7 Easy Ways to Turn Instant Noodle Into A Real Meal

By Dan S

I like instant noodles, They are quick an easy fix when I am too lazy to cook.
I’m not talking about the 20 cents Ramen noodle that you buy in Safeway or walmart (which doesn’t tasty good). I am talking about instant noodles from Asia. Instant noodle is big in Asia. It’s a very well established industry with billion market size and incredible food science. Instant noodles from Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and south east Asia come in all kinds of flavor (beef, chicken, pork, seafood, and almost anything you can think of), noodle types and cooking methods (wet, dry, cooked, uncooked, fried, dried, etc.), spices pack, and some even comes with vacuum sealed  meat package. Below is my favorite Taiwanese instant Beef noodle soup, with REAL BEEF.
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Instead of the regular fried and dried noodles and a small pack of artificially flavored powder, a typical Asian instant noodle usually comes with noodle (all kinds of different noodles), a spice pack, a dried vegetable pack, and a oil (i.e. chili oil) or sauce pack for flavor. But of course, the more sophisticated the instant noodle, the higher the price. It can go from $0.5 to $3 to $5 dollars on some high end Japanese noodles. Below is a picture of my local Asian grocery stores with a whole rack of instant noodles from around the world.


But no matter how good these instant noodle taste, they are not healthy and often don’t have the balanced nutrition we need.

If you like Asian type noodle but haven’t been able to find a tasty instant noodle, I’d recommend you try your local Asian grocery stores. You can find tens to hundreds variety of instant noodles. Want some recommendation to start with? Here is a post recommending 10 great instant noodles.
Instant noodles are not known for having balanced nutrition, so If you are going to have instant noodle once a while, you might as well take a little extra effort to make them just a little more nutritious and tastier. Here are 7 easy ways that I do to turn my instant noodle into a complete meal:
1. Add Egg. Egg makes everything taste better. It’s easy cook and full of nutritions. There are a few ways you can add egg to the instant noodle. Here are some of my suggestions:
     a. Hard boiled Egg

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     This can be done ahead of the time. Simply sliced the egg in half and lay it on the noodle. Whola! You got a meal instantly.
     b. Soft boiled Egg
Soft boiledegg requires more care to cook to the right doneness. You can click here to see my tips for the perfect soft boil egg.
     c. Egg drop

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     Egg drop requires some stirring. You can beat the egg or just pop the entire egg into the noodle, and stir to form egg drops.
     d. Poached egg 
     This is my default way to add egg. I simple pop an raw egg into the pot to cook with the instant noodle. It’s not going to look like a perfect drop, but who cares!
     e. Fried egg

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     I am referring to sunny side up or over easy eggs in this case. Fried egg is more involved in the way that you actually need a separate pan to cook the egg. But fried egg is my favorite ways to pair with dry noodles (noodle without soup).

2. Add Cheese
Yes. Add cheese. Everything taste better with cheese. My favorite combination of cheese and noodle is Korean Shin Ramyun Noodle with a slice of American cheese. highly recommended.

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3. Add Vegetables.
This is a obvious one. We need to get our daily serving of vegetables even if we are eating instant noodles. There are a few different vegetables for instant noodles:
     a. Vegetables that cook quickly.
This includes vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, or bean sprouts, etc. This is my favorite type of vegetable to go with instant noodles
     b. Vegetable that requires longer cooking time.
These are Napa cabagge, Bok Choy, or even broccoli. The timing of cooking these vegetables might be a bit tricky. The time that takes to full cook these vegetables might result in soggy noodles. I recommend cooking the vegetables separately and add everything together before serving.
     c. Frozen vegetable,
This is another easy one. I usually just drop a handful of frozen vegetables into the pot when cooking the noodles.
4. Add Protein. 
We all need protein in a healthy diet. For vegetarians, it’s probably beans and tofu. But for us meat eaters, some thinly sliced meat or seafood will dramatic upgrade the instant noodle experience.
     a. Meat, thinly sliced.
This can be beef, pork , chicken, or any meat you prefer. My favorite is beef, thinly sliced.
     b. Seafood.
This ca be shrimp, clamp, can tuna, or anything  you feel like adding. But don’t over-cook the shrimp.
     c. Tofu.

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There are lots of variations of tofu: soft, medium, firm, fried, frozen, etc. I prefer fried tofu over regular tofu because of the texture and taste.
5. Fish cake & meat balls.

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This is another popular choice for turning instant noodle into a meal. These delicacies are the same ingredients you can find in the hotpot. I don’t usually see them in US supermarket but they can easily be found in Asian grocery (usually bagged in the freezer).
6. Peanut butter.
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This ingredient might not be for everyone. But I find peanut butter has the right balance of salty, nutty, and sweetness. It also adds extra creamy texture into the instant noodle. Give it a try, you might find it surprisingly tasty!

7. Condiment: Fried shallot, garlic, scallions, spices (pepper, oregano, etc.), sauce (chili sauce, soy sauce, etc.), fat (sesame oil, hot oil, chili oil), citric juice.

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These are all ideas that can bump up your instant noodle experience, but I usually found them unnecessary since most of the instant noodles I cook is already packed with flavor. But if you find the instant noodle is lacking in flavor (probably in the case of $0.2 a pack noodle in US supermarket), these spices and sauce can definitely make your instant noodle more enjoyable.

If you are looking for better texture, I highly recommend adding crunchy fried garlic or fried shallot. You can grab them in Asian grocery store for couple bucks without going through the frying process.

So, What’s your favorite instant noodle and toppings? Leave me a comment and let me know!


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