We’ve written about many ramen noodle recipes. Most are simple. A few are a little more complex and involved. But even the simplest recipes involve some planning and preparation.
What if you just want to reach into your freezer and throw something into your ramen? That requires virtually zero planning, since you don’t need all the ingredients for a specific recipe. All you have to do is keep some delicious frozen toppings in your freezer. That way, they’ll be handy whenever you put on a pot of ramen.
There are any number of possible ramen ingredients. If you get creative, pretty much anything can go into a bowl of noodles. That said, there are some foods that are better than others. Here are our five go-to favorite frozen foods for adding to ramen.
1. Frozen Vegetables
It’s easy to understand why you might want to add frozen veggies to your ramen. To begin with, they’re nutritious. For another thing, they’re uncomplicated. You just open a bag and dump them into your boiling broth. You don’t have to do any prep work like cleaning, peeling, or chopping your vegetables. This can save you a ton of time, which is great when you’re trying to fix a bowl of ramen in a hurry.
If you want to get a good mix of vegetables, you can buy a bag of mixed veggies. This will provide a variety of flavors, textures, and nutrients. That said, you might not want to eat the same mixed veggies all the time. Even a blend can start to taste boring if you’re eating it over and over. Instead, it can be better to buy a variety of frozen vegetables and mix things up.
Frozen broccoli is a solid go-to. It cooks very well, and you can even fry frozen broccoli florets without them going completely soft. Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables cook with similar ease. In fact, most frozen veggies are just as easy to cook as their fresh counterparts.
That said, you probably don’t want to buy frozen spinach or other leafy greens. They tend to be soggy and wilted when they thaw, which isn’t exactly appetizing. Here's a recipe where you can use frozen broccoli.
2. Frozen Naruto
No, we’re not talking about the popular anime. In Japanese cuisine, “naruto” is short for “narutomaki,” which is a special kind of fish cake. It comes as a stick or tube, and you cut it into slices. When you cut it open, the outer cake layer and the inner fish create a unique swirling pattern. This is fun and adorable when you throw a few slices on your ramen. Incidentally, the pattern is where naruto gets its name. It’s named for a set of whirlpools in the Naruto Strait in Japan, which bear a striking resemblance to the swirls in the food.
Naruto can be made with any kind of seafood. Some of the most common variants are made from shrimp and squid, although there’s plenty of naruto that’s made with a finned fish. The cake is almost flavorless, but absorbs much of the flavor of the fish. The result is an overall mild, fishy flavor. This makes naruto popular in Japan for topping all kinds of dishes. People even throw it on salad, much like you might put croutons on a salad.
Naruto’s bright coloring pops out from a ramen bowl, adding an attractive splash of color. It’s also a little chewy, about the same consistency as ramen noodles. Add it while your ramen is still piping hot, and it will soften very quickly.
3. Frozen Rice Cakes
Frozen rice cakes might seem like an odd choice. But they have a longer shelf life than ordinary dry rice cakes, and they’re designed to be added to hot food. To prepare them properly, add them around 30 to 60 seconds before removing your broth from the heat. That way, they’ll be properly cooked, and there won’t be a hard frozen core in the center.
After they’ve cooked, frozen rice cakes will soak up your broth and become chewy. Don’t worry! That’s exactly what you want. As the broth soaks into the rice cakes, so does the flavor. All the spices, herbs, and other ingredients will leave their impression on the rice cake. Instead of bland, boring rice, that chewy bite will contain the same flavor as the rest of your recipe. Can you say “Yum!”?
Frozen rice cakes are best used in recipes with a lot of broth. If you’re throwing out the broth and using a thicker sauce, you won’t get the same results. There won’t be enough liquid to soak into your rice cakes, so they’ll be dry and not very appetizing. Ideally, there should be no other ingredients that might absorb the broth – other than the noodles themselves.
Our Rabokki Ramen recipe is so tasty, and you can totally use frozen rice cakes.
4. Frozen Hot Pot Meat
Frozen hot pot meat is a great way to add protein to your ramen. Now, you may not be familiar with hot pot meat, so here are the basics. This isn’t meat that has been cooked in a slow cooker. This is a thin sliced meat that’s meant to be fried in a hot pot. Because it’s so thin, you can prepare a slice very quickly, then yank it out and eat it with a pair of chopsticks.
What does this have to do with ramen? Well, if you’re looking for a quick, convenient meat, it doesn’t get much easier than hot pot meat. You don’t have to slice anything up or deal with leftover chunks of meat. Just take out as many strips as you want and put them in a pan. The rest can go back in your freezer until next time. It will literally take less time to cook your meat than it will to cook your noodles. That’s a good thing when you’re trying to whip up a quick bowl of ramen.
One thing we feel the need to repeat: frozen hot pot meat is raw. If you put it on your ramen without cooking it first, you’ll probably give yourself food poisoning. Some sliced meats are similar to traditional hot pot meat, but they’re pre-cooked. Unless the label clearly states that the meat is pre-cooked, don’t take any chances. It only takes a minute to fry, and it’s not worth the risk.
5. Frozen Dumplings
Frozen dumplings are a great way to add a different texture or flavor to your ramen. They’re as easy to cook as frozen veggies or naruto. Just take them out of the package and put them in your boiling water. Dumplings will cook differently depending on the size and what they’re stuffed with. Make sure to refer to the packaging and follow the instructions so you can get the best possible results.
Dumplings can take many forms. Some are simple balls of dough like you’d find in a bowl of chicken and dumplings. Others can be stuffed with cheese, seafood, and other fillings. As a result, they’re very versatile. Depending on what kind of ramen you’re making, you can use different types of dumplings. They can pair well with any veggies, meats, or other ingredients you’re doing.
One thing to keep in mind about dumplings is that they’re a lot like frozen rice cakes. They’ll absorb the flavor of your broth and take on its particular character. They’re also not well-suited if you’re not keeping the broth. You wouldn’t get the benefit of them absorbing any flavor, negating the main advantage of using dumplings in the first place.
Check out this veggie dumpling ramen recipe.
All of these frozen ingredients are great ways to turn a simple bowl of noodles into a complete meal. But don’t stop here! Like we said, there are almost endless options. Look in your freezer and see what you come up with. You might be surprised at the results.