This is pretty much an instant meal, and I whip it up on days when I haven’t had time to cook before work. It takes about five minutes to chop the vegetables and stick them in a plastic container, and when I want dinner, all I have to do is add water.
The base is a package of ramen, or another form of noodles that don’t require cooking, such as bean thread noodles. If we lived in Japan, we could buy ready-cooked personal portions of soba and udon noodles in plastic bags, but, well, most of us have to make do with other options. The Thai ramen I buy comes packaged with one bag of powdered broth and another of hot pepper and spices. If you’re using loose instant noodles, just use your own soup powder and red pepper or Tom Yam paste.
The other ingredients can include any of the following: finely chopped cabbage (I like a lot of cabbage, so I use at least 1 1/2 times the volume of the noodles), a large handful of mung bean sprouts, diced green beans, slivers of purple or white onions, mushrooms (I’ve been using oyster mushrooms because I have them around the house) and cubed tofu. Toppings can include green onions, chives, cilantro and basil. Beyond that, to enhance the broth you’ll need either a lemon, a lime or vinegar (preferably rice vinegar) for tartness, and soy sauce or fish sauce to add saltiness.
In order to prepare the soup, put the noodles, the soup seasonings and the first list of ingredients in a bowl, and fill the bowl with hot water until all the ingredients are submerged. Let them sit for a few minutes until they soften. Then add the herb toppings, along with the lemon/lime/vinegar and soy or fish sauce to taste.
If you’re doing this at home and want a slightly better-quality result, you can obviously use a base of real broth, as well as better quality soup noodles (I usually keep nice egg noodles sitting around the house, and they need to be boiled for several minutes). But don’t boil the vegetables even if you have a stove at your disposal — part of the fun is that they come out fresh and crispy.
Regarding the photos, which I’ve added for some noodle-y inspiration: The top is a bowl of some sweet and sour soup with extra-soft tofu that I had in a Chinese restaurant in Tokyo, the middle is freshly made udon noodles in Himeji, Japan and the bottom is a do-it-yourself hotpot that came with bean thread noodles, chicken, an egg and mixed herbs, with a broth of galangal, lemongrass and other standard Thai spices at a restaurant in Chiang Mai.