It all started about six years ago, when I ended up in the hospital with a severe allergic reaction. I had developed an allergy to artificial food coloring and was covered in hives from right below my ear lobes, down to my toes. It was so itchy; I scratched my sides till they were bleeding. I had to be treated with steroids which then made me all bloated, and this all happened when I was on a trip out in California.

It was then that I started avoiding processed foods, under strong advisement of the doctor in the emergency room, who said something like, “Dang, this is the worst case of hives I’ve ever seen.” I was discharged with a sheet of paper pointing out a few of the common foods with artificial food coloring (yellow #5, red #40, etc.) and told to start reading labels. After some research, I realized that most fast food chains across America used coloring in so much of their food, so I gave it up, with the exception of McDonald’s fries, my one major weakness. Thank goodness they didn’t color those.

Slowly, I started eating more and more naturally, trying to avoid processed foods as much as reasonable. We even try to make lots of things ourselves to avoid excess chemical or preservative consumption. Honestly, I don’t miss fast food. I don’t miss Skittles and M&M’s, Kraft American cheese, or Wonder bread. There’s only three things I miss out of the mountain of processed foods lining the shelves of our supermarkets: Duncan Hines Strawberry Cake Mix, sour gummy candies, and instant ramen noodles.

Neoguri Spicy Seafood Ramen Noodles

When I went shopping with my mom this past Wednesday, I spotted my old favorite instant ramen package, Nong Shim Neoguri Spicy Seafood Ramyun. I scanned the ingredients and was pretty surprised that there were no artificial colors used, tons of other bad stuff, but no numbered colors. Yay! I would allow myself this little indulgence…

You won’t be able to remove the MSG, but instead of eating something completely void of nutrients, I added some shrimp and tofu, stuff I happened to have in the fridge.

tofu and seaweed in spoon

I thought of our cousins in college and know they’re probably eating instant ramen more often than they should. Brian? Christina? Jeffrey (Yang and Lai)? Justin? So I decided to give you a list of things you can add to your ramen to make it a little more nutritious, plus some tips on their cooking times.

After bringing water to a boil, you add the noodles, dried veggies and seasoning packet, and allow it to boil for 5 minutes. I list things optional toppings in time sections, 0 minutes means add at the same time as you add noodles, 1 minute means one minute after that. It ends at 5 minutes and if you add anything at that point, you are basically pouring it into the boil one second after you add your last touches. Make sense?

ramen noodles 3

Choice of additions/toppings:
~choose 2 or 3 per bowl

0 minutes

  • 1/2 cup diced firm tofu
  • 3 fish balls
  • 3 beef balls
  • 3 cuttlefish balls

1 minute

  • 1 scallion, cut in three segments
  • 1/4 cup sliced leeks
  • 1 tablespoon fried shallots

2 minutes

  • 1/4 cup sliced bamboo
  • 4 slices fish cake
  • 1″ segment of corn on the cob (husked)

3 minutes

  • 1 large egg (removed from shell)
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • few pieces of soaked wakame seaweed

4 minutes

  • 4 shrimp
  • 1/4 cup sliced squid
  • 1/3 cup shredded napa cabbage
  • 1/4 cup chopped pickled mustard greens
  • 1 large bok choy halved or 2 baby bok choy
  • 1/3 cup bean sprouts
  • 3 thin slices hot pot meat

5 minutes

  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1 tablespoon of crumbled nori

shrimp

For more easy college eats, Lon wrote up some ideas from the good ole days a while back.

Also, I asked Lon to proofread this post for me and he told me that NPR just did a round-up of interesting ramen stories, so I guess my reunion with ramen was quite serendipitous.

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