Any ramen fans here? I am! I am! 😀 I love ramen and it’s one of my comfort foods and I most especially like it during the cold and rainy season. Since I’ve been thinking about ramen, I started wondering about its history and where it actually originated.
So what is ramen?
Ramen (ラーメン rāmen, IPA: [ɽaːꜜmeɴ]) is a Japanese noodle dish. It consists of Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat- or (occasionally) fish-based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso, and uses toppings such as sliced pork (チャーシュー chāshū), dried seaweed (海苔 nori),kamaboko, green onions, and occasionally corn. Almost every locality in Japan has its own variation of ramen, from the tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen of Kyushu to the miso ramen of Hokkaido.
Upon my research, I found out that ramen is actually of Chinese origin and was believed to be introduced in Japan in 1910 by Chinese cooks at Tokyo‘s Rairaiken restaurant. Back in the days, ramen was called shina soba (Chinese soba) but today some call it chuka soba (Chinese soba) or just simply ramen.
The two main ingredients of ramen are noodles and broth. Most noodles are made from four basic ingredients: wheat flour, salt, water, and kansui, which is essentially a type of alkaline mineral water, containing sodium carbonate and usually potassium carbonate, as well as sometimes a small amount of phosphoric acid. Originally, kansui was named after the water from Inner Mongolia‘s Lake Kan which contained large amounts of these minerals and was said to be perfect for making these noodles. Making noodles with kansui lends them a yellowish hue as well as a firm texture. Eggs may also be substituted for kansui. Some noodles are made with neither eggs nor kansui and should only be used for yakisoba.
Ramen comes in various shapes and lengths. It may be thick, thin, or even ribbon-like, as well as straight or wrinkled.
Ramen soup is generally made from stock based on chicken or pork, combined with a variety of ingredients such as kombu (kelp), katsuobushi(skipjack tuna flakes), niboshi (dried baby sardines), beef bones, shiitake, and onions, and then flavored with salt, miso, or soy sauce. Other styles that have emerged later on include curry ramen and other flavors.
The resulting combination is generally divided into four categories (although new and original variations often make this categorization less clear-cut):
- Shio (“salt”) ramen is probably the oldest of the four and is a pale, clear, yellowish broth made with plenty of salt and any combination of chicken, vegetables, fish, and seaweed. Occasionally pork bones are also used, but they are not boiled as long as they are for tonkotsu ramen, so the soup remains light and clear. Chāshū is sometimes swapped for lean chicken meatballs, and pickled plums and kamaboko are popular toppings as well. Noodle texture and thickness varies among shio ramen, but they are usually straight rather than curly.
- Tonkotsu (豚骨, “pork bone”; not to be confused with tonkatsu) ramen usually has a cloudy white colored broth. It is similar to the Chinese baitang(白湯) and has a thick broth made from boiling pork bones, fat, and collagen over high heat for many hours, which suffuses the broth with a hearty pork flavor and a creamy consistency that rivals milk, melted butter or gravy (depending on the shop). Most shops, but not all, blend this pork broth with a small amount of chicken and vegetable stock and/or soy sauce. The noodles are thin and straight, and it is often served with beni shoga(pickled ginger). In recent years the latest trend in tonkotsu toppings is māyu (sesame oil), a blackish, aromatic oil made from either charred crushed garlic or Sesame seeds. It is a specialty of Kyushu, particularly Hakata-ku, Fukuoka (hence sometimes called “Hakata ramen”).
- Shōyu (“soy sauce”) ramen typically has a clear brown broth, based on a chicken and vegetable (or sometimes fish or beef) stock with plenty of soy sauce added resulting in a soup that is tangy, salty, and savory yet still fairly light on the palate. Shōyu ramen usually has curly noodles rather than straight ones, but this is not always the case. It is often adorned with marinated bamboo shoots or menma, green onions, kamaboko (fish cakes), nori (seaweed), boiled eggs, bean sprouts and/or black pepper; occasionally the soup will also contain chili oil or Chinese spices, and some shops serve sliced beef instead of the usual chāshū.
- Miso ramen is a relative newcomer, having reached national prominence around 1965. This uniquely Japanese ramen, which was developed inHokkaido, features a broth that combines copious amounts of miso and is blended with oily chicken or fish broth – and sometimes with tonkotsu or lard – to create a thick, nutty, slightly sweet and very hearty soup. Miso ramen broth tends to have a robust, tangy flavor, so it stands up to a variety of flavorful toppings: spicy bean paste or tōbanjan (豆瓣醤), butter and corn, leeks, onions, bean sprouts, ground pork, cabbage, sesame seeds, white pepper, and chopped garlic are common. The noodles are typically thick, curly, and slightly chewy.
- Char siu, sliced pork.
- Nori, dried seaweed.
- Boiled egg
- Bean sprout
Beginning in the 1980s, ramen became a Japanese cultural icon and was studied around the world from many perspectives. At the same time, local varieties of ramen were hitting the national market and could even be ordered by their regional names. A ramen museum opened in Yokohama in 1994.
Ah, quite a few to choose from, right? So which one is the best?!?! I’ve tried all of it but my favorite of all time is chanpon ramen. Chanpon is consisted of thicker noodles with a more starchy sauce and topped with mostly seafood. Yes, seafood!!! Nom! Nom! I love seafood that’s why chanpon is my favorite ramen of all time followed by tonkotsu ramen! Mmm…mmm…good! 😀