Kimchi ramen is one of the most beloved noodle dishes by connoisseurs of Korean cuisine. It is a popular noodle dish that combines the spicy pickle from Korea with the umami-filled ramen from Japan.
With both components, the gaining popularity of Korean and Japanese dishes, this delicious noodle meal has garnered a lot of attention from Asian food lovers all over the world.
In this article, we dive in deeper to understand what the noodle dish is all about. We also included an easy recipe for you home chefs who want to enjoy it at home!
What is Kimchi?
If you ask any chef anywhere in the world about what he associates with gastronomic Korea, he will definitely answer you: kimchi. Spicy fermented cabbage cooked with herbs and spices is rightfully considered by fans as the number 1 hallmark of Korean cuisine.
A kimchi bowl is present on every table during lunch or dinner. Kimchi is added to many dishes. This fermented cabbage gives them the characteristic, recognizable spicy-sour taste. Most importantly, this beloved pickle is at the heart of the Kimchi ramen noodles dish!
It is a dish with a long history. This Korean pickled dish is included in the list of UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage Sites.
The dish has more than 180 varieties and Korean production produces special refrigerators for it. In fact, "space" kimchi was invented for the first astronaut from Seoul to have this delicacy in outer space. This is because Koreans eat kimchi not only for lunch or dinner but also for breakfast.
The expression “no kimchi, no fun” may seem oversimplified. However, in reality, if there is no kimchi, in Korea it often dramatically means there is no food because it’s not just a dish, but a Korean lifestyle. The key ingredient of kimchi ramen is at the heart of a people’s culture!
What is it made of?
At first sight, kimchi does not vary from sauerkraut from Europe, pao cai from China or tsukemono from Japan. However, kimchi is spicy and to some, has an unusual taste, that is unique among the family of pickles.
In Korea itself, there are many different varieties of kimchi, each of which has its own characteristics. It has a specific taste, which may seem weird for the people who try the dish for the first time. This is mainly because it contains a lot of garlic and hot red peppers.
However, lovers of this dish can be found globally, making it the centre of many innovative dishes like kimchi ramen noodles.
Where can you buy Kimchi?
Are you wondering, "Which aisle has Kimchi?" or "Where can I find Kimchi in a grocery store?" as you walk around the store? Usually, kimchi is found in two grocery store aisles.
First, look in the produce department's refrigerated portion. Along with the salad sauce, kombucha, and avocado dips, kimchi may be included.
Second, alongside tofu, miso paste, and imitation meats, kimchi can be found in the refrigerator section of the health food aisle.
The above applies to large supermarkets which procure a global range of ingredients. But if you do not want to take any chances, pop by a specialised Asian supermarket and we are certain there will be kimchi sold there!
What is Kimchi Ramen?
Kimchi ramen is a popular Korean ramen noodle soup. This treat is just as popular in Japan as it is in its origin country.
Many connoisseurs of Asian cuisine around the world consider this spicy noodle dish to be one of their favourite dishes. Because of that, you can now find many restaurants even in the US and Europe offering this delicious bowl of noodles to their patrons.
What is it made of?
Cooking this treat, like many other noodle soups, is simple and can be made at home! By preparing the main ingredients, which are ramen noodles, kimchi, and soup broth, you can easily enjoy a hearty bowl at home.
In addition, tofu, mushrooms, nori seaweed, green onions are added to the taste of kimchi ramen. This will further enhance the flavour of the bowl.
Furthermore, ramen is often supplemented with a boiled egg for satiety. In Asian cuisines, they prefer to boil the egg so that the yolk remains runny.
What does it taste like?
We find this noodle dish superbly delicious. To combination of salty and deep umami taste from the ramen noodles and the broth, and the spicy sourness from the kimchi makes me dish irresistible.
The toppings of vegetables and side protein like tofu or egg create a full flavour that would definitely satisfy your gastronomic expectations.
But just like many delicious foods out there, words fail to describe the tastiness of kimchi ramen noodles. You have to try it for yourself!
