How To Make Instant Ramen Better
What Is Ramen?
Quick cooking noodles made from wheat, they are a cheap and essential item for hikers the world over. Most notably packaged as “Maruchen Ramen” or “Top Ramen,” they are usually sold for around 25 cents a pack. Each pack contains 480 calories. That is around $1 for nearly 2000 calories! Ramen is one of our best camping hacks.
Of course, you don’t have to buy the prepackaged version. Ramen can be found even cheaper if you buy it in bulk, however, there’s a convenience factor to buying the prepackaged version. In this form, they are all portioned evenly and come with their own flavor packet – which consists mostly of salt.
Lightweight, calorie dense, and versatile, I can’t imagine going on a prolonged hike without Ramen noodles of some sort.
How To Cook Instant Ramen
There are two notable ways to do this – with or without heat.
I’ve come to believe that when hiking long distances, hot food is a luxury that you can’t afford. You’d be better served to ditch all of the weight associated with cooking (fuel, burner, metal pot) and use that weight savings to move faster and farther. That being said, hot ramen after a long day can be a true joy.
It’s so simple: boil some water, and throw in the ramen. You don’t need to expend too much fuel here, as just a few minutes in the hot water will soften the noodles to a perfect al dente consistency. Don’t overcook your noodles or else they’ll become soggy and boring.
Cooking instant ramen is extremely simple, and “detailed” instructions can be found on the back of each pack.
Pro Tip: Adding oil of some kind (coconut, olive, or even peanut butter) will increase the fat content, and make it taste even better.
Cold soaking is a method of cooking which doesn’t use any heat and, for reasons mentioned above, is the ideal method when on a long distance hike.
Using a Nalgene or other BPA-free container, simply put your ramen in, add water, and wait a few hours.
(Another great cold-soak option is oatmeal. Put it in a container at night with some water, and voila! Breakfast is ready when you wake up, with no heat required)
Instant ramen is one of the best foods to cold soak because of the relatively limited time that it takes to become edible. Technically you could eat ramen raw, but that’s for college kids trying to be cool. Have a little self-respect and get those noodles pliable before you put them in your body. Also, it will help with nutrient absorption and digestion.
This right here! A ramen bomb consists of ramen noodles and instant mashed potatoes. It is a carbohydrate overload, and exactly what you need when hiking.
You can make it using boiling water, but it is equally delicious when cold soaked. Simply put your ramen packet and instant mashed potatoes in a container, and wait a few hours. Dinner is served!
Potatoes are a superfood, containing more potassium per gram than a banana. Potassium is excellent for muscle recovery.
It is also freakin’ delicious! Have fun with it by adding oil, additional seasoning, and – dare I say it – Spam. You really can’t mess this up.
I recommend this as a dinner item, as having it for lunch would often make me sluggish. After eating it I just wanted to take a nap – which is perfect after a long day of hiking, but less than ideal when you have half your miles ahead of you.
How To Make Ramen Spicy
Make it spicy like you would make anything else spicy – by adding heat (Scoville, not thermal)! There are a number of ways to do this but, when hiking, the easiest way to do it is also the lightest.
Don’t even think about carrying sriracha or tobacco sauce with you, as those are mostly water and water is heavy.
Dried chili powder, crushed red pepper, or any other type of dried hot peppers are an excellent way to add heat and flavor to anything ramen.
Also, when hiking, it is good practice to carry some type of seasoning with you. It is worth its negligible weight in gold.
Peanut Butter Ramen
This deserves its own section because it’s so special. And a big shoutout to Joel who has pioneered all things peanut butter.
Peanut butter is another essential item when hiking long distances, and works beautifully with ramen noodles.
Of course, this works best when heating ramen, as the cold soak method will keep the peanut butter in clumps. Adding in the peanut butter while the water is boiling or directly after is recommended, as it will blend in more easily with the noodles. It also adds a “pad thai” flavor to your meal.
I recommend against using peanut butter powder – save that for your smoothies or the trash. The problem with dehydrated peanut butter is there’s no oil in it. The critical component that is lacking from instant ramen is fat! Your body craves it and, when you’re hiking, fat is especially important because of how calorie dense it is.
Remember, when hiking, calories are your friend.
In 2018 we filmed our time on the Wild West Trail | This article is based on that experience | Videos from that hike can be found HERE