The key that ramen pros swear by? Instant noodles. But we're not talking about your college dorm dinner staple.
Slow Cooker Ramen Bowls
Credit: Jennifer Causey Styling: Lindsey Lower

Let’s be real. "Ramen" may carry the reputation of that impossibly cheap meal you “couldn’t have survived college without," but there’s no way you don’t have a package or two tucked in the back of your pantry right now—you know, for emergencies. Obviously, "ramen" has taken on a new connotation in recent years as legitimate ramen bowls (no offense to anyone's packaged noodle bricks, but...) have flooded the mainstream food scene. NYC natives like Ramen Lab, Momofuku Noodle Bar, and Chuko Ramen have blossomed, showing that true ramen is so much more than the microwavable meal you remember. But what if we told you that you could raise your at-home noodle game to restaurant-grade ramen, without having to invest much more effort than you did with the 10-for-$1 packages? No joke, it's possible—all you need is this secret weapon.

Meet the Secret Weapon.

What do these restaurants, made famous for their ramen, have in common? The noodles.

It's not that they use a similar recipe, or just that they make the same type of noodles, they actually use the same noodles from the same company. And you can use them, too.

It all began over 35 years ago with the creation of Sun Noodle, a company in Honolulu that sought to specialize in noodles. Fast-forward to this year, and Sun Noodle has 3 different factories producing up to 90,000 servings of noodles every 8 hours. The big influencers in the world of ramen include Ramen Lab in Manhattan, which was launched by Sun Noodle, and David Chang's Momofuku (namely, Noodle Bar), another famous spot that is spreading the ramen love. If you go to Momofuku Noodle Bar and order the Hozon Ramen, you’ll get a gorgeous bowl of rich broth, chicpea, bok choy… and noodles by Sun Noodle.

Why wouldn’t the big dogs make their own noodles? That’s answered by another question: Why make your own noodles when they aren’t going to be better than or as easy as using Sun Noodle? In addition to being instant, Sun Noodles are an economical choice with a short ingredient list. Sun Noodles are sold to ramen shops, other restaurants, hotels, food wholesalers, and—the best par—widespread chain markets like the Seven Eleven and Wegmans. This makes them not only perfect for upscale restaurants, but easily accesible (and equally awesome) for at-home cooks who want to get their ramen on.

The Taste Test.

Obviously, we had to try them. Here’s a list of retail stores where Sun Noodles are sold; they are also sold at many independent Asian markets not listed here, and can be found in the frozen foods section. They are conveniently packaged with 2 servings of noodles and sauce, and your noodles are ready after just 1 ½ minutes in boiling water.

And folks, this has to be one of the best instant meal options on the market. Our flavor picks were Shoyu (Japanese soy sauce), which is a classic flavor perfect for new ramen-eaters, and Spicy Sesame—an equally comforting and delightfully salty option with a good warm kick. The noodles have a much firmer, perfectly toothy texture in comparison to other instant noodles, and their flavor is richer. Like other instant noodles, you can opt out of using the provided flavor packet in lieu of adding the noodles to your own homemade broth, but if you're legitamtely trying to make this as a fast and easy meal... we found the broth created using the provided sauces to be super tasty. Now, even if you are in a hurry, there are so many ways to dress up your noodles... and that’s where the fun comes in.

Our favorite ways to dress Sun Noodles:

  • A six-minute egg is a must. The soft, jammy yolk melds so deliciously well with the warming, salty broth and provides an easy, inexpensive source of protein.
  • Mushrooms are a traditional ramen add-in; their umami flavor just further boosts the savory broth, and there's certainly nothing wrong with getting some veggies in the bowl.
  • If you need more green, go for a sturdy option like kale or bok choy.
  • Use shredded chicken, pork, or tofu for a filling topping if you happen to have some hanging out in your fridge.
  • Chopped scallions are a great fresh finishing touch for any ramen bowl.
  • Sesame seeds lend a subtle nutty touch and make for a beautiful presentation.

Kids, you should definitely try this at home.

5 More Ramen Recipes to Try at Home.

Slow-Cooker Ramen Bowls: Yep, you can do ramen in your crock pot. This classic recipe includes pork shoulder, shiitake mushrooms, and nori.

Ramen Noodle Bowls: This ramen bowl uses miso, soy sauce, chili paste, and porcini mushrooms for mega flavor.

Shoyu Ramen: A pork and chicken based broth with seaweed and Japanese soy sauce.

Ramen with Ginger Roasted Squash and Crispy Pork Belly: Take it up a notch with this slow-simmered ramen bowl topped with crispy pork belly and roasted squash.

Mushroom Ramen Bowl: Make ramen in 25 minutes thanks to this trick: Using water infused with bacon.