Ramen is a representative Japanese food.
Most of tourists visiting Japan will eat Ramen at least once. As with the global trend having more Japanese food, the number of Ramen restaurants is increasing.
Then how much do you know about Ramen?
What are the noodles made of? Rice or wheat?
What is the soup made of? Veggies, corianders, or beef?
What are the toppings? Tomatoes, corianders, or beef?
Ramen chefs in Japan take incredibly a lot of time and efforts to serve just a single bowl of Ramen. It is very interesting that while those enthusiasm for cooking Ramen spread nationwide, a basic concept of Ramen has been established.
We would like to show you this basic concept ― what Ramen is like.
Features of Ramen
Ramen originally came from China as Chinese noodles and developed into Ramen in Japan. However, there are lots of different noodles in Asia depending on the country and region. Chinese noodle soup is basically made of chicken soup while Taiwan noodle is made of beef or cow bone. Also, Vietnamese noodles are made of rice.
The key features of Ramen are wheat noodles, complicated soup and toppings. Ramen noodles are made of wheat and mixed with Kansui (alkaline salt solution) to make them rich-flavored and chewy. When boiling pasta in water with baking soda, the same reaction occurs and makes pasta as chewy as Ramen noodles.
Common ingredients of soup are soy sauce and broth which is made of chicken, veggies, seafood etc. Also, some local Ramen soup are made of pork bone or flying fish broth.
Common toppings are roasted pork fillets, bean sprouts, seaweed, bamboo shoots, boiled eggs and Japanese leeks. Toppings vary depending on kinds of Ramen.
Main Variety of Ramen
Soy sauce based Ramen
Chinese noodles, which are the origin of Ramen, are mostly soy sauce based, and soy sauce Ramen are the most common. However, even among those there are differences. Some are similar to traditional Chinese noodles, and others are like combination of seafood and pork bone based Ramen (called "Iekei Ramen", which are originated from Yokohama, Kanagawa). Either is soy sauce based Ramen and mostly served with toppings such as roasted pork fillets, dried seaweed and Japanese leeks.
Miso based Ramen
Miso Ramen is popular in Hokkaido and features with rich miso flavor and toppings such as butter and corns. Also, the noodles are thinner and contain egg, which are called “thin curly noodles” and differentiated from others. Today, spicy Miso Ramen (with miso mixed with chili on top) is kind of a trend.
Salt based Ramen
Salt based Ramen is popular in Hokkaido too and features with light taste. The toppings are more variable, for example chicken ham instead of roasted pork fillets. The soup is similar to that of Vietnamese rice noodles, Pho and goes well with coriander.
Pork bone based Ramen
Pork bone based Ramen is popular in western regions of Japan、mainly in Fukuoka and Wakayama, and features with rich soup extracted from pork bone over a long time.
“Haskata Ramen” is a representative. It features with whitey soup extracted from pork skull and thin noodles. “Wakayama Ramen” is another Ramen categorized into pork bone based Ramen, but it’s more soy sauce based and with the toppings such as red pickled gingers and takana pickles.
“Kitakata Ramen” and “Iekei Ramen” are also categorized into pork bone based Ramen.
Japanese people have extraordinary passions and own tastes for Ramen as you can see from the regionally different Ramen cultures in Japan.
Generally, 3 top representative Japanese Ramen are “Sapporo Ramen (Miso based Ramen)”, “Hakata Ramen (Pork bone based Ramen)”, and “Kitakata Ramen (Pork bone and seafood based Ramen)”. However, there are more variety nationwide such as “Tsugaru (Aomori) Ramen” and “Okinawa Soba”, which features with thick noodles and unusual toppings of pork spareribs.
You can cook those Ramen even at home as long as you take some time and efforts. We strongly believe you will fall for authentic Ramen once you try it and know their long history and profoundness.