Where can you buy instant noodles version?
If you are feeling lazy to cook but still want to eat a quick bowl, you can always opt for eating the instant noodles version.
As Asian cuisine has grown in popularity globally, it easier to find oriental products in large supermarkets these days. Look out for a cup or bowl of spicy noodles in the Asian section of your supermarket.
We recommend you to go for popular brands that offer instant kimchi ramen bowls and packs such as Samyang and Nongshim. You can order your instant noodle packs online to be delivered to your homes.
Samyang Kimchi Noodle
Nongshim Kimchi Noodle Soup
If you are making preparing this noodle dish at home, an average bowl would be about 517 calories.
How to cook Kimchi Ramen?
A basic bowl of this noodle dish can be made up of just the soup, instant noodles, and spicy pickles. However, many chefs and home cooks would add in a variety of other ingredients to further enhance the flavours and nutrition of the meal.
As a result, there are many variations of the noodle dish which you can consider. We would recommend experimenting with different ingredients and toppings to find the perfect bowl for you!
Adding meat to instant noodles almost always increases the taste, and you can use it in almost any shape.
This is a fantastic way to use up leftovers or a slice of meat that is about to go bad. Attach the remainder of the steak or the last slice of chicken from the previous night's dinner to the kimchi ramen noodles.
The following are types of meat protein that you can consider adding to your noodles.
Chashu Pork (叉焼) is a Japanese version of the Char Siu Chinese barbecue.
Unlike the Chinese dish, the Japanese version is not fried or baked. Instead, the meat is stewed in a sauce made up of soy sauce, Japanese thick sweet rice wine mirin, rice vodka, and sugar. As a result, the pork meat turns out most tender, with a sweet-salty taste.
Chashu pork slices are very often used as a topping (an additional ingredient) for Japanese ramen soups. Hence, connoisseurs of noodle dishes can also often add chashu pork slices as a meat addition to their kimchi ramen noodle bowls.
However, it is no less popular as an independent dish such as a cold appetizer or a side dish.
Connoisseurs of Asian noodle dishes will certainly appreciate adding spiced fried chicken thighs as a side treat with their noodles.
Kimchi ramen goes particularly well with also be made with pre-seasoned chicken thighs, with or without skin. We recommended preparing the chicken with a marinade from fresh stems of lemongrass, honey, butter, cayenne pepper, etc., and then fried in a wok until golden brown.
Wontons or Gyoza Dumplings
Another common side entry with the noodles is gyoza dumplings or wontons. These sides are usually stuffed with juicy minced meat, mushrooms, and green onions.
They go really well with ramen and an addition that we would highly recommend.
Prawn or shrimp
Some people also like to add some seafood to their bowl of noodles. A popular one is to add some cooked prawns and serve the dish as prawn and kimchi ramen.
The preparation of the boiled egg is simple, but vital for the noodle bowl! It makes the perfect combination of all ingredients used for the dish.
For the eggs, make you use room-temperature eggs for boiling. If you put eggs taken straight from the refrigerator into boiling water, they may burst. And even if they do not burst, the eggs will cook unevenly and will not turn out great for your kimchi ramen noodles.
Make sure to gently lower the eggs into the boiling water. This is to avoid any cracks in the eggs which may happen if you just drop them in the pot. Boil eggs in boiling water for about 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs.
Once boiled, let the eggs cool down for a few minutes before peeling them. If hard boiled, then you may cut the eggs in half and put aside. However, if they are soft boiled eggs, we suggest for you to cut it just before serving the bowl .
There is a universal rule, which is especially relevant for the preparation of boiled eggs. The fresher the better. And in many restaurants in Asia, the runnier the egg yolks, the better!
As the basic noodles already have pickled cabbages, finding other vegetables that would complement the taste of the cabbages is key.
A common vegetable topping is shiitake mushrooms. The mild umami taste of the mushrooms goes well with kimchi ramen.
