How to Make Instant Noodles that Feel Like the Real Deal

Instant noodles, aka instant ramen, is, to many, still somewhat of a forbidden word. It has an infamous reputation for being poor quality and holding nearly no resemblance to the taste and ingredients of the real made-from-scratch ramen. But the days when instant ramen was only dry noodles and a questionable dehydrated broth are way behind us– thankfully!
Nowadays, a vast, vast variety of different instant noodles options are available, holding a lot more than just many alternatives for broth style, noodles, and toppings. The attempts at making instant ramen closer and closer to the real one have substantially improved in the past years, with some premium lines being surprisingly close to actual restaurant-served ramen.
And even when outside Japan this is already pretty easy to confirm, it only takes a fast glance at any given supermarket or convenience store in Japan to see through yourself just how far this instant ramen obsession can go. Several isles lining up with heaps of bagged instant ramen, cup noodles and even the fancy(ish) bowl-like versions. And the best part? It’s cheap, it tastes awesome, and you can eat it in the coziness of your home, avoiding the patience-consuming queues, like a pro. Oh, and did I mention that it’s cheap? It’s a really important part of it.
One of the new trends in this increasingly growing industry is actually the signature instant ramen lines, made directly by famous restaurant owners. Greatest. Idea. Ever. It means you can literally enjoy a bowl of ramen that is as close as it gets to go to your favorite ramen joint. All of this in addition to the obvious advantages stated previously, and for a fraction of the price. Of course, it won’t be the exact same ramen bowl. But trust me, when you’re far from your restaurant of choice, or when you’re on a budget (or, heck, just when you’re on a lazy night!) it makes for such a pleasant substitute!
If you’re at all like me, you will probably encounter the distance, budget and laziness obstacles pretty often. Therefore, becoming an instant noodle expert comes in more than handy.
And the best part is: to become an instant ramen noodle expert, it takes no practice at all, and only following very simple steps. Basically, it just takes having instant noodles and hot water and wanting to make it! 😀
So, without further ado, here is a step by step guide to perfect instant ramen that is sure to leave you satisfied, and feeling like you’re not missing out by staying in 😉
This time I chose this Asahikawa style Tonkotsu salt ramen from the famed Hokkaido-based chain restaurant Santouka.

Now, if you’re fluent in Japanese and can decipher kanji without any problems, you probably don’t really need to read through this step by step guide. But something tells me if you’re reading this, you could probably use this to cut corners and avoid headaches. Let’s get to it!

What’s inside

Every instant noodle pack is different (thank heavens for that, right?), so it’s fair to say that these instructions are suited specifically for the one that I have at hand. But, even though it varies according to what type of ramen you got, as a general rule the step by step is pretty much the same. Depending on what’s inside the package, the step order may differ or timing change slightly; always try to check if these instructions match more or less what is written on the label. And if you can’t read any Japanese at all, at least do a quick check by watching the pictures on the instructions and paying attention to numbers -which are generally written in ramen numbers anyway- as they usually determine the cooking/waiting time. For example, take a look at step number 4 in the picture above: the first thing you see is another number 4 because the cooking time for this one is 4 minutes.
This particular box comes with the following:

Which translates to:
• Liquid soup (tare)
• Chashu ham slice
• Toppings! (including a separate bag containing a pickled plum)
• Dry soup (broth)
• And of course, noodles.
Now you’re only 4 minutes away from delicious authentic ramen!

Step by step

Before you even open the package, keep in mind that you should only take the lid off halfway through, because you’ll be cooking the ramen inside the very container it comes in, and you’ll need the lid to cover it again once you pour in the hot water. You don’t wanna try to do it with the lid off—trust me.
That being said, this is what you should do with each ingredient once you crack the package open:
First of all, only leave the noodles inside the container, as shown in the picture above. After that, take the ham slice from its bag and place it inside the container with the noodles. You should do the same with the toppings bag, but make sure to leave out the pickled plum. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s why they put it in another separate bag 😉 Save both soup packets for later.

Now simply take some boiling hot water and top up the noodles and toppings with it, until you reach the marked line inside the container. The water should be as hot as possible, and you should move on to the next step quickly, for optimum results.

Here’s where taking the lid off to just halfway through pays off. Cover the container with the lid once again, and place the liquid soup packet on top of it. This simple action will do two things at once: weigh down the lid to keep it closed, so that minimum amount of heat escapes through openings, and warm up the liquid soup so that it won’t cool your ramen down once you pour it in! Clever, huh? If you’re worried some heat might still be leaving the container, you can secure this a bit more by placing a kitchen towel on top to add some extra weight and seal any rebel openings.
Wait patiently for 4 minutes.
Once your timer goes off, lift up the lid and loosen up the noodles with a pair of chopsticks. Be gentle! You don’t want to damage them, or you won’t have the full lovely slurping experience afterward.

Now throw in the dry soup packet and stir to mix it in properly. Even though there is no specific order, I like to put this one before the liquid soup packet, because I’m always scared the ingredients might not hydrate properly if I take too long. It’s probably an irrational fear, but I’m not ready to risk it! Once properly mixed, pour in the liquid soup or tare and mix accordingly.

Look at that! Not too shabby for instant noodles, right?
Don’t forget the finishing touch: the signature pickled plum we’ve been saving!

Now, let’s be honest, this looks pretty great! It’s fairly similar to the one they serve at the restaurant and the taste is very good. It’s a bit on the mild side for tonkotsu ramen, but that’s because it’s tonkotsu salt ramen, so the real kick of flavor comes from the salt. There is also a certain spicy tinge to it which I was pleasantly surprised with. And for only a couple hundred yen, I find it to be an incredible deal.

Instant upgrade

If you happen to have soft boiled eggs ready at home (or bought them already cooked at the market or konbini), I’d say don’t hesitate and throw that baby in! I myself can’t usually resist it, and definitely never regret it. This original restaurant version of the ramen doesn’t really come with an egg (you can, of course, order it as an extra side topping), but I’ll be damned if one day someone tells me that any version of ramen is not instantly upgraded by adding an egg.
So, here:

Perfection. Of course, the egg is a luxury bonus, but for only a few extra yens in the konbini, you can turn your instant noodles experience into one that is oh so close to the full restaurant one. I personally think it’s worth it.
I find instant ramen to be particularly good for when you need to have a quick lunch in the office but don’t want to give up the coziness and richness of ramen, and basically for any situation in which you’re in kind of in a hurry to wait to be served at a restaurant; or simply to solve your meals at home. There is no need to find an excuse for instant noodles, really, it’s just my go-to meal-saver! And I love that it’s been evolving so much lately that it now makes for a proper decent meal. Especially
in Japan, where all these premium varieties are available for cheap and a quick trip to the konbini can simply save your day!

One final piece of advice? Don’t get distracted by taking silly pictures, and eat it while it’s HOT!