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What to do if your Korean Ramen is TOO Spicy

Korean Ramen (technically called 라면 and pronounced Ramyeon or Ramyun – but more on that soon) has become an increasingly popular meal choice, and for good reason. It’s fast, convenient, versatile, and delicious. It’s also almost always spicy. Personally, I love spicy food. I want spice all the time. But every once in awhile you might find your Korean Ramen is TOO spicy.

What to do when your Korean ramen is TOO spicy
Whoops, your Korean Ramen is too spicy!

Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Even I sometimes lift my chopsticks to my mouth enthusiastically, only to let loose with a few curse words because the heat factor is a little on the strong side.  I’m happy to suck it up and keep eating but there are a few things you can do if your ramen is too spicy to handle.

What is Korean Ramen?

First, let’s back up a bit and go over what Korean Ramen is. If you’re not familiar with the Korean language, you may be wondering why some people say ramen, while others say ramyeon or ramyun. In fact, ramen is actually the name for Japanese noodles that you may find served in restaurants with fresh ingredients. However, when you think of the dried instant noodles that come in packages or cups that you combine with boiling water and seasoning packages, you probably refer to that as ramen as well. In South Korea though, those instant noodles are called 라면 and in English it’s pronounced and written as ramyeon or ramyun.

If you’re confused by the difference between ramyeon and ramyun, don’t worry – there is no difference! It’s the problem with romanization. Romanization is taking a language like Korean and transcribing it into Latin letters. It’s spelled 라면 in Hangeul – the Korean alphabet – but whether that is transcribed as ramyeon or ramyun is really up to the person spelling it. This is why I 100% recommend that anyone learning Korean should take the time to learn the alphabet. It’s actually not difficult, and it’s far more accurate. But for the sake of simplicity, rest assured that ramyeon and ramyun are the same thing. Since most people call it ramen, I’ll use that in this post even though I typically call it by its Korean name.

These instant ramen noodles have become such a staple in Korean culture that you might feel like it’s existed forever. However, it actually has its origins more recently. It came into play after the Korean War as a fast and cheap food option during a time when food scarcity was a serious concern. The first existence of Korean ramen was in September 1963. It was launched by the company Samyang, and those noodles with their spicy broth cost only 10 won (the equivalent of about a penny).

Samyang is still around today and they actually make my favourite brand – Buldak! I eat it at least once a month and it comes in a variety of amazing flavours. Unfortunately it’s not longer so cheap, but it’s still a very affordable food.

That being said, Buldak is definitely a spicy choice and if heat isn’t your thing, you may be a little scared off. However, don’t be too hesitant because it’s not just hot for the sake of being hot. It has incredible, intense flavour that will blow your mind (and possibly your sinuses). And of course there are many other brands of Korean ramen now, all with various spice levels.

At some point, you may find yourself sitting down to enjoy a meal or snack only to say, “oh. Oh no.” I have some tips for you to help save your meal!

What do do if your Korean Ramen is TOO spicy

Even if you love spice, you may have limits that are exceeded by your noodles. Or maybe you were just in the mood for something more comforting than spicy. When you take your first bite and your eyes start to water, don’t assume you either have to suffer or waste the food by throwing it out. There are options that can help tame the spice just a little so you can enjoy your meal.

Do not add the whole seasoning pack!

A pack of ramen comes with the dried, instant noodles, and at least one flavour pack, sometimes two (or more!). One is seasoning powder, and may or may not be spicy. In my experience, if it also contains a liquid sauce pack, that is where you’ll find your fire.

This may be obvious, but it bears mentioning anyway. If you’re already aware that this is a very hot, spicy ramen – or if you suspect it may be (hint: if it’s Buldak, it probably is!) – then don’t add the entire seasoning pack. Add half of it, or stir it in slowly, in increments, taste testing as you go to see where your limit is.

It’s the easiest and most preventative way to keep the temperature under control.

Drink milk to turn down the flames

Maybe it’s too late. You already threw in the whole pack and you’ve got a bowl of noodles that are too spicy for your palette. Or perhaps you thought you were doing okay, but it was one of those creep-up-on-you heat situations. Now your taste buds are on fire and you’re worried that you’re stuck.

You’re not!