Before cooking, we recommend pre-soaking the mushrooms for 30 minutes in warm water. Then, gently squeeze the shiitake mushrooms from moisture and remove the rest of the legs. If the caps are large, then they can be cut into pieces. If small or medium, leave it whole.
As another tip to enhance the flavour of the mushrooms, we recommend sauteing the mushrooms in butter. You can also use any oil with a high melting point e.g. olive oil.
Many cooks out there also experiment with other vegetables such avocado, green onions, and lime. These would respectively transform the taste of the noodles in their own way. So, give it a go and find what works for you!
With the vegan community growing bigger every year, more and more recipes have been creatively adapted for the community. Likewise, you can also take note of the following suggestions for you to prepare a vegan kimchi ramen noodle soup!
For this, you need 700 ml of water and vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, celery, potatoes, black peppercorns. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes.
Miso paste can also be added to your vegetable broth.
This is a popular vegan broth option which is full umami taste. You can easily mix it into any broth with any other vegetable ingredients to come up with a hearty brothy blend.
Tofu is a good alternative for protein. Furthermore, you can cook prepare tofu in many ways which would go well with the kimchi ramen.
You can cut the tofu into large cubes, cook it and serve with sesame dressing. Otherwise, you can also cut tofu cubes and put them in your vegetable broth. Alternatively, you can also try to make tofu katsu and add it as a topping!
Kimchi Ramen Recipe
- 100 g kimchi
- 1 pack ramen
- 1 pc egg
- 2-3 pcs shiitake mushrooms
- 100 g firm tofu extra firm
- 600 ml chicken or beef broth
- ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper adjust amount according to taste
- 1 stalk green onions
- 1 strip dried nori seaweed
- Chop the shiitake mushrooms, fermented kimchi cabbage, green onion stalks and the strip of nori into thin slices. Cube the tofu into bite-sized pieces. Next boil the egg, making sure to adjust the boiling time depending on if you want a hard-boiled or soft-boiled egg with your kimchi ramen noodles. Then, cool, peel and halve the boiled egg for serving later.
- Boil the chicken or beef broth in a large pot. Once the broth starts to boil, gently drop the instant noodles into the pot of broth. Press the noodles down to keep them submerged. Cook the noodles until they are soft to the bite.
- Add the tofu cubes, fermented kimchi cabbage and shiitake mushrooms to the pot of broth. Then, pepper and mix the soup with ground red pepper according to how spicy you would like the soup to taste. Once the noodles are fully cooked, the soup is now ready.
- Transfer the contents of the pot to a large noodle bowl. Gently place the halved boiled egg in the middle of the bowl, and complete the garnishing with a handful of green onions and the sliced dried nori seaweed. Enjoy your kimchi ramen while it is slurping hot!
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
You can also refer Food Box Polska's video on how to prepare the simple dish using instant noodles.
Be creative with preparing Kimchi Ramen
One of the key ingredients in ramen soup is noodles. In Japan, ramen is traditionally made from noodles of the same name. Wheat noodles work very well with the broth, meat, and additional ingredients used to make ramen.
However, ramen isn't the only option for soup noodles. Even in Korea and Japan, they are actively experimenting with the classic recipe. You may replace the classic ramen with egg noodles or soba.
The broth is the basis of everything. Its taste determines how the dish will turn out in the end. Kimchi ramen can be made from meat stock (pork, beef, chicken) or vegetable stock. We would recommend trying out different types of broths to see which works best for you.
Meat or seafood can be added to ramen as stated above, to enhance the flavours. However, we remind you that vegetables are also an integral part of the whole meal. By adding mushroom and green onions, the deliciousness of the noodles is multiplied.
Nori seaweed is also an essential topping that adds that flaky and crunchiness to the whole experience. If you would like, you can also add cheese slices on top for serving kimchi ramen with cheese.
The variety and balance in taste between meat, vegetable and toppings are key to a great noodle soup.
Finally, the perfect ramen is not only a harmonious combination of all ingredients but also with the right serving. We recommend serving it in a noodle bowl and with chopsticks.