Fresh Ideas: Dress up soup with ramen

Like clockwork each year, I find myself catching the flu right around Halloween. Typically, I reach for a bowl of hot chicken noodle soup, but after years of relying on this classic American dish, it feels good to break my routine and try something new.

There are plenty of other ways to comfort a sore throat without the rigors of preparing a batch of homemade chicken broth. When I’m sick, homemade stocks suddenly seem more trouble than they’re worth, so the faster the meal, the sooner I can eat and hope to get better.

In college, my classmates and I ate ramen on the weekends when our meal cards ran out or there was nothing worth eating in the dining hall. Ramen required no cooking skills, a hot water boiler, and about 50 cents to feed two roommates.

And for a dish so rooted in many college students’ experiences, it’s amazing how versatile these dehydrated noodles are, perfect for sick days and playing dress up. Individually packaged ramen noodles don’t just need water and a seasoning packet, but cozy up nicely to steamed vegetables, chicken broth, pork and soft-boiled (or poached) eggs.

Depending on the time you can dedicate to the soup, freshly chopped scallions, cilantro and sprouts make for wonderful garnishes as well.

What’s the easiest way to turn a college favorite into a hearty bowl of soup? Here I’ve used a combination of spinach, broccoli and peas, but sliced mushrooms, kale and leeks fit the bill nicely as well. This one-dish meal is quick and filling, so feel free to add to the broth as many ingredients as you want. But, don’t forget the ramen.

Helana Brigman is a food writer, photographer and cookbook author. She can be reached with daily recipes at or via email at