Instant noodles are great when you need a meal that’s easy and delicious. They’re big on flavor, and I love keeping them in the cabinet for times when I need a quick lunch. I’ve tried lots of different brands, and the best ones I’ve found are those created for the Japanese market. I’ve scoured the shelves of my local Asian grocery store to try and find the very best ones, but I’m a fan of variety. I’m always on the hunt for something new.
Several months ago, I discovered Umai Crate, and I haven’t looked back. It’s been a great way to keep my kitchen stocked full of authentic instant ramen packs. If you’re new to Umai Crate, let me tell you a little bit about this instant noodle subscription.
About Umai Crate
The Subscription Box: Umai Crate
The Cost: $49.95 per month + free shipping. Save with longer subscriptions.
ACTIVE DEAL: Save $3 off your first box
Ships: Worldwide for free!
Every month, Umai Crate sends 8-10 different Japanese noodle products. Most boxes contain a mix of instant noodles, garnishes, and sauces, and you'll find Japanese staple products as well as newly released items. In addition to noodles, boxes also contain a bonus item (think spices or toppings), recipe card, and translation guide. I've found some of the products on the shelves of my local Asian grocery store, but many of the items are exclusive to the Japanese market.
My only complaint about instant noodles is that I sometimes get flashbacks to my college days when my diet consisted mostly of processed foods, and I could go days without consuming a single vegetable. Sure, many instant noodles contain freeze-dried veggie bits, but I’m not the woman I once was. These days, I find meals much more satisfying when they contain something fresh.
I’ll sometimes make instant noodles according to the instructions on the packaging, but I’ve started to tweak the way I cook with them. Instead of viewing them as ready-to-eat lunches, I’ve started to think of them as meal starters. Instant ramen packs typically contain noodles and seasonings, and I’ll add in my own veggies, proteins, herbs, aromatics, and other extras to help create a balanced meal.
This habit kicked off after I had an incredible bowl of fresh ramen at a local ramen shop. If you haven’t had traditional ramen before, it’s usually topped with lots of goodies like nori, roasted pork, bean sprouts, green onions, corn, and a soft-boiled egg. I had a mid-bite lightbulb moment when I realized that I could use my beloved instant ramen to create something a bit more like the real thing.
Any of the typical ramen toppings can be added to instant noodles, but I’ve found that fresh veggies, aromatics, and meats tend to make the most impact. Some things, like green onions and bean sprouts, tend to work with pretty much any flavor of instant noodles, but it makes a lot of sense to take a cue from the flavor written on the outside of the packet. If I receive shrimp-flavored soba noodles, for example, I’ll add fresh shrimp. Instant tonkatsu ramen- I’ll jazz up with an egg, fresh corn, scallions, and perhaps some chicken. If I know I’m going to dive into my ramen stash for lunch in the coming week, I’ll do a bit of prep and boil some eggs, cook some protein, and maybe bake some tofu. I'll usually sauteé some garlic and ginger, too. Those flavors are great in pretty much everything and can help add that element of freshness that most instant noodle packs are missing. And if I run out of inspiration? Umai Crate includes a recipe card in each shipment that usually sparks some new ideas that help keep things interesting.
As much as I love them, instant noodles are a little sodium-heavy for me to eat more than once or twice a week. One of my favorite things about Umai Crate is that boxes contain more than just instant noodle soup packs. Shipments often also contain things like dry noodles and sauces, and I appreciate also receiving ingredients I can incorporate into dinners and meals I design myself. Umai Crate is one of those subscriptions that has really grown on me. I initially subscribed because it was practical, but it's quickly shot up "Lindsey's Subscription Box Ranking Chart" to become one of the monthly shipments I look forward to most. To be fair, it's not the cheapest way to get instant noodles (ramen packs in the grocery store are far cheaper), but I think these are better. Also, at around $5 per pack, noodles from Umai Crate cost less than I'd pay to grab lunch out, and discovering new products from overseas helps make my mid-week lunches a lot more fun.
Have you tried Umai Crate? Or have your own tips for jazzing up instant noodles? Let us know in the comments!