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It's Time to Up Your Instant Ramen Game

Can anything be done to punch up instant ramen?
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by Sheela Prakash, EPICURIOUS

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Courtesy of Amazon

We served ramen realness all day in preparation for Ramen Weekend (Jan 10 & 11)--a national holiday we completely made up.

Earlier today, my colleague Gabi noted that most people kick off their ramen addictions in college with the instant stuff. Not me. I never gorged on instant ramen, because even at 20 years old I found those little seasoning packets to be missing something: flavor. That's right, I'm calling our instant ramen as tasting like nothing but MSG and salt.

But I'd like to believe that instant ramen can do better; I'd like to have faith that something so cheap can also be delicious. So I called chef Bill Kim of UrbanBelly (a noodle spot), BellyQ, and Belly Shack in Chicago. I asked him: Can anything be done to punch up instant ramen? He answered in the affirmative with five flavor-packed tips:

1. Put an egg on it.

Kim likes to make an egg drop broth with instant ramen. "I bring the broth up to boil then add an egg, along with kimchi, extra-soft tofu, and some braised pork butt or even bacon."

2. Stir in fresh herbs.

Kim also recommends enhancing the broth with a mix of fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro, dill "or even a store-bought basil pesto."

3. Add spice with kimchi.

Bulk up instant ramen with kimchi. It not only adds spice and sourness to the broth--it also adds texture and substance.

4. Finish with a flavored oil.

Add heat by finishing your instant ramen with a drizzle of chili oil. Or go for a more savory, nutty note with sesame oil.

5. Top with tortilla chips.

Kim likes to give instant ramen texture and crunch by crumbling corn tortilla chips over the top. Bonus: it also gives "toasted corn flavor to the broth," he says.