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5 Ways to Eat Ramen for Dinner

Even if you're past your college days, you can still enjoy ramen in one of our recipes. See more easy weeknight meals pictures.
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If you've ever stretched $10 over a week, you know ramen noodles. Whether you're a poor student, a starving actor or simply on a tight budget, ramen noodles are a culinary staple.

So what is this "delicacy" and where did we get it? Ramen is an egg noodle dish, served in a soup broth of meat and vegetables. Long before it was an integral part of dorm life in the U.S., Chinese cooks were making ramen in Japan, starting in around 1910. This dish, combining Chinese noodles and Japanese broth, was first called shina soba, meaning "Chinese noodles."

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Its popularity throughout Japan increased, but when post-World-War-II tensions between China and Japan escalated, "shina" was dropped to exclude any Chinese reference. Nissin Foods, the creator of instant ramen in 1958, took the nomenclature even further. Under the brand name Top Ramen, they renamed the product "Chikin Ramen." Chikin came from the chicken flavoring in the noodles. Ramen came from the Chinese words la mian, meaning "to pull noodles." The "L" and "R" sounds are interchangeable in Japanese, and the ramen name stuck.

So, what's the magic in these noodles, and why is it a household name? For starters, ramen noodles appeal to everything that modern culture loves -- they're quick, easy to make and cheap. Additionally, ramen is filling and tasty. So while ramen is popular with people with empty wallets, it's also a main ingredient in hundreds of recipes. Read on to discover how ramen can be more than just a cup of soup with our five recipes. The first one uses ramen in its natural state.

This dish is great because it gives a new twist to a tried-and-tried standard, and it also uses ramen noodles in their purest form -- hard and crunchy. If you've ever nibbled on raw spaghetti noodles, you'll appreciate this recipe.

With this dish, you use pre-packaged coleslaw as your base, mixed with the flavored seasoning included in the package of ramen noodles. Use an apple cider vinegar or something along that line to mix the seasoning in with the coleslaw, just enough to make the slaw a little moist and spread the seasoning throughout. Throw in some nuts, typically sunflower seeds or almonds, and then just before serving, toss the coleslaw salad with the crunchy ramen noodles. And, here's a little trick -- before adding in the noodles, break them up in the bag. A meat tenderizer, small hammer or even a can of soup rolled over the bag of uncooked noodles will do the trick. Take out a little frustration while you're at it!

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The result is a tasty coleslaw salad with an added crunch that is oddly satisfying.

Though ramen may have Asian beginnings, it's Italy that made noodles famous. We'd be remiss to discuss noodle recipes without including a ramen interpretation on a classic Italian entrée.

With a great Alfredo dish, the secret is in the sauce. To make an Alfredo sauce, you need cheese - parmesan, mozzarella, provolone -- the more, the merrier. Add garlic, mushrooms, basil, oregano, onions for flavor and then butter, cream, or even cream cheese for a really rich sauce. For a heartier dish, toss in some chicken or for a vegetarian approach, add some broccoli, carrots, or squash.

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When your sauce is ready, serve it over the boiled ramen noodles for a tasty Alfredo. In this recipe, you can just use the noodles themselves or spice things up with the chicken-flavored or vegetable-flavored seasoning packet in the sauce. Now, mangia, ramen-style!

Moving on from Italian to Latin, we have the ramen twist on chili. Some people eat chili plain or garnished with tortilla chips, but if you want a hearty, filling dish, especially on a cold winter's day, serve it over pasta. Enter the ramen noodles.

There are a million variations on chili, so use your own creative license with this recipe. A good foundation is either beef-flavored or chicken-flavored ramen, but if you want to go vegetarian, you have that ramen option as well.

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The simplest of all versions is to add the ramen seasoning to pre-made chili and spice it up with onions or peppers. Serve it with cheese over the cooked ramen noodles, some tortilla chips and you're set. But, if you're more imaginative in the kitchen, cook up your own chicken or beef using chili or taco seasoning, add the ramen seasoning, beans, tomatoes onions, peppers, corn, cumin, garlic -- the list is endless. Chili is a catch-all for anything in your pantry or refrigerator.

Serve it all over those wonderfully curly ramen noodles, garnished with sour cream and cheese, and you're sure to have a satisfied crowd.

Ramen is a natural for stir fry.
Ramen is a natural for stir fry.
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We've examined ramen recipes cooked with international flair, but let's get back to its original roots and prepare it Asian-style. Stir fry is an Asian method of cooking, started when fuel shortages in China forced the people to cook using very little oil. A focus on health-conscious cooking made stir fry a popular technique in the United States in the 1970s, and it's been a hit ever since.

Almost any stir fry recipe is fairly easy, and ramen stir fry is no exception. Start with heating your oil, and then add in browned ground beef, beef-flavored ramen seasoning and veggies like broccoli, peppers, and onions. You can add soy sauce for extra taste and to help mix and spread the seasoning. Cook your ramen noodles, toss them in and you've got your stir fry -- an easy, delicious and oh-so-inexpensive dinner.

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How about using ramen as a base for a spicy shrimp soup?
How about using ramen as a base for a spicy shrimp soup?
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This last dinner idea appeals to the seafood lover, and if you love seafood, shrimp is probably on that list. Fortunately, one of the great aspects of ramen noodles is versatility -- they come in many flavors, including shrimp-flavored. So, start your soup with the shrimp seasoning as the base for the broth. The next step is to create spicy shrimp. Combining flavors like chili powder, curry, cumin and pepper, coat your shrimp and put it in the soup.

Now, this isn't supposed to be a wimpy dish, but a hearty, healthy meal, so don't hold back. A great aspect of soup is that you can include whatever you like. Add onions, garlic, peppers for some extra zest; salsa, beans, and corn are also great ingredients. For a thicker broth, use milk, half-and-half or even a bit of heavy cream. By the end of this recipe, you should have fewer leftovers in your fridge and warm, full stomachs.

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Sources

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