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How to Make Instant Ramen Better with Healthy Ideas
By Peter Reyes
When I was a struggling student in Tokyo back in 90s, I didn’t have much money to
spend on dine-out meals or takeaways. Things are jaw-dropping expensive in Japan,
and I remembered the cheapest meal (¥ 900) I had was at a stand up noodle bar in
Shinjuku. So I had to make do with whatever that was within my tight budget – packets
of cheap no-frills instant ramennoodles.
There’s no denying that instant ramen noodles are super unhealthy, loaded with notorious
health saboteurs like fat, MSG, sodium, preservatives, artificial colorings, all
packaged into one quick meal. However, there are a few simple things that you can
do to transform “bad” food into a slightly more healthy dish, and enjoy without breaking
your calorie bank.
How to Make Instant Noodles Healthy
Although there’s still an ongoing debate whether instant ramen contain wax and that
it takes about 4 to 5 days for the body to excrete the wax, here’s what you should
do as a precautionary measure:
1. Boil the instant noodles in a pot with water.
2. Once they're cooked, remove and discard cooking liquid.
3. Next, bring another pot of water to a boil, then place your cooked noodles into
the pot and turn off the fire.
4. Add in soup mix to make ramen soup or remove cooked ramen and toss with instant
mix to have dry noodles.
If horror stories about instant noodles – ranging from hair loss to premature greying
of hair to increased cancer risks (thanks to MSG) – give you nightmares, then use
just ⅓ of the instant mix when making dry ramen. If you prefer a stronger flavor,
feel free to use ½ packet but be prepared to drown yourself in gallons of water after
Better yet, throw away the seasoning packet and create your own seasoning instead.
For example, mix the noodles with a bit of low-sodium soy sauce, sugar and a dash
of pepper, and maybe a drizzle of sesame oil to finish.
A little tomato sauce, some extra hot Thai chili sauce and oyster sauce give a fiery
spicy kick to the instant ramen noodles. Alternatively, flavor with hoisin sauce,
or XO sauce (a spicy seafood sauce, which is available in the Asian aisles of your
local supermarket), or a combination tomato sauce and yellow mustard.
Keep in mind that instant ramen noodles has poor nutritional content as they offer
nothing more than refined carbohydrates, fat, very little protein and not much dietary
fiber. So to pump up the nutrition, make sure to include lean protein and lots of
veggies in your quick meal.
You can toss in shrimps, canned crab meat (drained), skinless shredded chicken or
turkey breast. Thickly-sliced no-nitrate ham, eggs, and tofu cubes make tasty additions
as well. If you’re a person with adventurous taste buds like the Koreans, you might
want to add a slice of low-fat cheese to your bowl of instant ramen noodles.
For fiber, fresh or frozen mixed vegetables such as spinach, napa cabbage, celery,
tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms (enoki and shiitake) and even seaweed can be added
to any basic instant ramen or noodles recipe.
To reduce your intake of trans fat, you might also want to buy non-fried instant
ramen noodles the next time you go to the grocery store. These are much better for
you because they are air-dried rather than being fried. Plus, they are a whole lot
lower in sodium content as compared to the regular kind.
Additionally, look for healthy brands of instant noodles that don’t have added preservatives,
food coloring or MSG in them. You can also find vegetarian friendly instant ramen
that don’t contain egg or animal products, which is a huge benefit for those watching
their cholesterol levels. If you can’t find fat-reduced instant ramen, try angel
hair pasta instead. They cook pretty fast (about 3 minutes or so) and best of all,
they have no saturated or trans fats.
Here are a few of my favorite healthy instant ramen noodles brands that I think you
should check them out:
Assam laksa, chicken and curry flavor (Maggi low fat)