Eat Like a K-Drama: All About Ramyun

It happens when you least expect it.

You’re just minding your own business, watching a K-drama where meddling mothers and stone-hearted fathers disown their rebellious children, and then the next thing you know, said rebellious child is scarfing down what appears to be a truly magnificent cup of store-bought noodles, slurps of deliciousness and groans of satisfaction filtering out of your computer’s speakers. And you find yourself salivating and suddenly incredibly hungry. You want noodles, and you want them now.

Sound familiar?

It seems like it happens more often than not in K-dramas these days, you’ll just be hit with hunger pains for…whatever it is that your favorite actors or characters are consuming. What are they eating, anyway? And how can you get your hands on some too? If you’ve ever asked those questions to yourself as you wipe drool from your chin, fear not. Your days of only imagining the tastes of your favorite K-dramas is at an end.

In this new monthly series by yours truly, I’ll be taking you on a culinary journey of some of the most famous, the most infamous, the most delicious bites that Korea, and your favorite shows, have to offer. That’s right, we’re eating like K-dramas, and what better way to kick things off than with the food that has come to define so much of the Korean televised eating experience: Ramyun.

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Ramyun + K-dramas, the Ultimate OTP

Why does Ramyun have such a presence in K-dramas?

Ramyun is so prevalent in dramas that we often don’t comment on, or even question the significance of a character peeling back the paper lid of cup noodles. Eating ramyun is just one of those things that happens in dramas. But, the question becomes, why? Why is ramyun so present in dramas? Does it have some magical healing powers for characters in distress? Is there something in that ramyun facial that holds the key to all happiness?

Well, sort of.

The act of eating ramyun, and likewise not eating ramyun, reveals a lot about characters, their situations, and whatever may be going on emotionally or internally with them. As it turns out, a bowl of ramyun is anything but.

1. Ramyun as Status Indicator

Remember how obsessed Goo Jun Pyo (Lee Min Ho) was with ramyun in “Boys Over Flowers“? Having grown up eating the food made for him by his own personal chef and served to him on gilded plates by a team of no less than four maids, it is not a wonder that Goo Jun Pyo had never tasted the spicy, salty, noodle-y soup by the time he was in high school. Why? Because ramyun is lauded as being the “food of the people.” That is, of the everyday person. Your boss eats it. Your bus driver eats it. The woman at the bookstore? The man who runs your dry cleaners? They eat it, too. It is simple, cheap, and fast–perfect for students who have little income and time to spare, busy workers who need to grab food on the go, and also, but not exclusively, for the lonely, because nothing is as depressing as slaving away over a big meal that you’ll be eating alone.

So when a character starts in on a steaming bowl of ramyun, that moment reveals a lot about who they are as a person, and consequently why they may be eating ramyun in the first place. It’s the food of the everyday person– sorry, Goo Jun Pyo.

2. Ramyun as Nostalgia

Because ramyun is so convenient and easily accessible, there is also something incredibly nostalgic about it. That is, as much as it is the “food of the people” it is also the food of memory. At 6 years old, you may think a character is just sitting down and sharing some ramyun with their grandparents, but flash forward 10 years and it may be the most treasured memory of that character’s past. Or, a character might reminisce about the “good old days” in a montage of their youth and, more likely than not, a bowl of ramyun will make an appearance. Ramyun is uncomplicated, and there’s something about its simplicity that brings up wholesome memories of a simpler time.

Now that we covered why ramyun is so prevalent in K-dramas, read on for some ramyun recipes to get you eating like your favorite K-drama characters!

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How To: Basic Ramyun

No fuss, fool-proof, pure comfort in a bowl

You probably know how to make a package of instant noodles, but just humor me here. Get your package of ramyun–my standard, go-to ramen is Shin Ramyun (pictured above), which is spicy and has a beef broth base. I also like the Shin Ramyun Black version, which is heartier in terms of the vegetable and meat bits, but milder in flavor.

You’ll need: 
1 package of ramyun
water

1. Boil water just enough to cover the noodles (2-3 cups).
2. Add dried noodles + seasoning and dried vegetables packets. Let cook until noodles are tender but not fall-apart soft (2-3 minutes).
3. Remove from heat and enjoy!

So fast, so easy! No wonder it is the food of the people! But wait, there’s more!

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Because sometimes you just want a little more

These recipes follow the “Basic Ramyun” recipe but jazz things up a bit. It is the great flexibility of ramyun that you can add whatever you would like, and have it not taste terrible. No wonder those college kids are always inventing new ways to eat ramyun. In what follows you can add an egg, or kimchi (if you have some), or both. Crazy, I know.

You’ll need: 
1 package of ramyun
water
1 egg and/or chopped cabbage kimchi (1/4 – 1/2 cup)

Follow the directions for “Basic Ramyun” and crack an egg directly into the soup in step 2. Try not to break the yolk. Alternatively, add chopped kimchi to the soup in step 2.

