“Thanks for the hack, I tried it with long curly spaghetti to make ramen at home, it was pretty good.”– Didina Gnagnide Angorinie
Finding Ramen Noodles Abroad Can Be Tricky
A common problem Japanese ramen lovers like myself face when living abroad is the fact that there aren’t ramen restaurants on every corner like back home. When I lived in a small city in England for years, I always had this problem of not being able to find ramen.
Of course, it would be absolutely wrong to expect the same environment in other countries as in Japan, but I grew up with ramen and my occasional craving for it will probably never disappear.
Can cup noodles or instant noodles satisfy that craving? Unfortunately, no. Of course, I like cup noodles too, but I consider ramen from a ramen restaurant and cup noodles to be two completely different dishes.
Here is my personal opinion on whether or not I recommend against known measures for such a problem of not being able to reach ramen from my experience.
Making it from scratch at home
My first attempt to tackle the ramen puzzle was to roll up my sleeves and try making the noodles from scratch at home. Believe me, it’s not for the faint of heart. Between assembling the ingredients and wrestling with a manual pasta machine, it was a messy affair that tested my patience back then!
The result was quite a triumph I must say but, it was quite a hassle! Making the soup and chashu from scratch alone requires time and effort. Add homemade noodles into the mix, turning into a day-long culinary marathon. Another drawback is the need for equipment such as a pasta machine.
So, while creating authentic ramen noodles at home is entirely possible, it’s also a commitment – of time, effort, and extra cleaning. If you ask me, I wholeheartedly recommend trying homemade ramen noodles, but only if you have time to spare.
Using the noodles from packaged instant ramen
Another common workaround involves using dried, instant noodles from packets, for instance, Maruchan instant ramen. This method is undeniably straightforward. However, as I’ve previously emphasized, instant ramen and authentic ramen are similar yet entirely different.
While some instant soups and flavors have become unbelievably authentic these days, the most significant distinction lies in the noodles themselves. Ramen shops always serve fresh, raw noodles, made in-house or at a noodle mill, then boiled to perfection. In contrast, instant ramen noodles are essentially preserved food—dried and fried before packaging.
So, while I do appreciate instant ramen, it doesn’t quite capture the essence of ramen in Japan. Also, it is wasteful and expensive to buy instant ramen just to take the noodles and throw the seasonings away.
But don’t lose hope! In the next section, I’ll share a handy trick using spaghetti—a pantry staple more akin to genuine ramen than instant noodles.
Ramen with spaghetti noodles
Following my homemade ramen adventure, I was nearly ready to abandon and ignore my ramen craving. But then, I stumbled upon an amazing workaround—making ramen noodles from spaghetti!
This hack is quite popular among many Japanese ramen lovers living abroad. I wish I’d discovered it sooner before turning my kitchen upside down with my earlier attempts!
The following section will explore how to morph your everyday spaghetti into a satisfying ramen noodle substitute. It’s simpler than you might imagine!
How to Make Ramen with Spaghetti Noodles
Here’s the surprising twist—this trick is not only my secret but also a well-loved hack among many Japanese people who, like me, can’t easily find premade fresh ramen noodles.
The secret lies in cooking regular spaghetti with a bit of baking soda! It’s as straightforward as that!
Before we proceed, it’s essential to clarify—this hack is not magic that will transform spaghetti into exact replicas of the noodles you’d find in a ramen restaurant. Instead, it’s the most convenient way to make something similar to ramen noodles abroad. Please keep this in mind as we dive into the details.
Furthermore, spaghetti is usually cheap and easily available in basically any country, so it is also economical. Don’t waste time buying instant ramen; just take out the noodles and throw away the soup!
The Chemistry Behind The Ramen Hack
Ramen noodles owe their distinctive chewiness and yellowish hue to “lye water” known as “kansui” (かん水) in Japanese.” Lye water is an alkali salt solution mixed into the flour during preparation. Without it, you’d simply be kneading regular wheat flour into udon noodles. On the other hand, pasta lacks this lye water component, giving it a distinct texture that’s firmer and less chewy than ramen noodles.
The crucial ingredient in lye water is sodium carbonate. The thought process behind using baking soda while boiling pasta is to mimic a basic environment that encourages a reaction between the base and gluten—similar to the process of making ramen noodles in the first place.
Now, baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, has extra hydrogen. However, it decomposes into sodium carbonate, water, and carbon dioxide when heated. Hence, the theory goes that boiling spaghetti with baking soda transforms into something similar to ramen noodles.
Ingredients & Substitution Ideas
- Dried long pasta – I recommend capellini for those who like extremely thin ramen noodles, spaghettini for those who like thin noodles, and spaghetti for those who like slightly thicker noodles. Generally from 1.0 mm to 1.8 mm thick would work depending on your preference.
- Water – Boil the noodles in plenty of water, just as you would boil ramen noodles.
- Salt – Add salt to the water, noodles need a bit of flavor too!
- Baking soda – Be sure to use baking soda, not baking powder. This hack will not work with baking powder. This is because baking powder contains a variety of substances other than sodium bicarbonate.
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Visual Walkthrough & Tips
Here are my step-by-step instructions for how to turn dried spaghetti into ramen noodles at home. For ingredient quantities and simplified instructions, scroll down for the printable recipe card below.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add salt.
- Use plenty of water – pasta needs a lot of water because starch is released as it cooks, which can cause the pasta to stick together. Plenty of water dilutes the starch and gives the pasta more room to move around.
- Add salt – just because pasta is served in sauces (or in our case, ramen broths) doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be seasoned. A little salt in the water will enhance the flavor of the pasta inside and out.
- Make sure the water is boiling before adding the pasta – adding pasta before your water is boiling will result in a mushy mess!
Once the water is boiling, add the baking soda and mix until it has dissolved. Then you can add your pasta. Boil for 2 minutes longer (if you use a thinner type, reduce the time a bit) than the time stated on the packaging.
After boiling, place the noodles in a colander and rinse them thoroughly with tap water to remove any sliminess. If they are to be used for hot soup, washing them with hot water is OK. Once washed, place them in a bowl.
Enjoy your spaghetti-hack ramen with your favorite ramen broth and toppings!Jump to Full Recipe Measurements
I hope you enjoy this recipe! If you try it out, I’d really appreciate it if you could spare a moment to let me know what you thought by giving a review and star rating in the comments below. It’s also helpful to share any adjustments you made to the recipe with our other readers. Thank you!
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How to Make Ramen Noodle Using Spaghetti (Hack)
- 160 g dry spaghetti 1.0-1.8mm depending on your preference
- 2000 ml water
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp baking soda
- First, fill a large pot with 2000 ml water and ½ tsp salt. Bring it to a rolling boil.
- Once it's boiling, add 1 tbsp baking soda and 160 g dry spaghetti. Boil for 2 minutes longer (if you use a thinner type, reduce the time a bit) than stated on the packaging.
- Pour the spaghetti into a colander and rinse with fresh water. Use hot water if you're serving it hot and cold water if serving it cold.
- Enjoy with your favorite ramen broth and toppings!