Ramen

ramen noodle bowl
Are you ready to learn everything about ramen?

Index

  1. What is ramen?
  2. Types of ramen
  3. How to make ramen
  4. How to eat ramen
  5. What can I add to ramen?
  6. How many calories are in one bowl of ramen?
  7. Is ramen healthy?
  8. Ramen restaurants
  9. What is the origin of ramen?
  10. Why is ramen popular in Japan?
  11. Trivia about ramen

What is ramen?

bowl of ramen

Ramen is one of the most popular and traditional dishes in Japanese cuisine.  The main body of the dish is a combination of wheat noodles and meat or fish-based broth. Moreover, meat, fish and vegetables are used as toppings to personalize the dish.

Eating ramen is so common in Japan than you can find hundreds of regional variations depending where you travel. In order to achieve such a range of tastes there are two different approaches. Firstly, the broth might be based on different kinds of meat or fish and flavored with different sauces like miso or soy sauce. Moreover, variations in the toppings are huge are usually they reflect the traditional foods of each area.

Types of ramen

Giving details about all types of ramen will be impossible given the huge amount of existing variations of this Japanese dish. Because of that, in this article we will mention 5 different types of ramen based on their popularity. These are, therefore, the types you will hear more during daily Japanese conversation.

Firstly, we have to introduce the concept of tare. Tare is the strong and salty essence placed at the bottom of each bowl before introducing the rest of ingredients. In Japanese ramen culture the main tare essences are shoyu, miso and shio, which determine our first 3 types of ramen.

Additionally, we will like to introduce 2 other types of ramen. These are not based on the tare but they are equally popular. These are the tonkotsu ramen and instant ramen.

Shoyu Ramen

shoyu ramen

It is the most popular type of ramen. Shoyu ramen contains broth based on soy sauce.

Also, it is often flavored with the addition of meat or fish. Because of the wide verity of soy sauces existing in Japan, the taste of this ramen varies hugely.

Miso Ramen

miso ramen

This ramen contains broth based on miso. Miso is basic ingredient for many Japanese dishes consisting on a paste of fermented bean.  Even though just a few regions are specialized on this ramen, miso commonly mixed with other broths to obtain this flavor so loved by Japanese.

Shio Ramen

shio ramen

Shio is just the word used in Japan for “salt”. Broth used in Shio ramen is flavored with the essence built upon a reduction made from dried seafood, seaweeds, and other salty ingredients. Ofter very light colored, shio ramen is saltier than other broth styles.

Tonkotsu ramen

tonkotsu-ramen

Independently from the tare used, tonkotsu ramen gets its typical flavor from the pork bones used to obtain its broth.  It has usually the darker-coloured broth and contains salt and/or soy sauce.

Instant ramen

cup noodles

Commonly known in Japan as cup ramen, consists on dry ramen with several dry ingredients, sauces and powders. They are mixed in a cup and hydrated with hot water for around 3 minutes. After that they will be ready to eat. Unlike the varieties listed above, instant ramen name is not derived from its taste. Nevertheless, it is such a convenient and cheap version of ramen that is sold on any supermarket and convenience store. In addition it comes in many different tastes.

What are ramen noodles made of?

noodles made of

Ramen noodles have their origin on Chinese-style noodles, they are made from wheat flour, water, and salt. The mixture is rolled on a flat surface or kneaded with one’s hands until is formed the desired shape. After that, they are cut and steamed. However, what gives ramen noodles their real essence is kansui, which is a type of water rich in alkalines. Mixing the noodles with this water give them their unique springy texture.

How to make ramen

how to make ramen

Ramen is actually an easy dish to prepare. Choosing the right ingredients to prepare ramen soup is probably the most important factor when it comes to the taste of your ramen. Another important factor is the presentation. Japanese culture cares a lot about the arrangement of ingredients and the final appearance of the dish. Being ramen a dish with many toppings, their placement within the dish plays an important role.

In the following video you can follow a step-by-step shoyu ramen recipe. The most traditional ramen in Japan.

How to eat ramen

old man eating ramen

First of all, if you eat ramen in Japan, it will be served in a bowl and the only tool at your service will be the chopsticks. Did you know that many Japanese really feel that food with chopsticks tastes better? Anyway, if you haven’t mastered yet your chopsticks skills, do your intensive training and follow the tips below to become a professional ramen eater!

First approach: ramen is messy!

So, this is it, we are in front of or bowl of ramen and we only have a set of chopsticks to face it. The first problem we will find is that all ingredients are mixed together. If we try to pick too much of them, we will end up with a big mess of noodles meat and vegetables wrapped together.

Therefore we should grab less ramen noodles that you think you need. After that, pull them out little by little until they are completely out of the bowl.

Second phase: ramen is out, now what?

We finally have nice amount of ramen out of the dish. Unfortunately, we pulled from them so slowly that almost all broth and fat felt into the bowl. We need to get them back to out noodles! Luckily for us, the noodles on our chopsticks are completely untangled. So quickly! Dip them into the broth and pull them again towards your mouth.

