Before we get into the making of ramen, let’s first learn what the dish is. Ramen is made from flavorful broth made from meats or fish served along with noodles, sliced meat, vegetables, some greens in a big bowl. Invented by the Japanese, each region of Japan has now created their own version of the dish, from the tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen of Kyushu to the miso ramen coming from Hokkaido.
There are four things that make up a ramen bowl.
It all started somewhere in the early 1900s when a few Chinese restaurants from Canton and Shanghai tried to make a ramen with some pork broth, a few toppings and Chinese-style wheat noodles. Before anyone could predict it, ramen has become a hot-selling item across the region.
Let’s break down each component and understand what are they made up, what are the different types in them and how are they used.
The Noodles –
The noodles are mainly made from four basic ingredients i.e. wheat flour, salt, water, and kansui - a type of alkaline mineral water. Making noodles with kansui gives it a yellowish hue as well as a firm texture. Eggs can be substituted for kansui to make these noodles.
Ramen comes in various shapes and lengths. It may be thick, thin, or even ribbon-like, as well as straight or wrinkled. They are just boiled in the water for a couple of minutes before being introduced to the next component i.e. the soup.
The Soup –
The soup is made from stock based on Chicken or pork or beef which is combined with different ingredients which add the flavors to it. Some of the ingredients are like Katsubushi i.e. Tuna flakes, Niboshi – Dried baby sardines, Shitake mushrooms, onions, Kombu i.e. kelp and there are beef and pig bones as well.
The Flavour –
Flavours are the main component of ramen. There are five original flavours but new ones keep coming as people love experimenting.
- Shōyu (Which is Soy Sauce) ramen is the oldest of the five, it has a clear brown broth, based on chicken and vegetable stock with plenty of soy sauce added. The addition of Soy Sauce makes the soup tangy, salty & savory. Shōyu ramen usually has curly noodles rather than straight ones, but this does differ at times. It is often made more attractive looking with the addition of marinated bamboo shoots, green onions, kamaboko (fish cakes), nori (seaweed), boiled eggs, bean sprouts.
- Shio ("salt") ramen 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 to flavor the broth, but they are not boiled as compared to for tonkotsu ramen, so the soup remains light and clear but still has that flavor. Noodle texture and thickness varies among shio ramen, but they are usually straight rather than curly. For the meat, Chāshū is replaced with chicken meatballs, maybe with additions of kamaboko i.e. the processed fish roll.
- Miso ramen is a relative newcomer and making an entry in the market somewhere around 1965. This uniquely Japanese ramen, which was developed in Hokkaido, features a broth that combines copious miso and is blended with oily chicken or fish broth – and sometimes lard – to create a thick, nutty, slightly sweet soup. The broth of the Miso Ramen tends to have a robust, tangy flavor, so it stands up to a variety of flavorful toppings like spicy bean paste, butter and corn, onions, bean sprouts, ground pork/chicken, cabbage, sesame seeds are common. The noodles are typically thick, curly, and slightly chewy.
- Curry ramen was first created in 1965 in Hokkaido and the soup is mainly made with pork bones and vegetables that is then seasoned with curry. The noodles are thick and curly very similar to the ones used in the Miso Ramen. Toppings can include Char siu, wakame, and bean sprouts
- Tonkotsu ("pork bone"; not to be confused with tonkatsu) soup usually has a cloudy white colored broth. 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. Served along with a slice of braised Pork belly and has curly noodles also other additional ingredients can include kombu, shoyu, chili bean paste, sesame seeds.
The Topping –
After the ramen is done, it is garnished with toppings for additional flavors and seasonings. Some of the toppings are -
There you go. That’s everything you’d ever want to know about ramen.