Ramen has taken the western world by storm, but what is this dish and what has led to it being so popular all across the world?
Simply put, ramen is a Japanese noodle soup, with a combination of a rich flavoured broth, one of a variety of types of noodle and a selection of meats or vegetables, often topped with a boiled egg. In Japan ramen is considered a fast food, with many small restaurants and street vendors offering a warming bowl of this delicious soup.
The dish of ramen is heavily regionalised, with different variations served in different areas of Japan, although all variations are based on the same broth and noodle concept. Take a look at the different styles of ramen available and the ingredients they feature below –
Ramen Broth Styles
One of the essential ingredients in Ramen is the broth, making up a vast majority of the final dish. However, not all Ramen broths are the same, here are the most popular types –
Shio (salt) – known as Shio Tare, these broths are often clear or pale and tend to be paired with chicken, fish or vegetables. This style of broth is traditionally the lightest style and tends to be utilised when the broth is to be the prominent flavour of the dish.
Shoyu (Soy Sauce) – known as shoyu tare, this broth is the oldest of the broth styles and is typically made of a mix of chicken or vegetable stock and soy sauce. This broth style is very popular in Japan and is often paired with chicken or seafood, it is very uncommon to see it used with pork. This broth style is often salty and sweet and pairs well with many popular Ramen ingredients.
Miso – A newer addition to ramen, miso paste is now often added to the broth to create a distinct savoury taste. It is very obvious to the eye when miso has been used in the ramen, as it will turn the broth opaque rather than clear. Where as Shio and Shoyu are used to add to and accentuate the flavour of the broth, miso paste is used to create a completely separate and complex taste of its own.
Tonkotsu – A slightly different take on the ramen broth, tonkotsu utilises either shio or shoyu as well as the stock from boiling pork bones. This broth is often a whitish colour and distinctly different to the other varieties above. Tonkotsu is less common than other broths, but is still considered a popular ramen dish in Japan.
As well as a distinctive broth, noodles are a very important part of ramen. They add flavour and substance to the dish and play just as big a part as the other ingredients included.
Ramen noodles tend to be made with Lye water (potassium carbonate solution), which gives them the yellow colour that is often associated with ramen, it also helps to give them a good texture to avoid getting lost in the broth. Ramen noodles can come in all shapes and sizes and some regions of Japan will serve straight noodles, some serve curly noodles, it can be down to where you are.
Now the broth and noodles have been decided, the toppings are the next element to a delicious ramen, here are just some of the popular toppings that feature regularly.
Chashu – These are slices of roasted or braised pork and are often sweet.
Kamaboko – These are slices of steamed fish cake.
Tamago – A hard boiled, soft boiled or often marinated egg. These are very popular on almost all types of ramen.
Nori – Nori or seaweed is a common ramen topping, due to its many nutrients.
Menma – These are seasoned or often fermented bamboo shoots.
Corn – The texture and taste of sweetcorn is often used to add another element to ramen dishes.
If you’re looking to try ramen then why not try this great dish at home, our great recipe for traditional ramen is based on a regional version from Fukuoka and features chicken and pork.