Ramen Fixins
November 5, 2016 8:06 AM   Subscribe

I've been eating a lot of ramen recently and I've taken to dicing up leftover meat into it, which is great. But what's some stuff I can keep in the fridge/cupboard that doesn't expire too quickly I can also put right in the ramen?

So I graduated from just noodles and soup to noodles and stuff and soup and I want to put more stuff in it! I don't actually want to cook anything, as the whole reason I am eating ramen is because it is quick and easy alternative to ordering food. So basically just some ingredients I can plunk in there.

Preferably this would be ingredients that keep for extended periods of time either in the cupboard or refrigerated.

As far as what I can get, I have easy access to Chinese supermarkets (which also have food from other East Asian countries) and my sister-in-law works in a smaller but exclusively Japanese market.
posted by griphus to Food & Drink (57 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Toasted nori!
posted by augustimagination at 8:09 AM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Kimchi. Frozen anything (seafood, fishballs, spinach, coriander). Eggs!
posted by moiraine at 8:09 AM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sliced hard-boiled eggs, canned bamboo shoots, jarred preserved black beans, canned or frozen Asian greens like bok choy, you could shred and freeze carrots to toss in there, brisling sardines (the little tiny ones), those little soy whorls you get frozen at Asian grocery stores...
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:10 AM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Frozen peas work. Beat an egg and dribble it in. Bean sprouts to top it (not that they last long.)

On preview, Moiraine's comment basically.
posted by mark k at 8:11 AM on November 5, 2016

Also since you say you have access to good Asian markets you're PROBABLY already buying the nicer kinds of imported ramen and not Top Ramen from the supermarket, but just in case: do that
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:13 AM on November 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Do you put the kimchi right in there? I usually eat it on the side in restaurants.
posted by griphus at 8:13 AM on November 5, 2016

Miso keeps forever.

In grad school i used to live on ramen with some frozen mixed chopped veg from a bag.

Whole or pre-sliced shiitake or portobello mushrooms last a week or two in the fridge.
posted by moonmilk at 8:15 AM on November 5, 2016

With stuff like kimchi, I put the ramen in a bowl and then plonk a big spoonful of the kimchi in the bowl near the edge, and don't stir it in. Then it's like fudge in a sundae, you can control your ratio per bite.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:16 AM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yep, you drop the kimchi right in there. It's sorta like a tamed kimchi-chigae that way.
posted by notyou at 8:16 AM on November 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

From your phrasing it sounds like you've got the meat items covered with leftover meat, but there's a number of veg*n "ham rolls" out there (some of which you'll find in a Viet-friendly Asian market, others in Adventist-heavy areas, others online) that are either shelf-stable until opened or are long-fridging products.

Carrot shreds will keep a pretty long time if you store them carefully. You may also want a cheap spiralizer for making carrot and cucumber strings.

Beef jerky, especially if you can get your hands on some of the fancy stuff.

Kimchi and other pickles, including ginger. Yes, put them right in.

I just had a flash of inspiration and checked: yes, you can buy just about any kind of vegetable freeze-dried, for your apocalypse prepper stash or just for delicious soup.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:20 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Almost every kind of frozen veggies. Try using your own selection of spices and a good soy sauce instead of the seasoning packet. Crack an egg into the pot a couple minutes before the noodles are done. Add cooked bacon !
posted by monotreme at 8:21 AM on November 5, 2016

If you don't want to do the extra step of hard boiling eggs for later, you can also just crack them into the ramen while it's boiling and let them cook in the pot.
posted by space snail at 8:22 AM on November 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

I don't use the stuff 'cause I don't like spicy but I hear favorable reports from people adding Sriracha 'rooster sauce' to their instant ramen.

you're PROBABLY already buying the nicer kinds of imported ramen

Sapporo Ichiban FTW!
posted by Rash at 8:22 AM on November 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Preserved Bamboo Shoots are pretty common adds to ramen, and keep as long as you would keep a jar of pickles
posted by Karaage at 8:27 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pickled/preserved greens and eggs would be my first and second pick given your criteria. I usually just pick up a couple of random Mylar packages at the chinese grocery and they all end up being fine.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:30 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I prefer fresh, but frozen Swiss chard works well, if you like leafy stuff in your soups (I do).
posted by ghost phoneme at 8:32 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Cabbage keeps in the fridge for a long time. Regular or napa, sliced thin and added raw.
Frozen corn.
Seconding frozen fish balls!
posted by hooray at 8:39 AM on November 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Anchovies! A little tin of anchovies. Or smoked oysters, or pretty much anything from the tins o'fish section of the store.
Spinach (fresh or frozen).
A little bit of peanut butter is fantastic.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 8:40 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can choose to put the kimchi in anytime. It's very versatile. Sometimes, if I wanted to cut down my usage of artificial powder flavourings, I use kimchi for my soup flavouring instead. I put in the kimchi and kimchi juice before the water is boiled.

