Healthy ramen; sounds like an oxymoron. But it doesn’t have to be.
Ramen noodles are the most popular dish in Japan, a staple of cash-strapped college students, and an easy meal for busy Westerners. In fact, some 94 billion packages are consumed every year!
They’re cheap and fast, loaded with carbohydrates and salt. But they don’t have to be bad for you. Toss in some goodness, and you can have an affordable meal that is both satisfying and nourishing.
I watched the first episode of the TV series, The Mind of A Chef, where David Chang traveled to Japan to trace the history of the famous ramen noddle.”
“The soup first appeared in Yokohama where the broth is fatty and salty. In Hakodate, the soup is pork and chicken based. In Sapporo, it’s miso-based. In Kitakata, the noodles are flat.” As the show when on to demonstrate, ramen is always being tinkered with and the center of new and experimental recipes.
The dried instant noodles we know today were invented by Momofuku Ando in 1954 to help feed his war-torn country. What is unique about ramen is that they stay firm in a soupy base because of how they’re manufactured.**
Asians would rarely think of eating ramen noodle by themselves.–even with the flavoring and microscopic vegetables that come with many brands. Ramen are meant to be consumed as part of a healthy meal with vegetables and protein (meat, seafood, egg or tofu).
Eating ramen noodles by themselves may give you a little energy from the carbohydrates, but you will hardly be eating a healthy meal with the macro and micro nutrients you body needs!
You don’t have to live in Japan or even visit an Asian restaurant to eat healthy ramen.
Quick and Dirty
Consider throwing in a handful of frozen vegetables to cook with the noodles, then toss in an egg at the last minute to stir in some protein.
A Bit More Elaborate (This is how I usually eat mine)
- Sauté a few onions or scallions, then add boiling water and fresh or frozen vegetables.
- Throw in your noodles
- Add whatever protein you happen to have on hand (even leftover meat) or mix in an egg just before eating
- Flavor to taste
Get Really Fancy
For more variety, search online for some recipes with all sorts of exciting ways to use ramen. You won’t believe what some have come up with! Here are a few sites you might consider.
I’m not advocating a regular diet of ramen noodles! But I am advocating that when you DO eat them, add some goodness to ensure you’re getting some nutrition instead of empty calories.
Your body needs essential nutrients including protein, fiber and vitamins in ever meal. Add these simple ingredients and make a healthy (and warming) meal that will give you energy and also nourish you.
Protein Ideas: Fresh or leftover beef, chicken, pork or turkey, fresh or frozen seafood like shrimp, tofu, egg
Vegetable Ideas; Peppers, onion, carrots, broccoli, celery, green chile, spinach, kale.
Other: Chicken, beef or vege broth, cilantro and other herbs, garlic, red pepper, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, bean sprouts, chili oil
* The Mind of A Chef is available on Amazon and Netflix. Season 1, Episode 1: “Chang makes instant ramen dishes and tsukemen; takes a trip to Japan for a bowl the original tsukemen, a visit a noodle factory, and Harold McGee explain alkalinity.” DVD available from Shop PBS.
** Ramen are made with alkaline salts that change the protein molecules that keep them from dissolving in liquid.