that. I don’t know maybe they are Venezuelan “from Arabian”?
        Yes, “Everybody Loves Raymond” I saw it here.
        and ‘ramen’ I know what is that.
        obs if the restaurant is really Brazilian… the barbecue is not as good as the Argentine is.

      • HoaiPhai

        I think it might be owned by the casino. So, do you want to be my partner and open an Argentinian BBQ across the street? We’ll drive the “Brazillian” place out of business! Think of the fun we’ll have forcing the waiters to dress like gauchos!

  • betharr

    you are a cosmopolitan man. Nice!
    I have read your stories, even without understanding it all 🙂
    another Canadian / photographer / wordpress blog
    has pictures and good stories from Seoul.
    would you like to see?
    visit http://jtinseoul.wordpress.com/
    I hope you enjoy it.

    • HoaiPhai

      Thanks for the compliment! Wow, JT’s stuff is amazing! Now I’ll have to visit regularly — as regularly as I visit, which has been a bit irregularly lately 😦

  • The Hook

    Midnight scavenger, blogger, ace photographer, hopeless romantic, and now… foodie!
    Is there no mountain you haven’t climbed?

  • yujiej


    • HoaiPhai

      EVERYBODY loves ramyun! Anyone who doesn’t just hasn’t had one that suites their personal tastes. There should be a computerized ramyun website that asks you a bunch of questions, like a dating site, and then generates a personal recipe for you! I’m glad you liked what I wrote, did you see my other posts about Korea?

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