If you put the kimchi late, after the noodles are cooked or on the side, you get more of the bacterial fermented goodness.

Oh yes and as a few people have said: anchovies. Anchovies provide umami to everything.
posted by moiraine at 8:45 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

These are the fermented black beans I was talking about: douchi. In Chinese groceries you can easily find jars of a sauce made of whole fermented black soybeans, oil, garlic, and a little hot pepper. IT RULES.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:49 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Shiitake soy sauce pickles are pretty awesome on top of a bowl of ramen.

The kid actually really likes peas, corn, sliced up hot dogs and kimchi in his ramen. out of exhaustion I've made myself the same bowl, and it's surprisingly good.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:06 AM on November 5, 2016

Chinese fishballs (or any type of Japanese fishcake). I keep a bag of fishballs in the freezer and just take a few and boil with the soup for a couple of minutes to defrost and cook. Do you like super strong flavours? Fermented tofu is great too, they sells them in jars. Dried fungus takes just ten minutes to re-hydrate and one minute to cook, it's great in soup - so good! Frozen cooked shrimp (or raw - it cooks so fast). I usually dump a bunch of firm lettuce in there too. I put sliced cucumber for my folks the other day, they were like, "what is this delicious exotic vegetable?" (I cooked it in the soup for a bit, it makes the broth tastier too). Raw meat (hmmm lamb: use frozen thin cuts for Chinese fondue, defrost half an hour early, heat by pouring the soup for medium rare. Or put directly in the soup pot for a minute if you want it well done). Goji takes five minutes to re-hydrate, the flavour is very mild but it provides a happy colour to the soup. Preserved vegetables of any kind (do I mean even sauerkraut? Yes!). Smoked tofu. Fresh chopped green onions (and perhaps coriander) elevate the experience to a new level, even if it's the only thing you add to instant noodles. Well, as you see, the possibilities are endless.

I eat a lot of noodle soup :)
posted by TheGoodBlood at 9:18 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Trader Joe's Chili Lime spice with a splob of peanut butter while the noodles are hot turns into a great sauce. Add some frozen veggies like chopped spinach. Awesome. Toasted flax seeds are a great swap out for sesame for more nutritional goodness.
posted by effluvia at 9:21 AM on November 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Dried shiitake mushrooms. They stay good forever, just drop them in the water before you start boiling it.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:22 AM on November 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

2nding dried mushrooms.

Also, dried parsley, onion powder, and chives.

shelf-stable tofu (comes in a box, cube it and boil it a little before putting the noodles in).

Frozen: edamame, peas

However, it's really nice to have some fresh chives, or something else more leafy, growing outside and just cut some up (I use clean kitchen scissors) right into the broth.

Not storable long-term, but one of my favorite things to add is the leaves from a bunch of celery.
posted by amtho at 9:36 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I keep frozen tofu in the freezer just for this.
posted by potrzebie at 9:36 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I buy little half-hams already sliced, which are already cooked and are great for sandwiches and for dicing up and throwing into soups and ramen. They're much better than packages of sandwich meat. Or you can get different meats at the deli and have them sliced thick. Any of them will be fine in ramen. Raw eggs, of course. Also, shredded cheese of whatever flavor you like; use two varieties for fun. There are bags of frozen onions and peppers, supposed to be for fajitas, but I use them in soups and noodles, diced fine or chunky -- up to you. Pickled ginger, pickled beets, pickled anything, really (following along with the kim-chi idea). Maybe some chutney as a sauce (excellent if you're using ham). Ramen is just noodles so don't limit yourself to Asian flavors.
posted by MovableBookLady at 9:42 AM on November 5, 2016

nthing kimchi. it's a little counterintuitive, but you can get more flavor if you put it in just at the end of boiling, when the ramen is almost done, so that the kimchi is fully hot when served.

