Ramen is a dish that lends itself to DIY experimentation. Once you’ve got the basic building blocks in place, it’s all about freestyling with your favorite flavors. But when it comes to making authentic Japanese ramen at home, not all noodles are created equal.
At Ramen Hero, we are all about helping ramen lovers at home satisfy their hunger for real ramen in an accessible yet exciting way. Unless you’re a ramen master with several years of practice, making your own noodles can be a stretch (literally, you have to stretch them).
Our top tip for leveling up your ramen game? Use frozen ramen noodles. Frozen ramen noodles offer the best bang for your buck in terms of affordability, ease of storage, and most importantly, quality.
We’d recommend aspiring ramen chefs choose them because they leave you with the time and creative energy to pour into your soup base and toppings instead.
Not convinced that frozen is the way to go? Read on to find out why we recommend it.
Before we begin, let’s define what a ramen noodle is.
Ramen noodles are made from high-protein wheat flour and salt. Chefs then add an ingredient called kansui, an alkalized water that gives the noodles the right chewy quality, allowing the ramen broth to cling to them as you slurp.
It's kansui that separates ramen from another bowl of noodles such as udon. Confusingly, kansui also creates that slightly yellow color that makes ramen noodles look a bit like the Chinese egg noodles you might use for making chow mein or stir-fry.
When the need for noodles hits, be sure to search the freezer aisles specifically for frozen ramen noodles containing kansui. It should say so in English on the packaging, or if you’re keen to try out your Japanese-reading abilities look for ラーメン or らーめん.
So what are the advantages of using frozen ramen noodles for a better ramen bowl? We’ve cooked up a list of reasons based on our experience, with a sprinkling of science on top. Itadakimasu!
Using frozen ramen noodles when making your own ramen at home will give you a chewier consistency. What you’re aiming for is a firm but springy mouthfeel with a bit of bite. Mushy noodles are an offense to both the short history of ramen and your tastebuds.
In a study by the Canadian Grain Commission, frozen noodles were found to have a significantly lower water uptake than chilled noodles when cooked.
The researchers froze a batch of fresh noodles at negative 40 degrees Celsius and tested their texture at one week and four weeks. At the same time, they took another batch of fresh noodles and put them in the fridge at 4 degrees Celsius, and evaluated them after 30 minutes, one day, two days, and seven days.
The texture of the chilled noodles declined after just half an hour, whereas the frozen noodles retained their quality for 30 days.
Translation: If you’re buying fresh noodles for your ramen, you’ll need to cook them pretty much immediately (and that’s without knowing how long they’ve been sitting on the store shelf) to get the right texture. Frozen noodles, on the other hand, will keep in your freezer until you’re ready.
At Ramen Hero, our frozen noodles can be kept for up to one month from delivery to your door, though you’ll find the exact expiration date on the back of the packaging.
Freezing your ramen noodles at a low temperature (and cooking them before they have a chance to defrost) will help preserve the taste of the noodles by ensuring particles aren’t lost in steam or water runoff during cooking.
It’s important that your ramen noodles are vacuum-packed so that ice crystals can’t form and damage their molecular structure. Whether frozen, fresh, or dried, ramen noodles should be kept away from water until they are ready to be cooked.
When we deliver your ramen meal kit, you’ll notice that we use dry ice to keep our products at a very low temperature. This helps maintain the high quality of the noodles, broth, and toppings.
How long ramen lasts depends on the type of ramen noodles you’re using and how you store them.
While dried noodles can last for anywhere between six months and two years (if they are instant ramen noodles), they won’t give you anywhere near the kind of taste and texture base a true noodle bowl deserves.
In an ideal world, you would be sourcing freshly made noodles for your ramen the morning you decide to cook it from a master noodle maker.
This is actually what many of the top ramen restaurants do in Japan. Chefs rely on the decades of expertise and craftsmanship of noodle makers to provide them with a tailored style of noodles designed to balance perfectly with their original soup base, seasoning, and toppings.
The next best thing is the frozen version. The frozen noodles you might find in your supermarket or local Asian grocery store will have been manufactured by companies that know what they’re doing.
The freezing process maintains the quality but there’s no pressure to wake up at the crack of dawn to start boiling your ramen broth to be ready for the moment your noodles arrive.
Frozen ramen noodles will typically last up to a month or more which means you can get them out of the freezer at the exact moment you need to.
Making authentic ramen can get pretty labor-intensive. Ramen chefs will spend anywhere between eight to 72 hours boiling broth to make their soup base — what is considered the “soul of the bowl.” In the Japanese city of Fukuoka, the home of tonkotsu ramen, Maruboshi Ramen has been simmering its broth for 60 years.
If you’re trying your hand at cooking ramen at home, you’ll want to leave as much time as possible to focus on the base and toppings that will really bring character to your dish. This is how the tens of thousands of ramen restaurants across Japan — and many more from New York to London to Delhi — differentiate themselves from one another.
Once you’ve got your broth and toppings ready, take out your noodles from the freezer and place them in boiling water (on a rolling boil) for between one and three minutes, depending on the thickness.
Be warned that it can be a tad tricky to boil frozen noodles correctly as the temperature of the water is lowered as soon as you add them, and they can fall apart easily if you’re not careful.
Aside from being inferior in taste and texture, dried noodles can take longer to soften just the right amount, and we’ve found they are generally harder to cook uniformly in hot water.
The key to cooking the perfect ramen noodles is a combination of temperature, timing, and personal preference.
You’ll need a large pot of freshly boiling water. We recommend around 2 liters of hot water for every one or two servings of noodles.
Gently add the noodles to the water. Don’t leave them to sit but stir carefully. You can also use a strainer to hold the noodles just beneath the surface of the water which allows for more gentle boiling.
Once you’ve drained the noodles, you can add them to your soup and any seasoning which should already be in your ramen bowl. Lay any toppings like meat or veggies on the noodles, add any condiments, then go forth and slurp!
The timing depends on the size of noodles you’ve chosen. Thinner noodles (used in our Totally Tonkotsu) need around one and a half to two minutes, while thicker noodles (like the ones used in our Magic Mushroom) take between two and three minutes. Test an individual noodle before you take them all out of the water. If it’s still too al dente for your liking, leave them in a little longer.
The ideal firmness of your noodle can change according to the soup base. Hearty miso ramen, for example, is usually carried by firmer noodles while a lighter ramen broth can be balanced with slightly softer ones. All of our ramen meal kits come with cooking instructions, too.
Convenient and versatile, frozen ramen noodles are an ideal solution for ramen lovers who want to make ramen for themselves or their friends and family at home.
They’ll balance your ramen with the right taste and texture to support your soup base, seasoning and toppings, meaning that you can keep experimenting with your own unique flavors until you reach GOAT ramen chef status (at least in your household).
From pricing to preservation, it's got to be frozen noodles all the way. Try it out for yourself with a delicious meal kit that gives you everything you need to be a ramen chef in your own kitchen.