Almost Instant Ramen Carbonara
Ramen Carbonara is a quick meal I've been making for myself since before ramen hacks were a thing. The idea is to use quick-cooking ramen and toss it together with a carbonara sauce made from egg yolks, cheese, and black pepper. Since I first posted about it, Ramen Carbonara seems to have taken on a life of its own, and I wanted to revisit the concept with a new recipe that's even simpler.
Why This Recipe Works?
- Curly quick-cook ramen noodles have been flash-fried. Since they've already been cooked, they rehydrate pretty quickly, and the process also imparts some oil into the noodles, which makes for a creamy sauce.
- Turning the heat off once the noodles are separated allows them to rehydrate without losing a lot of liquid due to evaporation.
- By boiling the noodles in a minimum amount of water, you end up with some thick starchy liquid by the time the noodles are done boiling. This creates a wonderfully rich emulsion along with the egg yolk and cheese.
Ingredients for Ramen Carbonara
- Instant ramen noodles - For this recipe to work, you need to use a specific type of instant ramen noodle. Luckily these are the most common types of packaged ramen, so they should be available almost anywhere. The noodles you want are the curly bricks you get in packages of dried quick-cook noodles. These noodles have been flash-fried, which makes them cook faster than fresh or air-dried noodles. Just be sure you're using noodles with the soup in a separate packet (some noodles come coated with seasoning).
- Bacon - The traditional cured meat for Carbonara is guanciale, but we're going simple here, so I'm using bacon. You can use whatever cured pork product you like.
- Egg Yolk - The yolk is what gives carbonara it's creamy richness. Although it will be partially cooked by the hot ramen noodles, it's not going to be fully cooked, so be sure to use fresh eggs from a source you trust. I also like to use eggs from chickens that have been fed a diet high in beta-carotene as it makes the yolks a vibrant orange color. I initially used a whole egg for this, but because we're adding some of the noodles' starchy water, the sauce becomes too watery if we include the egg white.
- Parmesan Cheese - Traditionally, Pasta Carbonara is made with Pecorino Romano, but since we're doing this with Ramen, I'm using the cheap canned stuff.
- Black Pepper - This is the one area I got fancy and used freshly cracked black pepper. It adds a fresh grassy bite that helps offset the richness of all the other ingredients.
- Garnish - To stick with the ramen theme, I've garnished this with scallion greens, but chives will work. This plays a trick in your mind that almost makes you think you're eating a creamy tonkotsu ramen. You'll also want to cover the noodles with more parmesan and black pepper. If I'm feeling particularly decadent, I'll drop a sous vide egg on top.
How to Make Ramen Carbonara
The first thing you want to do is add the ramen, water, and chopped bacon to a pot that's just large enough to fit the brick of noodles. If your pot is too big, the water won't cover the noodles, and it will evaporate before your noodles are cooked. Put the pot on the stove and bring the water to a boil.
Once the water is at a full boil, flip the brick of ramen over a few times until it starts to fall apart. Then you want to stir the noodles until there are no clumps of noodles remaining.
Set a timer for 2 minutes and turn off the heat. You'll want to stir the noodles once or twice during that time to make sure they're absorbing the water evenly.
While you're waiting for the noodles to finish cooking, add the egg yolk, cheese, and a few cracks of black pepper to a bowl and whisk this together until it forms a smooth sauce.
When your noodles are cooked, dump the noodles and any remaining starchy water into the egg yolk mixture and quickly stir everything together until you have a thick sauce coating the noodles.
Plate the noodles and dust the top with more parmesan cheese and black pepper. Garnish with some scallion greens and serve immediately.
Other Ramen Hacks
- Easy Hot and Sour Ramen
- Kale & Ramen Salad with Crispy Maitake
- Hokkaido-Style Miso Ramen
- Vegan Tonkotsu Ramen
Ramen Carbonara is a hack that uses instant ramen noodles in place of Italian pasta. The main advantage is that it comes together in about a third of the time of a more traditional Pasta alla Carbonara due to the faster cooking noodles. Guanciale is replaced with bacon (which is more widely available), and Pecorino Romano is replaced with pre-grated parmesan cheese to save time.
You will undoubtedly get more flavor from the bacon by browning it first in a frying pan, this adds another step and requires another pan. Also, by boiling the bacon with the noodles, the flavor of the bacon permeates the noodles.
This recipe should work with almost any brand of instant noodles that include flash-fried noodles. Flash-fried noodles usually come in a brick with curly noodles, which tend to be light in color and opaque. Some brands that should work include Sapporo Ichiban, Top Ramen, Maruchan, and Indo Mie. Some brands have thicker or thinner noodles that the ones I used, so you may need to make minor adjustments in the amount of time they rest for after you take the pot off the heat.
I've been making versions of this dish since having a craving for carbonara after a night of drinking in the mid 2000's. I first posted a recipe for it in 2015 on this blog as a collaboration with Nissin Food's Raoh brand of ramen and then reimagined it as a Japanese dish for PBS in 2017. I'm sure someone probably thought of this idea before I did, but I couldn't find any credible reference that predated my discovery. In any case, I created mine independently, so I'll take credit for it until someone proves otherwise.
- 1 cup water
- 1 package instant ramen curly flash-fried type
- 1 slice bacon
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese more for topping
- Black pepper to taste
- Scallion greens for garnish
- Add the water, ramen, and bacon to a pot that’s just big enough to hold the noodles and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Flip the brick of noodles over a few times until it starts to fall apart. Stir continuously until there are no clumps of noodles remaining and then turn off the heat and let the noodles rest for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, Parmesan cheese, and a few cracks of black pepper.
- When the noodles are done, add the pot's contents to the bowl with the egg yolk and cheese and stir this together thoroughly until the noodles are coated with a thick sauce.
- Serve the Ramen Carbonara garnished with more Parmesan cheese and black pepper, along with a sprinkle of scallions.