also, nthing anything from the asian grocery pickle section eg. pickled lotus.

raw spinach, sliced fine, in the bowl and pour over.

also, cilantro, raw onions, and hot pepper, on top... "vietnamese" style

really anything you can find in your fridge. this is the way you are *supposed* to eat ramen.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:43 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Caramelized onion. I also endorse the egg, onions, cabbage, and garlic already mentioned.
posted by Bruce H. at 10:15 AM on November 5, 2016

Ground chili. Black pepper.
posted by Bruce H. at 10:19 AM on November 5, 2016

Corn is awesome, especially if you do a sort of Hokkaido style ramen with corn, a pat of butter, and a dollop of white miso. (Tip: smush the miso and butter together before mixing it into the broth.) It's got nearly everything - sweet salty fatty - it's just missing bitter and spicy, which you can fix with nori and kimchi!

Miso of any variety lasts forever in the fridge. There's also the Korean miso cousin, doenjang, which imo has a more aggressively nutty flavor, and their glorious gojuchang, which is a thick spicy sweet chili sauce, both of which last equally forever, and you only need a little bit to make a big impact.

You don't say if you have a freezer. Scallions freeze quite well, just chop them up small and stick them in a freezable container. Give the container a shake every few hours when you remember until they're frozen through and they won't clump up. Then you can just scoop some into your boiling ramen broth and they'll thaw in seconds and still taste pretty fresh. You can also do this with thinly sliced cabbage, chopped garlic, and minced ginger. For the ginger, grate or mince it very fine and spread it onto some plastic wrap. Fold it over so it's flat and thin and slide that into a plastic baggy. You can just break off a sliver and it'll melt right in.
posted by Mizu at 10:26 AM on November 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

Nuts, especially chopped cashews. Raw or roasted, salted or not.
posted by Corvid at 11:29 AM on November 5, 2016

You ought to be able to pick up a jar of fried shallots from the Asian grocery - that stuff is delicious on almost everything, including ramen.

Re egg - I wait until the noodles are flexible and then I crack one into the pot whole, ladling hot broth over it to help it cook faster. Kind of fun.
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 11:30 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pot stickers (aka Chinese dumplings, gyozas). Imitation crab meat (aka Surimi).
posted by signal at 11:44 AM on November 5, 2016

All my brilliant ideas are already taken, but katsuobushi/bonito flakes are delicious sprinkled on ramen just before serving. If you're super fancy, hand place them so the steam makes them wiggle around.
posted by Kreiger at 11:49 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

You may find some inspiration from this Serious Eats article. I like the idea of chopped jerky myself (since the soup will rehydrate it and make it less tough)
posted by JDHarper at 12:01 PM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Raw egg (let it poach in the soup while cooking noodles), sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, refrigerated fish cake, nori.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:19 PM on November 5, 2016

Sliced cucumber
Corn kernels straight out of the can
Ready-made kale salad or broccoli slaw from a bag
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:50 PM on November 5, 2016

Not long-lasting, but stupid-easy to quickly grow a small amount -- I like big sturdy sprouts, like pea or wheatberry, added at the last second.
posted by kmennie at 1:02 PM on November 5, 2016

So this practically makes ramen into a different dish, or a set of different dishes, but one thing I learned as a college student is that any canned condensed cream soup-- cream of corn, cream of mushroom, cream of potato-- can just be dumped as a whole can into the ramen broth after you cook the noodles. Just stir till combined, and heat through.

The cream soup gains body from the noodles and whatever else you've put in, and tastes different than it usually does because of the ramen spice packet, so you can elevate a soup you wouldn't ordinarily like that much. Different spice packets work best with different soups, and experimentation will tell you which combinations are best for you.

This is good when you want a larger, more filling meal that takes the same amount of time and effort as ramen.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 1:26 PM on November 5, 2016

Sweet lemon sauces called Kuzu in Korean is fantastic.

A can of tuna in olive oil with sun dried tomato and olives is also great.