Milk is a long-term solution to too much spice
Drink some milk if your Korean ramen is too spicy

A very common counter-measure for too-spicy food is a glass of milk! Your immediate reaction to a mouthful of fiery food might be to reach for a gulp of water. This is a big mistake though. Spicy peppers contain capsaicin. When you try to wash it away with water, you’re just carrying that oil-based molecule straight down your throat. You’re really just swishing and spreading the heat.

Milk, however, surrounds the capsaicin and breaks it down. The result? Your mouth cools down! So if you’re not anti-dairy you can try that if you find your Korean ramen is too spicy.

Add dairy right to the ramen

You may not want to drink milk. Personally, I’m not a milk drinker; we are not friends. I do have almond milk, but even that isn’t something I want to drink with my meal. If I’m having ramen I’m either having water if it’s lunch, or wine or soju if it’s evening.

Try adding cheese if your Korean ramen is too spicy
Try adding cheese to your ramen if it’s too intense – it’s dairy good!

Another option if to get out some cheese. There are many varieties of ramen that come with cheese already, but you can add more. I’ve tried a couple of options. Sometimes I will sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over my noodles, adding more as I go. Other times, I go straight for shredded cheddar or mozzarella, stirring it all into a delicious cheesy bowl of deliciousness.

There are two advantages to doing this. One, just like the dairy in milk, the dairy in cheese will calm down the spice factor. And two, very few things are made worse by cheese. Adding it in is a tasty bonus to a meal that already tastes great.

Drink acidic beverages

If you’re avoiding any and all dairy completely, you can also counter the capsaicin in the peppery seasoning by drinking any other acidic beverage. You can go for lemonade, limeade, or various juices like orange juice. They all work by neutralizing the acid in the spice.

Acid neutralizes spice
If you like juice, this can help with the fire

Your mileage may vary with this. I’m not a big juice fan personally. I also can’t really reconcile mixing the flavour of something like orange juice or lemonade with a delicious kimchi-flavoured ramen. But if you love juice, this may work for you!

Stir in some sugar if your ramen is too spicy

When I was a kid, my grandmother on my dad’s side used to always add a bit of sugar to her plate of spaghetti. I remember asking her why in the world she would do that; it seemed so strange to me. She told me that the sugar countered the acidic content of the tomatoes in the spaghetti sauce, helping her avoid heartburn.

Sweet and spicy?
A spoonful of sugar makes the fiery heat go down

You can test this method with spicy food as well. Sweetening it can reduce the effects of the spiciness so that you can eat your ramen without losing your taste buds. Try white or brown sugar, or even stir in a little honey.

I’ve only used this method once and preferred the cheese trick by far, but it did definitely bring the heat down a bit.

Let it cool off

This is one trick that I don’t see pop up very often but it has always worked for me. One time I was trying valiantly to make my way through the Buldak Jjajangmyeon flavour. I’ve had Jjajangmyeon in restaurants and found it only pleasantly spicy, but the ramen version was pretty intense. My eyes were watering, my nose was running, my sinuses were steaming, and I just wasn’t in the mood for spicy that day.

I couldn’t imagine adding cheese; the flavours just didn’t seem compatible. I didn’t want to go with sugar either. Sadly, I gave up for a bit to give myself a break.

Let your ramen cool off a bit and see if that makes a difference in the Korean ramen spice level
Cool off those spicy noodles!

When I went back to it ten minutes later, the noodles had completely cooled off. To my surprise, it was much easier to eat. It was as though the spicy heat calmed down once the temperature heat had dropped.

There’s probably some scientific explanation for it. All I know is that ever since, if I have Korean ramen that is too spicy even for me, I just let it go cold or lukewarm. Then I can eat every last bite with no regrets.

Will you try one of these methods if your Korean ramen is too spicy?

At the end of the day, we all know that ramen (or ramyeon, or ramyun, or 라면) is delicious, but sometimes you just can’t deal with the flames that want to shoot out of your mouth like you’re a dragon in Game Of Thrones. If you’re disappointed because you think your comforting noodles are destined for the compost bin, give one of those tips a try.

With a little experimentation, you should be able to find a solution that works for you when your Korean ramen is just too damn spicy.

Do you have a secret tip?

Let me know in the comments if any of these tips work, but also let me know if there’s something else that works for you!

맛있게 드세요! (Eat well!)



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