Quintessential College Staple Goes Gourmet: Top Ramen Hacking

College tuition rates keep going up, but luckily your favorite instant ramen noodles have stayed steady at 22 cents per package. A meal for less than a 15 minute run in the dryer? This perfect price point has made Top Ramen a staple for cash-strapped college students for years.

The humble noodles and broth staple was introduced to a similarly impoverished market in 1958- post-World War II Japan. Made to emulate the fresh udon and soba noodles popular in traditional Japanese cuisine, but made of cheap and plentiful American-manufactured wheat flour, when Nissin Foods inaugurated the Cup ‘O Noodles in 1971, instant noodles took the world by storm.

Japanese diners usually eat fresh noodle soup with some meat or vegetables, and seaweed, tempura or fried egg. Taking this into consideration, foodies have recently taken to upgrading their ramen from pedestrian to more nutritionally sound and experimentally flavorful.

Recent University of Iowa graduate Ricky Brandt created Dumbed Down Food, formerly College Fed, to share cheap and nutritious recipes with his fellow students that can be prepared in a dorm room. What started out as a Tumblr feed progressed to a full-fledged food blog that recommends all kinds of recipe hacks and acts as a forum for newbie writers who are looking to gain blogging experience. The Ramen Stir Fry Recipe still remains one of his most popular posts.

Articles like 5 Awesome ways to survive on Ramen are popular content on online college guides and include the delicious sounding Pad Thai Ramen or Ramen Mac & Cheese, and the unusual- Ramen Breakfast Burrito and Chocolate Ramen. Pinterest boards like Top Ramen To The Rescue and Oh The Things to Do With Top Ramen Noodles and Sara Childs’ recent book Rah! Rah! Ramen flourish as hot spots for food budgeting tips and creating fun and fast eating habits.

As NPR reports in this recent Artisinal Ramen story, the idea that instant noodles serve as a blank slate for diners who want to create nostalgia and personal stories may be just as a compelling reason to dig in to a bowl of noodles as their cheap price.

So get out there and find your favorite Top Ramen recipe to keep you full and on budget.

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