Tomato sauces like Trader Joe's Portinaro sauce go really well over Asian style alimentary paste noodles.
posted by effluvia at 1:28 PM on November 5, 2016

So one has mentioned it and it may not be your thing but a little bit of spam can be tasty. I prefer my spam fried.
posted by oneear at 1:47 PM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Freeze dried spinach - or any freeze dried veggies, really - do great rehydrated into instant ramen, and are totally shelf stable.
posted by juniperesque at 2:43 PM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Trader joes makes this Indonesian chutney called sambal matah. It's insane and oily and crunchy.
posted by pintapicasso at 5:23 PM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Most of my ideas have been taken. Some other things I used to supplement my ramen with:
- broccoli, cheese and olive oil. You need to microwave the broccoli, but that's how I used to heat water for the ramen.
- tuna and sriracha
posted by kandinski at 6:11 PM on November 5, 2016

Narutomaki/kamaboko is available in the freezer section of any Japanese type grocery store and some Asian grocery stores. You've probably seen it before in photos of ramen. It's not that different than artificial crab meat (surimi), it comes in a frozen block and you can slice it thin without thawing it and throw it right into the ramen. It even comes with its own cutting board.
posted by furtive at 7:25 PM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Dollop of tomato paste or sundried tomatoes. Seconding carmelized onion. Chili garlic paste or sriracha.

Drain the noodles and mix with a sauce of sriracha, brown sugar, soy sauce, and a squeeze of lime juice.
posted by Red Desk at 7:45 PM on November 5, 2016

Everyone has already hit my favorites, but one more. Sometimes a little dash of rice vinegar is good.
posted by Gotanda at 11:42 PM on November 5, 2016

Bruce H.: "Caramelized onion. I also endorse the egg, onions, cabbage, and garlic already mentioned."

Onions can be caramelized in a slow cooker IE: quick and easy rather than slow and painful on the no cooking scale.

Real bacon bits. Toss in water before boiling so they have time to rehydrate.
posted by Mitheral at 12:14 AM on November 6, 2016

Oh, freeze them in an ice cube tray after preparation; once frozen they can be stored in a ziplock bag or container.
posted by Mitheral at 12:15 AM on November 6, 2016

Some amazing ideas here, and I have to thank you for asking this question that I have been on the verge of asking for SO long!

My little hacks:

- Every so often, I roast a big hunk of meat for a meal (pork, beef, lamb, chicken). Whatever doesn't get eaten gets shredded/chopped up, and kept in sealed, flattened ziplock bags in the freezer. Every time I make ramen, I microwave a broken off bit of frozen meat in a covered bowl, and then scatter it into the bowl before eating. So. Good.

- I buy bags of washed baby spinach every week to throw into smoothies and ramen.

- Tinned smoked salmon is great. I have no idea why i haven't thought of tuna as suggested above as well.

- Roasted vegetables from leftovers are great in ramen - just microwave and add at end. Lends a wonderful caramelised flavour to it.

- You want a jar of Yeo's Sambal Belachan in your fridge - a small amount in just about any dish is delicious, spicy, tasty.

- Tinned or fresh tomatoes
posted by shazzam! at 1:30 AM on November 6, 2016

I'm going to throw you a curveball with .... feta! Well, living in Greece, we have feta on hand all the time, so often end up trying it in all sorts of different ways. I often eat ramen with frozen spinach tossed in while cooking, and chopped cabbage and some crumbled feta in the bowl. I also often break an egg into my ramen as it's cooking, egg-drop soup style. Or I will sometimes add spiralized zucchini and carrot in the bowl with a bit of peanut butter, some sesame oil, a wee bit of vinegar and hot pepper flakes.
posted by taz at 2:27 AM on November 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Annie's Goddess Salad Dressing. About a tablespoon per bowl or more to taste. Its a little bit spendy, but there are make it yourself recipes for Annies Goddess Dressing if you want to try to cut the cost a little.

It goes great with the addition of trimmed spinach leaves as well.
posted by marsha56 at 8:30 PM on November 6, 2016

smoked fish omg smoked fish. Mackerel, trout, haddock...
posted by Skyanth at 3:31 AM on November 7, 2016

Frozen shelled edamame. An egg added at the end so the yolk stays runny. Bok choy. Mushrooms. Sesame seeds. A couple of frozen potstickers, thrown in when you add the noodles. Sesame oil.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:38 AM on November 7, 2016

Pork fluff/Pork Floss/Rousong. Add on top of prepared ramen.

Flavoured Korean seaweed packs tha are about 5x3x2" - use scissors to cut a stack of them into strips on top of the prepared ramen.
posted by porpoise at 11:38 AM on November 7, 2016

We love sliced Chinese water chestnuts in our ramen for the crunchiness.
posted by guy72277 at 12:44 AM on November 8, 2016

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