One of the things that makes instant ramen noodles so popular is how versatile they are. Sure, you can just prepare them with the flavor packet they come with. But if you want a complete meal, you’re going to want more ingredients. This includes meat, veggies, spices, and even cheese.
Today, we want to look at three of the best ways to add some spicy kick to your next bowl of ramen. We’re going to talk about chili paste, kimchi, and chili oil. With a little bit of know-how, these ingredients will unlock a lot of potential for your next bowl of noodles. Let’s take a closer look!
1. Chili Paste
Chili paste refers to a wide variety of cooking pastes. Chili pepper is always the main ingredient, although there can be a variety of other ingredients, as well. Depending on the composition, it can range from a thick paste to a crumbly, waxy consistency.
In many cases, the chili pepper is mixed with fermented beans. In others, the beans are fermented, dried, and powdered, like in gochujang sauce, a popular Korean type of chili paste. There are many different regional varieties and favorites, particularly throughout east Asia.
Different pastes are used for different purposes. Some thinner pastes can be used as dipping sauces. They can be used as glazes for cooked meats, and they can even be used as marinades.
Because of their consistency, chili pastes are ideal for drier ramen recipes. They can coat all your noodles, and help other ingredients to stick together.
Cooking With Chili Paste
Cooking with chili paste is as simple as it gets. Typically you blend it in during the cooking process, so the flavor has time to diffuse through the rest of the sauce. Here are a couple quick recipes to get you started.
Creamy Spicy Miso Ramen
Creamy spicy miso ramen starts out with a packet of Mike’s Mighty Good miso ramen. Gochujang sauce provides some significant kick, and you kick things up some more with a few dashes of red pepper flakes. For protein, there’s a soft boiled egg, and cremini mushrooms bring additional texture, along with a bold, savory flavor. Add some soy milk to the broth to take away some of the heat and thicken things out.
Rabokki ramen is designed to replicate tteobokki, which is a popular Korean street food. Tteokbokki is made from rice cakes, broth, gochujang paste, and fish cakes. There’s no fish in our recipe, but we added some scallions instead, which will provide some similar flavor, along with an egg for protein and bulk. Mix this into some Mike’s kimchi ramen, and you’ve got a tasty, satisfying meal.
Kimchi is a popular Korean dish that’s made from salted and fermented vegetables. Much like chili paste, there’s a lot of variety between different types of kimchi.
Traditional kimchi, known as kimjang, was kept in large clay jugs and buried in the ground. This kept the material from freezing in the winter, or from getting too warm and fermenting too quickly during the summer. Modern kimchi is fermented in refrigerators, which provide a more reliable form of temperature control.
Kimchi can been made from all kinds of vegetables. Some are made from blander vegetables like cabbage, while others are made with more potent veggies like Korean radishes. Similarly, it can be flavored with all kinds of seasonings. These can include ginger, garlic, chili powder, onions, and other herbs and spices.
Most kimchi is spicy and tangy, similar to radishes or onions. That said, some have a milder, more pickle-like flavor. Kimchi goes very well in soupy ramens, where the texture is a great addition to the dish.
2. Cooking With Kimchi
The nice thing about Kimchi is that you can add it at just about any part of the cooking process. Add it when your ingredients are still on the heat, and it will soften, while the flavor will get milder. Or, add it after you’re done cooking for more texture and bite.
Cheesy Egg Drop Ramen
Cheesy egg drop ramen is meant to be similar to Chinese egg drop soup, but with some added cheesy deliciousness. You start with a Mike’s Mighty Good kimchi ramen packet, then add cheese and green onions. While the broth is still nice and hot, you drop in some scrambled egg mix. The whole thing takes less than 15 minutes to prepare, which is great news when you want a quick, convenient meal.
Korean Fire Noodles
Korean fire noodles aren’t quite as intense as the name would make you think. They do have some kick, though, with gochujang sauce and chili oil. Our recipe only calls for kimchi-flavored noodles and shredded seaweed. But you can add real kimchi if you want, for more texture and flavor.
3. Chili Oil
Unlike what it might sound like, chili oil isn’t actually oil pressed from chili peppers. Instead, it’s ordinary vegetable oil that has been cooked with chili peppers. In most cases, it’s red in color, although this can vary depending on the types of oil and peppers that were used. In some cases, other spices are added in addition to chili.
This oil can be used in a number of different ways. In traditional Chinese and Korean cooking, it’s often used as a dipping sauce, particularly for beef and pork. It’s also frequently used as an ingredient in prepared dishes.
Chili oils can be made from any kind of vegetable oil, including sesame oil, soybean oil, and even olive oil. In the U.S., many chili oils are made with canola oil or peanut oil, to better appeal to western tastes. Additional ingredients can include garlic, paprika, Sichuan pepper, garlic, soy sauce, or even sugar. As a result, different chili oils have wildly different flavor profiles.
When chili oil is prepared, there are a bunch of fine solids left over from the process. These settle to the bottom of the container, and they don’t have to be added to your meal. However, many people prefer the bolder flavor of the solids, and stir the bottle up before pouring it. It all depends on how much flavor you want.
Chili oil isn’t as spicy as you might think, although it does add a little kick to any recipe. It has a robust, roasted flavor, similar to roasted sesame oil, and it goes well with just about any ramen recipe.
Here's how to make your own chili oil!
Cooking With Chili Oil
Chili oil has already been cooked, and the flavor will be ruined if you scorch it. It’s best added late in the cooking process, after you’ve taken your ramen off the heat. Here are a couple of example recipes.
Garlic Chili Oil Ramen
Garlic chili oil ramen is a simple recipe that takes just a few minutes to prepare. It’s vegan, with sesame seeds and green onion for flavor and texture. In addition to garlic and chili oil, there’s also a splash of Chinese black vinegar. This adds some bite, which further colors an already-nuanced dish.
No-Cook Vegan Chili Black Bean Noodles
No-cook vegan chili black bean noodles are yet another simple recipe. Once the noodles are cooked, they’re combined with black bean sauce, chili flakes, and chili oil. Additional ingredients include garlic, vinegar, and soy sauce. Top with green onions, and you’re ready to go.
As you can see, these three ingredients can contribute to some of the most delicious ramen recipes imaginable. But it doesn’t matter what ingredients you’re using if your noodles themselves are substandard.
The next time you’re hungry for ramen, spring for Mike’s Mighty Good. Our noodles are crafted with only simple ingredients like flour and water. They’re also steamed, not fried, so you’re getting an authentic noodle, with the texture and flavor you’d expect from a ramen bar. Add your favorite ingredients, and you’ll have yourself a delicious meal.