Easy peasy, right? Well now that you’ve mastered these recipes, read on for more!

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How To: Cheese Ramyun

For those days where you want to get a little fancy

My personal favorite way to eat Ramyun. You’ll need some cheese of your choice–I opt for shredded cheddar, but in a pinch, American works too. Basically, you want a nice melting cheese that is mild enough so it won’t compete with the flavors of the soup.

You’ll need: 
1 package of ramyun
water
1/4-1/2 cup shredded cheese, or a single slice

1. Boil water just enough to cover the noodles (2-3 cups).
2. Add dried noodles + dried vegetables packet (not the seasoning packet). Let cook until noodles are tender but not fall-apart soft (2-3 minutes).
3. Drain water, leaving only 1-2 tablespoons of water in the pot.
4. Return pot to stove top. Add the seasoning packet and, using the remaining moisture remaining on the noodles , stir to combine over med-low heat.
5. Add cheese of your choice
6. Remove from heat and enjoy!

Alternatively, if you can also use this method of draining water when making basic ramyun too. Just remember not to add the seasoning packet until after you’ve drained the water (otherwise you drain the flavor of the noodles too).

Think that’s all there is for ramyun? Thank again. We are about to blow your minds with what comes next.

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How To: Jjapaguri

From K-variety to your plate!

A few years back jjapaguri was all. the. rage. Just what is it, you ask? Born out of necessity, as all wonderful things are, and attributed to the variety show, “Dad, Where Are We Going?” It is a genius and delicious combination of two different kinds of ramyun: Jjapaghetti and Neoguri. Jjapaghetti is basically thicker, spaghetti like noodles in a black bean sauce. Neoguri is a spicy ramyun with a seafood soup base. Both are good on their own–great on their own–but together? Heavenly.

You’ll need: 
1 package of Jjapaghetti ramyun
1 package of Neoguri ramyun
water

1. Boil water just enough to cover the noodles (4-5 cups, remember you’re dealing with 2 packages of ramyun).
2. Add dried noodles + dried vegetables packets (not the seasoning packets). Let cook until noodles are tender but not fall-apart soft (4-5 minutes).
3. Drain water, leaving only 2-3 tablespoons of water in the pot.
4. Return pot to stove top. Add the Jjapagahetti seasoning packet. Now, this is where you’ll season to taste. Some people add the whole of the Neoguri seasoning packet, but it might be too salty for some. I add about half of the Neogrui seasoning, but season to taste. Using the remaining moisture remaining on the noodles, stir to combine over med-low heat.
5. Remove from heat and enjoy!

This is going to be your new favorite ramyun, I can already tell. But there’s one more recipe left, and trust me, it’s worth the wait.

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How To: Rabokki

When you want to show off to company

If you thought combining two different kinds of ramyun was brilliant, in this recipe we combine two of the most beloved snacks: ramyun and food-stall staple, tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes). You’ll be needing a few more ingredients for this than in other recipes, and you’ll need to do some slicing and dicing, but in the end, it will be worth the extra effort.

You’ll need:
2-3 green onions (scallions), chopped into 2 inch segments, using mostly the greens
1 cup carrots, sliced thin on a bias
1 small onion, thickly sliced (or 1/2 medium-large onion)
4-5 tablespoons Korean spicy red pepper paste (gochujang)*
2 hard boiled eggs
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 pound (2 cups) rice cakes, the stick-like variety (tteok/dduk)*
1 cup fishcakes, cut into 2 inch rectangles*
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1 package of ramyun
3 cups water

1. Combine water, red pepper paste, soy sauce, and ramyun seasoning and vegetable packets in a large pot, bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the red pepper paste.
2. Add the rice cakes, fish cakes, onion, and carrots. Stir to combine and continue cooking for 4-5 minutes. The soup should thicken slightly. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and adjust seasoning accordingly.
3. Add the noodles, green onions, and eggs. Stir to combine and continue cooking for 4-5 minutes, or until the eggs are heated through, the noodles are tender, and the green onions are soft. The soup should also be considerably thicker and sauce-like.
4. Remove from heat and enjoy!

*You’ll probably need to visit a Korean/asian market for these ingredients. The red pepper paste, or gochujang (고추장) can be found in the sauces/seasoning aisle, while the rice cakes/tteok (떡볶이떡) and fishcakes/eomuk (어묵/오뎅) can be found in the refrigerated section.

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That’s it for this month’s culinary exploration of all things Ramyun. Hopefully you’ll try out some of the recipes! Since we’re testing the waters with this series, I’d really be interested to know your thoughts about it, and what food from K-dramas would you like to see in the future. Please let me know your thoughts and/or questions in the comments below!

See also: Do You Know Your Korean Ramyun?