The wonderful world of Ramen
Ramen is a very popular noodle dish and was originally introduced to Japan by Chinese immigrants. Learn about its origin and varieties.
Ramen is a very popular noodle dish and was originally introduced to Japan by Chinese immigrants, most likely around the 19th or early 20th century. The dish consists of wheat noodles in a broth, topped with Chinese-style roasted pork. As its popularity grew over time, so did the number of recipes. Ramen types are diverse and typically bound to certain areas, though ramen chefs often have their own signature recipe and specific cooking style. In fact, one can now even find variations such as tsukemen (where the noodles come on the side and the broth serves as a dipping sauce) and the famously convenient instant ramen.
The unifying elements to ramen are a soup/broth, noodles and toppings.
Shio (salt) ramen
Generally speaking, ramen broth consists of chicken bones, pork bones, seafood, or a combination. It is then flavoured further with other ingredients. A popular type of broth is tonkotsu, originating from Kyushu, a heavy and rich broth made primarily from pork. Vegetable broths are also more common these days. Before serving, tare (a type of sauce used for an extra punch of flavour) is added to the bowl. Flavour-wise, there are 3 main types: soy, miso, and shio (salt).
The noodles for ramen come in various types, from very thin to very thick, and with a straight or wavy shape. They are generally made from wheat flour, salt, water, and kansui (a type of alkaline mineral water), making them distinguishable from other noodles such as udon or soba noodles. Their cooking time varies as well, depending on the customer’s preference (soft, medium or hard cooked noodles).
The toppings are especially varied, and can be anything from stir-fried vegetables to butter. The most common ones are:half boiled soy-marinated eggs, chashu (Chinese-style roast pork), menma (pickled/fermented bamboo shoots), nori (dried seaweed) and bean sprouts.
Not only each region, but each restaurant tends to have their own combination of umami-rich broth, noodle type and toppings, making ramen an especially fun dish to try at multiple places!