Bored of ordinary instant ramen? Turn cup of noodles into a complete meal using luxurious toppings. Learn how to add eggs, vegetables, and protein for a quick and portable meal in less than 10 minutes. This recipe doesn’t require a stove — the microwave does all the cooking.
When we lived in a motel for 3 weeks, instant cup of noodles (“noodle cups” as I call them) were a boon to our hotel-room diet. To avoid getting scurvy, I transformed instant ramen into a complete meal. I cooked eggs in the elf-sized microwave, which was installed above a tiny granite countertop smaller than my suitcase. After microwaving, I plodded downstairs to the motel lobby with my steaming noodle cups to fill them at the water cooler, which dispensed hot water.
My cooking method
couldn’t doesn’t require a stove. Having a hot meal ready in 10 minutes gave Alex and me time to relax after work while adjusting to being away from home for so long. Little did I know, 6 months later, we would buy a case of instant cup of noodles from Costco because of the pandemic.
Now that I’m back to eating and loving instant noodle cups, I’m sharing my recipe to inspire you to upgrade your instant cup of noodles. Whether you’re stuck in a hotel room, newly moved into a dorm room, camping, or self-isolating, you can find ways to spruce up your instant noodles and transform it into a luxurious full meal.
What kind of instant noodle cups can you use for this recipe?
If you want to microwave the eggs, buy instant noodles that come in disposable paper cups. If the cup is not made from paper, it needs to be labeled as safe for microwaves. Stay away from styrofoam cups without a microwave-safe label. There is a risk that chemicals in plastic, styrofoam, and styrene can leach into your food, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
If you cannot find instant ramen in a microwave-safe cup, you can still make the instant ramen recipe with the following workaround:
- You can skip the eggs and add cooked toppings. No microwave necessary.
- Microwave the eggs on a separate paper plate and add them to the noodle cup.
What kinds of vegetables can you add?
The key to making noodle cups healthier is to add vegetables. You can add any vegetables that you can dream of.
At home, I have more leeway to clean and slice raw vegetables so my options are fancier. When we lived in the hotel room, I chose frozen vegetables, canned vegetables, and raw vegetables that were cleaned and sliced, like shredded carrots and cabbage slaw without the dressing.
Here are my favorite vegetables to add to noodle cups:
- Cabbage: Thinly sliced cabbage acts like noodles so it increases the volume, tricking my brain into thinking I’m eating more noodles. I like that cabbage is sturdy so it doesn’t get wilted quickly in my luggage.
- Carrot: Carrot is harder to find shredded. Look at the refrigerated section of the grocery store. You can also pack matchstick (“julienned”) carrots in a plastic container for your trip.
- Onion: Thinly sliced onion is a great flavor enhancer. It’s challenging to cut onion thinly without a chef’s knife and chopping board. I pack sliced onions before leaving home or skip it in favor of green onions.
- Lettuce: You can add raw lettuce before serving the noodles. Or you can add lettuce and cook it in the microwave with the other vegetables if you like wilted lettuce. You can buy chopped lettuce that comes in prewashed salad bags. You also can tear rinsed lettuce with your hands if you can’t find it shredded.
- Spring greens: I like boxed salad of spring mix because there’s a variety of greens, they’re already washed, and they’re the perfect size of a bowl of ramen.
- Spinach: I use frozen spinach because it’s ready to eat. I add frozen spinach into my cup of noodles after my noodles are ready. The hot water defrosts them. You can also defrost them in the microwave or sit them on the countertop for an hour.
You can also use fresh baby spinach leaves, which wilt quickly in the boiling water.
- Corn: I add frozen sweet corn or canned corn kernels that are ready to eat. Frozen works well if you don’t have a can opener and cannot find corn in cans with easy-open lids and pull tabs.
- Bean sprouts: You can eat these bean sprouts raw after washing them. Top your ramen with the bean sprouts before serving.
- Alfalfa: I like to add raw alfalfa to my noodle cups before adding the boiling water to the noodles. It wilts the puffy alfalfa, which makes them easier to eat.
TIP: The key to adding vegetables is to avoid overloading the cup. Pick 1-2 vegetables and add a handful of each to your noodles. This gives you room for garnishes.
What kinds of protein can you add?
Adding protein is a great way to transform instant ramen into a filling and satiating meal. I love adding eggs to my noodles — scrambled eggs, soft-boiled eggs, poached eggs, and fried eggs. When I’m on the road or really lazy, I settle for microwaved eggs, which is what the recipe below walks you through.
Don’t feel pressured to add eggs to your instant cup of noodles. It’s optional.
Microwave-cooked eggs can be a bit dry and rubbery. Don’t get me wrong. They’re delicious if you’ve been hand washing your underwear in the sink with hotel bar soap for the last 2 weeks. But they’re far from luxurious French-style scrambled eggs made in a double boiler.
