It’s hard to beat the guilty pleasure of instant ramen. The first step to making it a more healthy dish? Throw out the flavor packet, which is little more than an artificially flavored salt lick. Use miso to flavor the broth. I buy a tub of miso paste at health food or Asian food stores for about $4 and use it for soup and salad dressings. Packaged instant miso soup works well, too, and you can find it most grocery stores, including Trader Joe’s .
If you use chicken breast, leave it whole and toss with the lime or lemon juice, salt and pepper and quickly sear in olive or sesame oil for about three minutes per side until cooked through. Slice, and place on top of finished ramen soup. Or, just crack and egg into it and let the heat cook it through. And for those purists who will balk at this version and say, “Hey, that’s not authentic!” Yes, I know. I’ve had the real thing in Japan, too.
Like so many soup recipes, this is just a starting point. I’ve included a bit of leafy greens, water chestnuts, grated ginger, garlic and even a bit of wasabi powder into this mix. If I’ve got leftover roasted chicken or precooked shrimp from another recipe, I skip the first step and just add it in at the end. Makes two servings.
Notes from recipe testers: “To experiment with new flavors, add a little at a time to preference. Taste the separate ingredients (such as miso paste) to get an idea of how much to start with or how it will affect flavor. My miso paste seemed pretty salty so I didn’t start with any salt and then checked for taste later in the process.”
Also: “Usually when I add raw egg to the ramen broth, I stir it in just before I take it off the heat so we have more of an egg-drop thing. Makes it easier to divide the soup up than deciding who gets the poached egg.”
Make It Your Way Miso Ramen Soup
For the protein
1 lime or small lemon
4 oz. shrimp, tofu or chicken breast
Dash of coarse salt
Several cranks of fresh pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable, olive or sesame oil
For the broth
1 package ramen noodles
1 tablespoon miso paste or 1 packet instant miso soup
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Two or three green onions, chopped (optional)
1/2 can bamboo shoots or 1/4 cup fresh sprouts (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, cilantro or basil
1 egg, hard-boiled and sliced or crack it into the ramen (optional)
Hot chili sauce, such as sriracha
Cut the lime or lemon in half. Juice one half into a bowl large enough to hold your shrimp, tofu or chicken. Cut the other into small pieces and set aside. Toss with the salt, pepper and about half the oil and let rest for a few minutes. Add the rest of the oil to a small saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat and saute the shrimp or chicken until cooked through.
Bring 3 cups of water to boil. Add the noodles and cook as directed by the package. If using a raw egg, carefully crack it into a corner of the pan and poach it in the water as noodles cook. Remove from heat and add the miso paste or soup mix plus the soy sauce and let steep for a couple of minutes.
Portion the soup into two bowls. Add the green onions, shoots and greens and stir through. Top with the egg and shrimp, tofu and the reserved lemon or lime pieces. Add Sriracha to taste if that’s your thing.