When you think of Asian food, a few different dishes might come to mind but one of them will definitely be ramen noodles. Its popularity has grown tremendously in the past few years and it is now amongst the most well-known Japanese foods around the world.
Although it is commonly recognised as a Japanese dish, ramen didn’t originate in the land of the rising sun. The noodle soup actually comes from China and it was only adopted by the Japanese in the 19th century because of its simplicity and convenience. During the industrial revolution, workers needed something quick and easy to slurp down and ramen was the perfect meal.
The dish has now become a staple in Japanese cuisine and has gained popularity worldwide. It has been refined throughout the years and is now not only a dish but also an entire culinary and dining experience. If you ever visit Tokyo, you will notice that the Japanese capital city is bristling with ramen joints and stalls where diners sit shoulder to shoulder enjoying the delicious noodle bowls the ramen shokunin (master) has prepared.
The Japanese wheat-based noodle soup is classified based on the seasoning used to flavour the soup. Although there are an infinite variety of different ramens out there, we’ve put together a list covering the 4 main ones.
1. Shoyu ramen (soy sauce ramen)
Shoyu, which means soy sauce in Japanese, is the ingredient used to flavour this particular style of ramen. This is the most common type in Japan and it’s typically chicken broth which has been flavoured with soy sauce. The soy used for this is not the one we tend to use in our stir-fries but a specific one made from a blend of ingredients. Shoyu ramen broth is a light brown colour and it tends to be topped with sliced pork, soft-boiled egg and bamboo shoots, amongst other ingredients.
2. Shio ramen (salt ramen)
Shio means salt and this ramen broth is traditionally made with a mix of chicken and veggies, although some also use pork or fish bones. Sea salt is the oldest form of ramen seasoning and it is generally the type of ramen that is consumed in Western countries. This variety of ramen is a light-coloured golden yellow and toppings include barbecued pork, dried seaweed and spring onions.
3. Miso ramen (soybean ramen)
Miso ramen is flavoured with fermented soybean paste, making it an umami-rich dish. It tends to be served in a chicken stock which is seasoned with miso and the toppings used for this one tend to be heavier ingredients, such as stir-fried pork belly. Miso ramen’s broth is opaque and has a creamy texture.
4. Tonkotsu ramen (pork marrow ramen)
This type of ramen is not a flavour, but rather an ingredient and its broth is white, creamy and thick. It’s made from simmering pork bones for 15 hours until the collagen dissolves into the stock and it’s one of the richest ramens out there.
Ramen is completed by adding toppings, which can range from meat and veggies, to seafood and condiments. Some favourites are:
- Chashu (braised pork)
- Spring onions
- Soft-boiled eggs
- Sesame seeds
- Pak choi
- Nori (dried seaweed sheets)
- Wakame (seaweed)
- Menma (fermented bamboo shoots)
- Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
- Sichimi togarashi (Japanese 7 spice)
- Miso (the fermented soybean paste is used as a topping)
- Chilli oil
Although this is a basic guide of the most common Japanese ramen types out there, we hope it has helped you learn more about this popular dish and the noodle soup scene.
If you want to learn more about Asian cuisine, read our blog on the different types of noodles.