Your Personal Japanese Ramen Guide
If you’re not too familiar with ramen, or you want to shift beyond the packaged, instant noodle varieties, we have you covered! Discover the different broths of this celebrated soup, which noodles pair best, and how you can crown it off with the perfect toppings.
A Brief History of Ramen
The history of ramen is lengthy.
Sources, like NYU history professor George Solt, claim that this popular Japanese dish dates back centuries to China. The Japanese translation of “ramen” (ラーメン), is derived from the Chinese word, “lamian” (拉麵).
Fast forward to the 20th century—the first Cup O’Noodles comes to America in 1973, according to Solt.
In continuation of its history, ramen has hit the mark as a very popular and delectable noodle supper.
Ramen Flavors and Broths
There are many variations of ramen flavors, as many variations as there are creative minds to think of them. They’re all derived from these five main ramen broth flavors:
1. Shio (塩)
2. Miso (味噌)
3. Shoyu (醤油)
4. Tonkotsu (とんこつ)
5. Tori Paitan (鶏白湯)
Ramen shops will often alter these basic broths to create their own unique flavors, like secret recipes or contemporary ramen masterpieces.
But, before making changes to an original broth, let’s first learn the fundamentals of ramen. It’s like learning the main chords of the guitar, so you can later riff up new and original melodies. Think of yourself as a ramen rockstar.
- Salt-based soup broth
- Saltier than other broth styles
Light colored broth, or clear
- The miso ramen flavor comes from fermented Japanese soy paste.
- It has a heavy, savory taste
- Features umami (sea urchin) flavors
- Check out our Vegetarian Miso Ramen meal kit!
- Light broth made with soy sauce
- One of the most common broths
- Is often flavored with the addition of meat or fish
- Check out the Chicken and Vegetable Ramen meal kit from Hakubaku!
- Pork bone-based soup broth
- Full base, not often clear
- Contains salt and/or soy sauce for flavoring
- Hakubaku has a very satisfying BBQ Pork Ramen that you should try.
Tori Paitan Ramen
- Chicken bone-based soup broth
- It’s seasoned with salt, soy sauce, and other herbs to extract the natural flavors from the bones.
- Simmers for hours
- It this touches a craving, check out the Sweet Chili Shrimp Ramen meal kit, by Hakubaku.
Oodles of Ramen Noodles
There are countless varieties of noodles in Japan but, ramen noodles are distinct. Ramen noodles are made from wheat flour, salt, and a special type of alkaline mineral water, called "kansui." This special water makes for special noodles. The alkaline water gives the noodles their characteristic yellow coloring, as well as a certain bounciness in the soup.
Curly Noodles are typically paired with miso-based ramen. The wavy texture of the noodles captures the floating nutty traces of fermented soybean.
Straighter Noodles are more often paired with tonkotsu and tori paitan broths. These thin, straight noodles adhere together, making it easy to slurp the pork or chicken broths.
Instant Noodles are most likely associated with lighter soups, like shio and shoyu flavors. Shio and Shoyu flavored soups are pretty non-discriminate when it comes to noodles, so you can see them with paired with oodles of different types.
(source: Serious Eats)
Top o’ the Ramen to Ya
Your ramen meal has not been complete until you top it off. Below, is a list of some of the most popular toppings to pair with ramen.
- Roasted or braised pork, (chashu)
- Bamboo shoots with salt (menma)
- Green onions or leeks (negi)
- Bean sprouts (moyashi)
- Eggs—soft boiled, hard boiled, marinated, or raw (tamago)
- Seaweed (wakame and nori)
- Steamed fish cake (kamaboko)
Feeling Souped Up?
You should be feeling pretty knowledgeable about ramen by now—or hungry for it! Tell us, what’s your favorite ramen? Where do you like to go to eat it? Or, if you prefer to eat at home, which is your favorite meal kit to order? We always love to hear from you. Feel free to ask us your questions, or share your ramen experiences.