Boost The Umami Power Of Bland Instant Ramen With A Dash Of Japanese Seasonings

As humbling as it may seem, instant ramen can be a true life-saver for all those busy days, or whenever you're just not in the mood for elaborate cooking. Easy and simple with so many varieties to choose from, it's a fantastic quick fix. The downside, however, is its lack of flavor depth which can make the meal feel somewhat bland. Fortunately, there's nothing a little Japanese seasoning can't fix. In fact, with just a sprinkle of togarashi or furikake, you'll get an exquisite umami boost that makes the dish feel just like actual ramen.

Togarashi — a spice blend that includes yuzu lemon zest, ginger, chili powder, seaweed, sesame seeds, and Japanese cardamon — is a top-notch choice for all things noodles in Japan. It offers an exhilarating kick of heat as well as other nuances that never fail to perk up the dish. Similarly, furikake emphasizes more on a nutty, salty taste thanks to its main ingredient being nori seaweed.

Japanese condiments, much like the cuisine itself, are incredibly versatile and adaptable. They can easily transform the typical one-dimensional manufactured flavor into a delectable complexity. Laced into the usual sour, spicy, or salty broth are deeply intriguing umami notes that bring a well-rounded, exciting twist to the same old, familiar staple.

Endless options for elevated ramen

Umami, often referred to as the "fifth taste", is a pleasantly savory, almost meaty flavor with endless nuances that give any dish a uniquely irresistible richness. Those who like a hint of deep sweetness amid all those hearty notes, go for soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or kewpie mayonnaise. Spicy lovers, on the other hand, might like the tongue-tingling sensation that rayu (Japanese chili oil) or wasabi brings. For a more unique spin, try yuzu kosho — a citrus chili paste that offers a beautiful mix of zest and spice.

Once you've got the Japanese seasonings, you might as well use some traditional ramen topping to complete the dish. Crispy seaweeds and sesame seeds are a dynamic duo you can always count on to effortlessly upgrade the dish. Then, you've also got an even simpler choice: boiled eggs. Marinate them in a soy-based sauce overnight for even more umami goodness. If you'd like some veggies, bok choy, kaiware (daikon radish sprouts), or pickled ginger are all marvelous.

The best part about these additions? There are so many to choose from. You can start with basics like soy sauce, mirin, or miso paste — all before venturing into more niche and less common, but still exciting avenues. You'll never get bored of switching out the condiments and experimenting with the endless possibilities of new flavors.