Third stage: careful, ramen is hot!

Oh boy… we were so excited about all that fat coming that we forgot that ramen broth is crazy hot. Okay, don’t panic, there are an ancient Japanese technique to deal with this problem. Shape your lips like you would sip really hot coffee and while you slurp, envision noodles riding a tunnel of air into your mouth.  Good news here, you might slurp as loudly as so want. In Japanese culture that’s completely normal when it comes to noodles

Fourth and last: ramen is over

We did it! We finish all noodles and toppings. Know is time to finish the soup. Leave your chopsticks aside, grab your bowl, bring it to your mouth and drink that taste broth.

What can I add to ramen?

ramen toppings

Bassically any kind of meat, fish or vegetable might work as ramen toppings. In this section we will summarize the most common ingredients added to ramen.

Fish and meat as ramen toppings

  • Chashu: Fatty slices of roasted pork that make the most common topping for ramen
  • Kakuni: Pork belly based in low fire and cut into cubes
  • Kamaboko: Slices of steamed fish cake.
  • Naruto: A traditional type of kamaboko with a sawtooth edge and white color with a pink spiral design
  • Other meat: Similar to chashu, slices of other meats like beef and duck are also commonly served.

Vegetables as ramen toppings

  • Menma: Fermented bamboo shoots with a salty flavor
  • Negi: Chopped green onions and it spicy version (karanegi)
  • Moyashi: Soy bean sprouts that can be served raw, boiled of roasted
  • Seaweed: Several types like nori and wakane are usually added to ramen
  • Kikurage: Wood eat mushrooms
  • Karashi takana: Spice pickled mustard greens
  • Kaiware: Radish sprouts
  • Kizami: Pickled ginger
  • Other veggies: Corn, onion, cabagge, garlic among other are also used as ramen toppings

Daily products as ramen toppings

  • Tamago: Literally “egg” in Japanese. It can be served in many different ways: hard boiled, soft boiled, marinated or raw. Japanese people love to add raw egg to their foods
  • Butter: Used to increase the creaminess and depth of ramen. Commonly used for miso and shio ramen.

How many calories are in one bowl of ramen?

healthy ramen

The number of calories of a single bowl of ramen will vary depending on the size and the ingredients. Given the variety of ingredient that is might contain, calories are variable. However they are in average 500 kcal per bowl. Is a delicious food but it not convenient to eat it every day.

Is ramen healthy?

Well, in this section we have to separate between traditional ramen and  instant ramen. The preparation method and the ingredients contained by each type make them clearly different. As a result they affect in different ways our health. Let’s analyze the pros and cons of each one.

Traditional ramen

traditional ramen

Pros
A bowl of ramen in a restaurant contains in average 500 kcal. Therefore, it is a good caloric complement for the daily requirement of humans (2500 kcal for men and 2000 kcal for women). Additionally, a good combination of fresh topping ingredients can provide important nutrients and vitamins required for a healthy life.

Cons
The broth used in most of ramen is based on miso, soy sauce or salt. The three of them are quite salty ingredients and therefore rich in sodium. A human should not consume more than 2.3 g of sodium per day in order to avoid cardiovascular issues related with the blood pressure. A bowl of ramen might contain between 1.5 and 2.5 gr of sodium. They cover more than half of the sodium required and some of them exceed it. This is the main reason the daily consumption of ramen is not recommended. However, eating traditional ramen from time to time won’t hurt you. Some people even use this moderate consumption within their diets

Instant ramen

cup noodle

Pros
The average cup of instant ramen contains around 300 kcal, less than a bowl of traditional ramen. They are also rich in vitamin B and manganese. Unfortunately the list of benefits ends here.

Cons
Instant ramen don’t use the fresh topping ingredients associated to traditional ramen. As a consequence they lack many important nutrients, including protein, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Moreover, as their traditional version they contain big doses of sodium within the powder used as essence.

But that is not the worst part. Instant ramen contain two additives called MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) and TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone). This products help preserving and enhancing the flavor of instant ramen. Although they are not dangerous in small dosis, the high consumption of these two additives have been associated to a series of health conditions like headaches, nausea, high blood pressure, neurological damage, liver enlargement, and increased risk of lymphoma.

Summarizing

Eating ramen in a moderate way is not dangerous and it can be even include in a healthy diet. However its daily consumption might results in serious problems of nutrition.

In addition, the traditional ramen contains more nutrients and vitamins. Therefore it is recommended to choose it among its instant version.

Ramen restaurants

ramen house

Ramen houses or bars are called “ramen ya” in Japanese. “Ya” is a suffix used commonly that means shop or establishment. Even some ramen restaurant provide a sit-down service, many of them operate in a short order style. Japanese people like to enjoy ramen during daily life, which is usually quite busy. Therefore, the food places that avoid delays related to meal service are considered convenient.

