Giving Your Next Ramen a Little Bit of Flair

There is seldom a sense of refinement in the area of ubiquity. But Stacy Austin takes a shot at it with the anytime-anywhere meal that is Korean ramen.

It’s a common problem to have in Korea. You’ve been out all night and you’re hungry. What do I do? I go to the closest 24-hour convenience store to conduct the quintessential Korea food experiment that is instant ramen. 

I know, I know. You might be thinking, “Ew! Yuck! Why?” There are plenty of 24-hour soup restaurants, but honestly, at that hour, I’d probably suffer a first-degree burn from boiling dwaeji gukbap. Also, I’d probably already have eaten McDonald’s that week. And, last time I went to Lotteria drunk at night, I woke up with three bulgogi burgers in my purse the next morning.

Regardless of whether you’re getting payday drunk or not, ramen and any additional ‘upgrades’ – as I like to call them – are extremely affordable. You can’t really mess it up, per se, but I will provide you a few tips to improve your next ramen dining experience.

First off, pick your ramen.

It’s easy to be crippled by choice, as there’s a lot of variety out there, such as spaghetti, cheese bokki, tteokguk and cheese curry. For that matter, why pick one? Pick two.

Yes, two! The MBC TV program, Where are you going, Daddy?, made the combination of Japaghetti (black bean sauce Chinese-style noodles) and Neoguri (instant udon) extremely popular.

Korean Ramen variety

A cup of buldak bokkeum ramen (or the squid version) is like punching yourself in the stomach. This is not a food you can devour on a daily basis. It’s just too extreme. But if you’re just having one of those days where you have a gnawing feeling in your gut that cries out to be punished, you can do no better.

Shin Ramyun is the highest selling brand of noodles in South Korea. They are consistently tasty, but their premium Black version is an unsung hero in my book and has real addictive potential.

Find your upgrades.

Adding a one-extra-item upgrade to your ramen is usually enough. Here’s my list of favorites: American cheese, tuna, ground pepper, kimchi, peanut butter, dried seaweed, potato chips, microwavable rice, boiled egg, dried fish, squid or beef. Try at your own risk.

Once you’ve completed your purchase, locate the hot water dispenser. Before splitting your chopsticks in two, wedge the edge of the ramen top between your two chopsticks, so no steam can get out. Then, when your noodles are done cooking, drain some of the water out. (Too much liquid is always the mark of a ramen noob.)

Mix in the ingredients and whatever additions you have. You can happily start slurping from your bowl at this point, or you can fold your ramen top into a cone to put your steaming noodles into. Either way, you’re gold. Enjoy!

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