Although Japanese in origin, Nissin Ramen or to give it its Cantonese nickname – 'gongzai mein' (lit. cartoon character noodles) has become a Hong Kong staple. Consequently, it's also popular amongst British born Chinese and entire shelves are given over to these packets of instant soup noodles in Chinese supermarkets across the UK.
These were probably the first noodles I ate and whilst these heavily processed treats aren't particularly good for you, they are very addictive. Back in the day, there was one flavour – 'original' which came with sachets of MSG soup base and sesame oil. Nowadays, there are loads of flavours such as chicken, spicy, tokyo shoyu, and my favourite, XO sauce seafood.
Giant batches of noodles would be cooked to round off a night down the pub or a poker session. I started to experiment adding various ingredients to the mix although I soon realised that my special of beer noodles was a waste of both beer and noodles. I guess there's a reason why Nissin HQ in Tokyo never came up with Newcastle Brown Ale flavour ramen.
To this day, I keep a supply of Nissin Ramen in the store cupboard. After a long day at work, you can rustle up a meal in 3 minutes after the kettle has boiled. The thing is though a bowl of just soup noodles is a tad boring and not a very balanced meal.
So how do you go about pepping it up ? The easiest way is to throw in some vegetables when cooking the noodles – pak choi, watercress, and baby leaf spinach work particularly well. I also like to poach an egg atop the noodles in the saucepan. Another option is to add leftover siu mei or roast meats to the noodles. Whatever you end up with, garnish with spring onions and voila a quick TV supper after a crap day at the office.
Now the sachet of flavouring is not to everyone's taste. It is mainly MSG and whilst for most people, a little won't hurt from time to time, that's not an option to those who are allergic to the stuff. My tip is to cook the noodles without adding the sachet of soup. Having discarded the cooking water, dress the noodles with soy, sesame oil, chilli oil, ginger, garlic, and spring onion and you have a simple lo mein as a side dish.