DIY 'cup noodles' — an instant lunch you won't be embarrassed to eat at work
Just add hot water — music to the ears of anyone who punches a clock for a living. Those little cups of instant soup are definitely easy, but they do get boring after a while, and they never have enough veggies.
But you can make them yourself using a variety of ingredients, and it takes only a few minutes to throw together. You can even use up leftovers. All you need is a pint-size Mason jar and and a little creativity.
You'll want to start with your seasoning. Generally, that will involve some kind of stock or broth, usually in powder form, though the soup bases work well too. You can also add other seasonings — miso paste, hot sauce or hot pepper flakes, wasabi, dried herbs or spices and more. Just about any additional flavoring you could want can go in.
The best noodles I've found in terms of ease are vermicelli-style cellophane noodles. You can put them in dry, and they'll cook through in just a few minutes after you add boiling water. But really, you can use any kind of noodle you want. You just may have to parcook them (any "Italian" pastas, for example, would have to be cooked until they're just al dente, or they won't get done). You can even use parcooked filled pastas like tortellini if you want.
When it comes to veggies and proteins, you can add just about anything you like, but frozen and dried veggies are easiest. Frozen veggies will thaw by lunchtime, and the boiling water will heat them through. They're usually slightly cooked before being processed, so they'll have a good bite without being too crunchy. Dried vegetables will rehydrate while you're steeping. Fresh vegetables should be lightly steamed first, but you can use those too.
Meat should obviously be cooked before you use it, which makes this a perfect recipe for using up leftovers. But you can also use cooked or raw tofu or even dried meats like cut-up jerky.
If you use delicate veggies or fresh herbs, those should go on top. They'll get plenty warm there without getting crushed by the heavier veggies.
When you're ready to eat lunch, just heat some water up to boiling in the microwave, and pour it in, then put the lid back on, and allow it to steep for a while. How long depends on what type of pasta you used. The cellophane noodles I suggest will take between three and five minutes. You want it to steep long enough to properly soften the pasta and heat the other ingredients through.
When the pasta is soft, remove the lid, and stir it all up to incorporate the stock and seasonings and to mix the noodles and other ingredients. I like eating mine with chopsticks (you can drink the broth directly from the jar) because it's just easier, but a fork or spoon works too.
Basic vegetarian homemade "cup noodles" soup recipe
Add any combination of vegetables and protein in any amount you like. You can even use chicken or beef stock if you prefer, but make sure you're using a pint Mason jar for the right concentration of broth.
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 5 minutes | Total time: 15 minutes
- 1/2 cube vegetable stock concentrate, crushed (I used Knorr's)
- 1/2 nest dried vermicelli-style cellophane noodles
- 1/2 cup frozen Asian-style mixed vegetables
- 2-3 tablespoons cubed cooked or raw tofu (I used leftover tofu from this recipe)
- 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
- A few sprigs cilantro (whole or chopped)
- At the bottom of a 1-pint Mason jar, place the crushed vegetable stock.
- Put the dried noodle nest on top of that.
- Add the vegetables and tofu on top of the noodles, packing them down as necessary to fit them in.
- Top that with the green onions and cilantro, and put the cap on the jar. Keep the jar refrigerated until you're ready to make your soup.
- When you're ready to eat, add 1 cup of boiling water, replace the lid, and let it steep for 3 to 5 minutes or until the noodles are soft. Remove the lid, and stir vigorously until the vegetable stock is fully dissolved.
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