For those living outside Japan, a good bowl of ramen is almost impossible to find unless you’re in a big city like New York or London, and even then the options can be a bit of a let-down. And for many, the only ramen available is the dried variety that frankly has made some of our Japanese culinary experts gag.
But all is not lost, dear ramen lovers around the world. We’ve found a kitchen hack to turn ordinary everyday pasta into noodles fit for a delicious bowl of homemade ramen.
Frustrated at the lack of noodle options at local grocery stores, a ramen enthusiast over at the cooking site Serious Eats decided to try out a trick from a Japanese website to turn spaghetti into ramen-worthy noodles. The secret was adding baking soda while boiling the spaghetti to give it a ramen-like texture. The quick explanation is that the baking soda is similar in composition to the mixture of potassium carbonate and sodium carbonate called kansui which gives ramen noodles their distinct yellow color and firm bite.
To test out the noodle hack, one of our Japanese writers living in the French countryside gathered the three very basic ingredients—spaghetti noodles, salt, and baking soda—easily found at her local grocery store. Although the baking soda to water ratio seemed to be more of a suggestion and something each cook should experiment with, here is the simple ingredient list (with American measurements for our metric-phobic friends).
Water – 1 liter (1 quart)
Baking soda – 1 tablespoon
Spaghetti noodles – 80 g (3 oz.)
Salt – a pinch
Heat the water and after it begins to boil, add the salt, baking soda and pasta. Boil the pasta for the duration listed on the packet, then let the noodles cook about a minute two longer for the perfect ramen texture.
A very distinct “ramen shop” smell flooded the kitchen as the noodles cooked. And while the finished pseudo-ramen just looked like a pile of spaghetti noodles ready for a tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese, the first bite surprised us completely as the pasta had been totally transformed into a very ramen-like texture.
▼ Looks like spaghetti, tastes and smells like ramen
Putting the newly transformed noodles into a Japanese soup broth and adding a hard-boiled egg, seaweed and some kernel of corn for good measure, it didn’t quite look like the ramen you’d find at a Japanese restaurant but the taste was arguably pretty close!
While it still doesn’t compare to an authentic bowl of ramen, this pasta hack is a good substitute for those nights when you have an urge for ramen and just can’t deal with the instant stuff. The guys over at Serious Eats tried the trick with a few kinds of pasta and found that thin angel-hair pasta worked really well, while the thicker linguine pasta was not up to par.
While the hacked noodles may not fully deceive your ramen-loving taste buds, this cooking trick could be a good alternative until you get your hands on the real thing. Let us know if you try this noodle transformation method and whether it works in filling that ramen craving!