If you’re concerned about food safety, skip the eggs and pick one of these alternative protein options below:
- Vegan options: Sliced tofu (flavored tofu is best, like this baked tofu, not block tofu because it’s too bland), peanut butter and other kinds of nut butters, vegan sausages
- Vegetarian options: Eggs, tofu, cheese
- Seafood options: Imitation crab meat, smoked salmon
- Meat options: Ham, cooked pork belly, cooked bacon, leftover steak strips (from the deli section or from leftover burrito bowls)
In light of food safety, I try to only add cooked meat options.
If you’re traveling in a remote location without access to a grocery store or you’re physically distancing without the opportunity to shop for food, you can still make noodle cups appetizing using garnishes and sauces. Garnishes are often my only option when I make instant noodles while camping because I don’t have access to a fridge.
Here are my favorite garnishes:
- Green onions: I chop green onions and store them in a plastic container or baggie if I’m planning ahead. In our hotel room, we had a pair of scissors for cutting Alex’s hair. I cleaned and used the scissors to trim green onions as a topping.
- Cilantro: I find that chopped cilantro doesn’t travel well. So I pack them washed and bundled in paper towels. I peel the tender leaves off the stem and use as much as I like. You can use scissors to cut them and release their aroma if you don’t have a knife with you.
- Basil: I use whatever I can find around the apartment and sometimes that includes a basil plant. A couple of leaves cut into thin strips adds an unexpected twist.
- Seaweed: I like to add a sheet or two of seasoned seaweed. It adds a salty and crispy texture that delivers the noodles to a new level of fanciness.
- Sesame seeds: Toasted sesame seeds offer a beautiful touch. They don’t need refrigeration, which makes it great for travel.
- Garlic butter mushrooms: This fragrant aromatic topping that will add a burst of flavor to your noodles. Sauté ahead of time and pack in a sealable container if you’re bringing it on my trip.
TIP: Travel with a pair of scissors. They’re handy and you can use them for slicing vegetables and garnishes in a pinch.
Sauces and seasonings
When I order takeout food, I often find sauce packets with my meal. I save them in the fridge and bring them on trips to flavor my food. We found salt, pepper, ketchup, soy sauce, hot sauce, and other condiments in the motel lobby and at fast-food/quick-service restaurants.
Here are my favorite sauces for luxurious instant ramen:
RELATED: Check out these sauce and garnish ideas from this Easy Ramen Noodle Soup recipe
Don’t hold the noodle cup when you are pouring boiling water into it. You may accidentally spill the boiling water and scald your hand.
If you’re at the water cooler and don’t have enough room to sit the noodle cup at the dispenser, you can fill a cup with boiling water and pour the water from the cup into the noodle bowl.
Upgraded cup of noodles with eggs and vegetables
- Chopping Board
- 1 slice (30 g) ham
- 2 large (2 large) Eggs
- 1 cup (1 cup) noodles
- 3 leaves (3 leaves) Basil
- 1 pinch (1 pinch) sesame seeds
- Gather the ingredients.
- Chop and slice the protein (meat, tofu, etc.) and vegetables (cabbage, carrot, lettuce, etc.) that you want to add to your noodles.
- Open the lid halfway on the cup of noodles. Remove the seasoning packet from the cup. Crack the eggs into your cup of noodles. Discard the shells. Zap the cup with the raw eggs and noodles in the microwave for 1 minute on high. Keep an eye on your microwave to make sure the eggs don't explode. Remove the cup and check on the eggs. If the egg whites are translucent and haven't turned white yet, zap the cup of noodles for 1 minute on high.
- Add the sliced vegetables that benefit from cooking into the noodle cup. I like to cook cabbage, onions, and carrots. Don't add garnishes unless you want them cooked.
- Add as much of the seasoning as you like to your cup of noodles. Zap the cup of noodles in the microwave for 1 minute. Feel free to cook the cup of noodles for longer if you want the eggs and vegetables to be fully cooked. While waiting for the microwave to finish cooking, boil water for the next step.
- Once the cup of noodles is out of the microwave, add boiling water up to the line specified in the cup.
- Replace the lid over the cup. Put a plate or other flat object over the mouth of the cup to seal in the heat. Set a timer for the amount of "cook" time recommended in the instructions. I like to reduce the suggested time by 2 minutes to ensure my noodles don't end up soggy.
- While you're waiting for the boiling water to do its magic, assemble your garnishes. I cut a few leaves of basil. You can chop cilantro, green onions, and other herbs.
- Once the timer goes off, the noodles are ready to eat. Top the noodles with the remaining garnishes, sauces, and flavorings you want to serve with the noodles. Enjoy your fancy cup of noodles!
Can this be made in advance?
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t recommend it. The noodles will get soggy, which will taste disappointing (unless you enjoy sloppy noodles that disintegrate). The noodles don’t freeze well.
Luckily, the noodles only take 5 minutes or less to prepare so there’s not much benefit to making them in advance. The way to prepare these noodles in advance is to cook the mix-ins, prepare the garnishes, and assemble the sauces in advance.