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I am not ashamed to admit that I hoard instant ramen seasoning packets like a chipmunk hoards nuts before winter comes. There’s a rhyme and a reason for this strange fixation, I promise. You see, in my kitchen the noodles-to-seasoning mix ratio is rarely one to one. At times I’ll use just a single packet to flavor two blocks of noodles, leaving room for upgrades and additions like garam masala or a pinch of ground Sichuan peppercorn. And on days when I just want some bouncy ramen noodles in a salad or a soup, I’ll omit the powdery seasoning entirely. So after years of straying from the instructions on the back of the package—or creative deviations, as I like to say—I’ve amassed a rather sizable collection of instant ramen seasonings.
Luckily though, my hoarding problem has emerged as somewhat of a dark horse of my spice cabinet. Small as they may be, these seasoning sachets are jam-packed with umami-rich ingredients that can turn anything—roasted veggies, boiled or steamed grains, grilled chicken, and fluffy scrambled eggs—into better versions of themselves. And there’s rarely a savory dish made in my kitchen that doesn’t get a sprinkle of this salty concoction.
What’s inside a packet of instant ramen seasoning, and why does it taste so good?
The easy answer here is umami. But to get more granular (literally), pretty much every brand of instant noodles seasoning contains dehydrated alliums and herbs like onion, garlic, scallions, chives, and cilantro, to name a few. Some, like Shin Ramyum and Jin, also have dried mushroom or cabbage powder which are natural enhancers of savory flavors. But stock granules—derived from dehydrated veggies, meats, and seafood—are the primary sources of umami. And many contain some MSG too unless of course it’s stated otherwise on the package.
But for most brands, it doesn’t just stop at umami—spices and other flavoring elements play just as important a role in creating each brand’s unique taste profile. Maggi Masala Noodles, a childhood favorite of mine, has tons of ground spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, and red chile. And in Mama’s Tom Yum flavored instant ramen, you’ll find classic Thai ingredients like dried lemongrass and makrut lime leaves, galangal, coconut sugar, and citric acid, that you can certainly use beyond just a bowl of noodles.
How to cook with instant ramen seasoning
There was a time when I had separate jars for each flavor of instant ramen seasoning in my spice cabinet. But I have since lost the patience and the luxury of time to do so, so the sachets simply live in a dedicated drawer, ready for action whenever the need for umami presents itself. Below are a few fun ways I’ve put my seasoning stash to good use.
Give your veggies the ramen treatment: On days when I just want to (read: need to) eat some vegetables but I don’t want it to be a production, I reach for a sachet of Maggi Masala Noodles or Top Ramen chicken seasoning and sprinkle it over some cauliflower, broccoli, bell peppers, and mushrooms. A drizzle of oil, a good mix, and a quick roast in a 425° oven later, they turn into perfectly seasoned roasted veggies.
Punch up your popcorn: Popcorn is an excellent way to choose your own flavor adventure with any ramen seasoning packet. Chicken or seafood (especially Mama Tom Yum flavor) are my go-to flavors to turn a pot of un-popped kernels into a bowl of super savory movie snacks. Note that microwave popcorn tends to already be packaged with a ton of salt, so just a few sprinkles go a long way.
Mama Instant Noodle, Tom Yum Shrimp Spicy Flavor
Make meat taste more like meat: Adding some chicken ramen seasoning to my barbecue dry rub boosts the meaty flavors of pretty much any protein. I also like to season my dredging flour for fried chicken or a cutlet this way which ensures the coating amplifies the flavor of the protein inside.
Make frozen fries less boring: One of my go-to party snacks is a bag of frozen fries, oven-baked and seasoned with some Maggi Masala mix and a few sprinkles of seafood or chicken ramen seasoning.
Maggi 2-Minute Masala Noodles
Flavor your soups, sauces, and cooking liquids: Whenever I’m making a big pot of soup, I almost always add a few pinches of ramen seasoning for an added savory touch. For times when I’m out of stock, I’ll make a quick cheater’s version by mixing a ramen seasoning packet or two in some water and bringing it to a simmer. Then I’ll use it to cook grains or even to deglaze pan sauces.
Season your scrambled eggs: A little goes a long way when it comes to seasoning scrambled eggs with instant ramen packets. I’ll usually add a small pinch right after I’ve whisked the eggs which allows the flavors to dissipate evenly throughout and yields some extra savory scrambled eggs.