After the ramen burger, everybody’s pretty much hacked instant ramen into original and tasty variations—there’s not a lot that hasn’t already been done. What I tried to do here was think far outside the package, forgetting about simple soup fixes, and going big. At the same time, I was trying to celebrate instant ramen for the amazingly humble and versatile fast-food snack it is. Take a look at these four transformations, then share your own hacked-ramen favorites in the discussion below.
RAMEN WAFFLE SANDWICH
This savory waffle is soft inside (thank the noodles for that), with a bit of crunch along the edge.
Method: Boil the ramen in the usual way. Drain and rinse under cold water. In a mixing bowl, whisk up 1 egg, 2 tablespoons white flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 2 tablespoons water, and 1/2 packet chicken flavoring. Add the noodles and mix together with your hands. Split the mixture between two sections in your waffle maker and cook on the darkest setting. Build your breakfast sandwich.
RAMEN CHILES RELLENOS
I added ramen to this mix of pasilla peppers and Jack with garlic sautéed mushrooms as a way to reduce the amount of cheese without compromising texture. The carbo-load of the noodles gives you license to bypass the batter for the outside. This recipe makes two stuffed peppers.
Method: Prep the peppers as described in this CHOW recipe and cut them in half lengthwise. Set your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Chop 2 slices of cooked, thick-cut bacon. Sauté 5 or 6 thinly sliced mushrooms and some minced garlic until tender; season with salt and pepper. Boil the ramen in the usual way. Drain but don't rinse. Use tongs and take out about a quarter of the noodles (discard them or set aside to eat later). To the remaining ramen, add the bacon, 1 1/2 cups loose-packed grated Jack cheese, and the warm mushrooms. Mix until the cheese has melted. Divide the mixture between 2 peppers—pack it all in. Break 2 wooden skewers in half; stick each half through a stuffed pepper, side-to-side, to help keep it together so the pepper doesn't open up and fall apart. Place the peppers on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
SMOKED RAMEN & SOFT-BOILED EGG SOUP
I can’t believe how much complexity smoking adds to ordinary instant ramen.
Method: Steam a few eggs for 5 to 6 minutes. Rinse under cold water until cooled, then peel carefully. In a stovetop smoker over smoldering maple chips, smoke the uncooked ramen and peeled, soft-boiled eggs for 5 minutes and set aside. Boil the ramen in the usual way and make soup. Add a smoked egg on top of each serving. Note: I like to smoke a few extra blocks of uncooked noodles for a future date!
WHITE CHOCOLATE RAMEN BARK
Fun and delicious! Also makes a nice wall hanging—I’m making a few batches to hang for a postmodernist-themed dinner party. Imagine an action painting of ramen dyed with squid ink and covered with white chocolate!
Method: Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Boil the ramen in the usual way. Drain and rinse under cold water. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and spread the ramen out evenly to the edges. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the ramen is thoroughly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool. Add 1 cup white chocolate chips, 1 1/2 tablespoons milk, and 1 tablespoon salted butter to a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until completely melted. Pour the entire mixture over the tray of ramen. Let sit for about an hour at room temperature. Eat or hang on the wall.
Now it's your turn: How do you like to transform instant ramen?
Photos and styling by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com