The sound of packaging ripping open to sweet and salty deliciousness is music to our ears, but every now and then, we love to indulge in snacks that take a little more heat. While these Korean bites take a bit more effort, it only means the results are that much more delicious!
Ramen — oh, how we love it. As a quick midnight snack, breakfast, lunch, or dinner; enjoy it at any time of the day. Ramen is always there for you. Through thick and thin, through your darkest and your happiest of times. It’s the ultimate comfort food! Although ramen is looked at with a stink eye because it’s not the healthiest meal, you can still spice it up to make it one. Who says you’re only limited to what comes with the store-bought package? Hah! All of us have added a hard-boiled egg or some veggies to our ramen, but let’s take it up another notch: Korean Style!
Is there a difference between ramen and ramyeon?
We’re glad you asked! Ramyeon (라면) is the Korean pronunciation of the Japanese ramen. It, however, refers to the instant or cup noodles only. Ramen, on the contrary, refers to the freshly-made soup dish that you’d usually get served at ramen restaurants. So if you speak of ramyeon, you’re referring to Korean-style instant noodles!
Ramyeon are well-known as a quick meal for when you don’t have time. Or money. Let’s face it: Many of us have a stack of ramyeon at home because it’s cheap. Simply boil some water, dump the noodles and seasonings in, and you have yourself a delicious meal. But what we love most about ramyeon is… they come in all kinds of flavors! So pick and choose, or try out the ones that you haven’t tried yet. With ramyeon, you’re not tied to the seasonings — you can just use the yummy noodles!
Here are some options that only require the noodles:
- Sesame Garlic Ramyeon
This dish is simple but super delicious; and yet, there is no instant version of it. It’s perfect for those who can’t handle spicy food because there is no spicy sauce! However, if you like a little spice, add some gochujang to your noodles. Sesame garlic ramyeon is ridiculously easy to make. Cook your ramyeon, sauté garlic in sesame oil and combine it with soy sauce and brown sugar to create a sauce. Then simply mix the sauce with your noodles and voilà, here are your quick garlic noodles! (Psst: If you stir-fry your noodles with the sauce for a bit, the noodles will get a slightly crispy texture. Yummy!)
- Kimchi Butter Ramyeon
This was first seen on a Korean variety show called Happy Together, in which Yang Jiwon (from the girl group Spica) introduced it as her favorite nighttime snack. For this dish, simply sauté kimchi (김치) and onions with water, and then add the cooked noodles. In this recipe, the instructions say to add the soup powder as well. However, we suggest to add less of the soup powder (or leave it out) and add some kimchi juice to enhance the flavor!
As the name suggests, it’s a ramyeon omelet. It is simple, but very customizable as you simply combine eggs with ramyeon. Whatever you want to garnish it with is your choice! (Try adding ssamjang to yours.) Simply stir up two to three eggs, and add the seasonings from your ramen to the egg. Combine cooked noodles and the egg mixture in a pan, fry them evenly on both sides and you’re done!
Bibim-Ramyeon (비빔라면) is perfect for when you crave a hearty dish with a LOT of toppings. Bibimbap (비빔밥) is usually made with rice, but what if you can’t wait for your rice to be done? Just cook some instant ramyeon! We all see these beautifully-arranged bibimbap bowls; however, if you’re in a rush AND hungry, toss all vegetables together and fry them until tender. Cook your choice of meat or tofu, prepare your bibimbap sauce, and then toss everything together with your noodles. (Don’t forget the fried egg on top!)
If you have leftovers, store them in a bowl along with your bibimbap sauce for the next day. It’s the perfect make-ahead meal, as you already have all your ingredients prepped and ready, and instant noodles only take a few minutes to make!
- Japchae – but with Ramyeon
Love the idea of bibim-ramyeon but can’t handle the spiciness? Don’t worry, we’ve got you! Japchae (잡채) is a stir-fried noodle dish with veggies and meat, and you can choose whatever vegetables you like. The original dish is made with dangmyeon, which are Korean sweet potato starch noodles. Not everyone has these on hand, but you can easily replace them with ramyeon! Vegetables and meat are sautéed, then added to the noodles. Lastly, mix with some sesame oil and sweet soy sauce (in the recipe, soy sauce is combined with maple syrup, but you can use honey or corn syrup as well), and enjoy your dish!
The star of this dish is the black bean sauce that gives it a savory taste. Although there are instant ramyeon versions of jjajangmyeon (짜장면), they typically don’t come with enough sauce, especially if you want to add vegetables. So, why not make your own? The only difficulty to this dish is the frying. The black bean paste used for the sauce has to be fried first to get rid of the bitter flavor. Then, add some sugar to enhance it. Seriously, keep an eye on the paste while frying because it’s easy to burn or stick to the pan. Once you get the hang of it, it’s quick and easy to make!
- Bulgogi Ramyeon
Bulgogi (불고기) is stir-fried or grilled beef that has been marinated with a sweet and tangy soy sauce-based marinade. Depending on how you like your ramyeon, here are two options for you: Make a little more marinade than the recipe calls for and set some aside. After frying your beef, add the leftover marinade and your cooked noodles and fry some more. There you have your ramyeon with sauce and bulgogi!
If you prefer your ramyeon with soup, prepare as the package instructions say and then top it with bulgogi!
Saving the best for last: Rabokki (라볶이)! It’s a combination of all the foods that we love: Ramyeon, tteokbokki (떡볶이), and mandu (만두). You don’t have to cook up all three — just cook ramyeon with one of the two. Either way, the dish is topped with some hard-boiled eggs and fish cakes (both optional). You usually make it with a homemade tteokbokki sauce that consists of broth, gochujang, sugar and soy sauce, but if you’re lazy like me, you can just buy some pre-made tteokbokki sauce at Asian supermarkets! Usually, the pre-made ones offer a mild and a (very) spicy version.
Here are our tips: If you decide to cook up all three ingredients, start with mandu, add tteokbokki after a few minutes and then shortly after, add ramyeon. Getting the right consistency takes a few tries, as you don’t want your tteokbokki to get too soft and mushy — but you also don’t want your ramyeon to be too chewy. After adding ramyeon to the whole mixture, keep adding some water to the sauce as the noodles soak up quite a bit of it, and you don’t want everything to stick to your pan.
What are your favorite ramyeon creations? How do you spice them up? Let us know in the comments!
Here are some other posts from the Hot Takes series that you might enjoy:
Written by Tran Trieu