If you travel to Japan we strongly recommend that you try the ramen served in local shops from small towns and villages. However, being Tokyo the most populated city in Japan, world most popular ramen shop established there. Below, some of the most famous ramen restaurants are described.

Ushio

Ushio’s specialty is shoyu soba ramen. Its broth is made out of unpasteurized soy sauce enhanced with fish essence. Every bowl comes with three slices of smoked duck meat. In addition, it includes flavored egg, sliced pork and different vegetables as toppings. The fish flavored broth potentiates the duck and pork aroma in an unique flavor.

Address: 2 Chome-4-4 Kandaawaji Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0063, Japan

Toripaitan Kageyama

Toripaitan’s specializes is a thick and white broth based on chicken called tori paitan. Even though it is considered one on the richest ramen broths in the world, it’s also incredible refreshing. The toppings are half-boiled egg, fried green onions, steamed chicken and red-leaf lettuce. In addition, noodles chewy texture combines perfectly with the intense broth.

Address: 1 Chome-4-18 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku City, Tokyo, 169-0075, Japan

Haru

Haru’s most popular dish is “special soba”. Pork chashu topped noodles are immersed in a think and rich broth based on soy sauce. Dried seaweed, menma, flavored egg and green onions complement the thin but al dente noodles used on this tasty dish. Moreover, Haru provides the option of noodle refill for only 200 extra yen (2 dolars).

Address: 1 Chome-11-7, Shitaya, Taito City, Tokyo, 110-0004, Japan

Ramen nagi

Ramen Nagi is a well-known franchise in Tokyo that serves possibly the best fish broth in Japan. People speak wonderful things about this store and there are often long lines to enter. However, it is worth visiting. Even people who don’t like seafood get carried away by this irresistible soup.

Address: 1 Chome-1-10 Kabuki, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0021, Japan

What is the origin of ramen?

ramen origins

From 1900, restaurants serving Chinese food were offering simple version of ramen noodles with few ingredients and a salty broth. Until the 1950s, this dish was called Chinese soba in Japan.

However, after this year, with the end on the seconds world war,  a new version of this food called “Sapporo ramen” is elaborated in the city of Hokkaidō. The word ramen appear, probably, from the artisanal way in which these noodles are made; that is, the union of the Chinese characters “ra” (stretch) and “men” (noodle). The popularity of Sapporo ramen contributes to extend the word ramen across all the country.

On August 25 of 1958, Momofuku Andō, president and founder of Nissin Foods, launched the the first instant noodle soup, into the Japanese market. And it is on the 80st when ramen becomes normal mean for both young and old people. Finally, in the early 90’s the ramen experienced a boom across the country, especially in the huge cities, which would put their name as a local brand: Hakata (Fukuoka), Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Onomichi, Wakayama, Kitakata, Sapporo, Hakodate , etc.

The ramen became a real social phenomenon and even media created programs dedicated exclusively to this dish. Nowadays, ramen has been fully integrated in Japanese cuisine. It is considered a purely Japanese product and it is usually consumed from fast food establishments, street vendors or at home.

ramen popularity

As we saw in the previous section, the history of ramen provides several clues to understand its current popularity in Japan. However, if we focus on ramen as it is nowadays, we can mention several other reasons.

It’s convenient: Both instant and traditional ramen are cheap compared with other Japanese meals and they are prepared and served quickly.

It recharges you: It contains a good amount of calories so it’s a good option to fill your stomach during a busy day.

It’s delicious: The salty and fatty taste of ramen became addictive easily. Many Japanese people consume it quite often

It’s not always the same: As happens in with many Japanese dishes, the combination of ingredients allows a wide variety of tastes. For this reason, you enjoy ramen differently each time.

Trivia about ramen

Cup noodle museum

Yeah, it isn’t a joke. Such a place really exists in Japan. Actually, the same company founded two museums in Osaka and Yokohama respectively. In these museums we can experience importance of the development of cup noodles and it influence in the history of Japan. Moreover you can pay 500 yens (5 dolars) and make your own instant ramen by choosing the ingredients, the type of noodles and even creating your own cup design.

Check on their webpage!

Manpuku

Again cup noodles! Manpuku is the name of a Japanese Drama that follows the live of Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen. Even the show is not a documentary it is based on historical facts and delivers a message on the importance of inventiveness and discovery.

Ramen Heads

Ramen Heads is a documentary in which Osamu Tomita, also known as the king of ramen in Japan, takes us into the amazing world of ramen makers. During the film, we are guided through all stages of the ramen recipe. “How to create the perfect soup?”, “Where to find the finest ingredients?” and “How to prepare unique noodles?” are some of the question that are tried to be answered by the obsessive approach of Osamu Tomita towards the creation of the perfect ramen bowl.

The Ramen Girl

The Ramen Girl is a 2008 romantic comedy-drama film produced un United States and starred by Brittany Murphy. This film narrates the story of a girl who goes to Japan and decides to learn how to cook ramen. Reception was average but people considered the film entertaining.