I finished undergrad in three years and bartended full-time to finance it. The subtext of this shameless self-aggrandizing statement is this: I've eaten a lot of ramen in my time. Maybe you can relate?
To me, ramen has meant one of two things: A strictly utilitarian, scorched Styrofoam cup full of enough calories to keep me from keeling over before the end of a lecture, or a glorious, steaming dinner at one of NYC's many esteemed ramen restaurants that set me back $25 I didn't have. Today, this black-or-white mindset has shifted, and I'm stoked about it. It turns out, for a far better bowl, you should be doctoring up your instant ramen with a few simple pantry ingredients, as well as a can of ginger ale.
We got the idea from a viral TikTok, and going into this experiment, my theory was that the ginger ale would add slight carbonation for a more interesting, complex mouthfeel, plus the sweet-spicy flavor component of the ginger. Raw fresh ginger is simply too harsh for a bowl of instant ramen. Pickled ginger makes a great addition to your lovin' bowlful, but if you're looking for a more subtle hit of ginger flavor, ginger ale could bring it all back home ... was what I was thinking. Here's what I found out.
Assemble Your Mise En Place
In the TikTok by Chef Sully that inspired it all, the chef used Canada Dry and insisted that it was the only brand that would do the job. Despite this instruction (or rather, in spite of it), I used Schweppes instead. Fans may have their sipping preferences, but for this recipe, ginger ale is ginger ale, and it's all getting diluted with boiling water anyway. Before you start, make sure to grab a large enough bowl. A lot goes into this broth, and we're going to be doing some stirring.
Per Chef Sully's instructions, I started building my broth with creamy peanut butter (Dollar General generic brand), sesame oil (Kikkoman), everything bagel seasoning (Trader Joe's), sriracha (Tabasco), ginger ale (Schweppes), and the flavor packet from instant shin ramen (Nongshim). All you'll need is a splash of ginger ale, approximately three or four tablespoons, and a spoonful or splash of each of the other ingredients. There's really no need to measure here. Follow your heart. You can always add more of any ingredient to taste later if you wish.
What's great about this tip is its wicked convenience. You just slam all the broth ingredients together in a bowl. Plus, apart from an egg, which the chef also adds (more on that later), they can all live in your pantry or fridge door indefinitely, so you can keep everything you need on hand for a last-minute dinner or a snowy night when you don't want to leave the house to get groceries.
Wrap Your Troubles In Steam And Steam Your Troubles Away
The instructions are to stir all the seasonings to combine, then crack an egg on top of them. Next, place the dry noodle puck on top of it all, and pour over boiling water before leaving it to steam for five minutes. Placing a plate on top of the bowl keeps the steam trapped inside. The idea is that the egg will steam-cook in the bowl with the instant ramen.
When I stirred the broth ingredients together, an audible fizzing sound erupted from the bowl like a chorus of Pop Rocks. It was shockingly loud, and a fine layer of tiny carbonation bubbles jetted up to the surface from the ginger ale. It was kind of awesome and didn't affect the broth in any mess-creating way. Then, I grabbed my electric kettle and poured boiling water over the whole thing right up to the brim of the bowl.
Post-steam, says Chef Sully, you might want to remove your noodles and place them in a separate bowl in order to stir the broth together more thoroughly. In my hubris, I had already decided ahead of time that this step wouldn't be necessary. Lo and behold, it wasn't, but that surely had less to do with any culinary prowess on my part and more to do with the fact that I chose a pretty big bowl to begin with.
The Result? I'm Impressed And Humbled
Dear reader, when I tell you that this viral hack will change the way I make instant ramen forever, I'm not even exaggerating. It's spicy, slightly sweet, and ultra-funky -- a flavor profile I adore. When you take a bite, the first note is the peanut butter, followed quickly by a swift kick of sriracha and then the umami of the shin seasoning. It's complex, dimensional, and totally unexpected. Realistically, I'm not going to tell you that it tastes like it came from a restaurant, but as far as spruced-up bowls of instant ramen go, this is killer.
If you wanted to bulk it up with more protein (in addition to the peanut butter and egg), I would add extra firm tofu cubes to soak up more of the flavorful liquid. Otherwise, bulgogi would complement the existing sweet-funky profile and would be thin enough to not mess up the mouthfeel. Spam would work with the sweet-savory flavor, but its firmness might make for an awkward bite alongside the delicate instant ramen noodles.
This bowlful already has a lot going on, so it's probably best to keep the toppings simple. Chopped chives, fresh Thai basil, or bean sprouts would all add a fresh element. Gochujang, yuzu paste, or citron tea marmalade would bring out the sweetness. To keep it savory, bok choy, nori sheets, furikake, oyster sauce, or miso paste could all be added to the mix.
Just Two Critiques
This TikTok hack was a major success and I'm genuinely going to be making it again -- but I'll be skipping the egg. Unlike the original poster, my raw egg did not, in fact, cook to perfection; it was kind of a runny, flemmy mess. I actually scooped it into the trash and poached an egg separately. Critique number two is that, as complex and dimensional as this ramen creation is, it's missing one major component, which is acidity. A hit of sharp brightness would tie this baby together. In the future, a squeeze of fresh lime or a spicy kimchi garnish would go a long way to round out the balance.
Also, this savory, rich broth would do better with a thicker mouthfeel. In hindsight, I added too much boiling water. A lighter hand would have made for a more crave-able bowl with more concentrated flavor. If anything, I'd add more ginger ale instead of more water if you want a thinner broth.
On the note of brand loyalty, any ginger ale will do here. Side note to fellow ramen lovers: The Huy Fong Foods sriracha shortage has been pretty devastating over the past few years. I tried Tabasco's sriracha for the first time in making this recipe, and it totally holds up. It's strong, a little garlicky, and was a surprisingly spot-on substitute. I'll be going with Tabasco until Huy makes a comeback.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.