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What Is Ramen?
Ramen are thin, yellow noodles made from wheat and typically served in a flavorful hot broth. Kansui (alkaline water) gives ramen noodles their unique, springy texture and yellow color. Ramen originated in China, but it became very popular in Japan, particularly after World War II, when Ramen’s popularity rose above other Japanese noodles such as soba and udon.
5 Types of Ramen
From Tokyo to New York City, chefs at ramen shops use a variety of soup bases and noodle styles to make this comfort food staple.
- Shoyu ramen: Shoyu ramen is served in a soup base, typically chicken broth, flavored with soy sauce. It is the most common type of ramen in Japan.
- Miso ramen: Miso ramen is served in a broth such as chicken stock and seasoned with miso (fermented soybean) paste.
- Tonkotsu ramen: This type of ramen is served in a fatty, golden pork bone broth.
- Instant ramen: Instant ramen consists of dried noodles and a flavoring packet that can be rehydrated with boiling water. This pantry item was invented in Japan in 1958 and can be found in grocery stores around the world.
- Ramyeon ramen: This Korean instant ramen often features the spicy flavors of kimchi and/or gochujang (fermented red pepper paste).
8 Classic Ramen Toppings
A bowl of ramen is made complete with toppings. Some favorites include:
- Chashu: Fatty pork belly or loin simmered in soy sauce and mirin (rice wine) until tender.
- Green onions: Thinly slice green onions, also known as scallions.
- Soft-boiled eggs: Hard boil eggs, marinate them in soy sauce, and sliced each one in half.
- Bean sprouts: Blanch or stir-fry this crunchy vegetable before adding to the ramen broth.
- Sesame seeds: For a nutty flavor, add sesame seeds or sesame oil.
- Shiitake mushrooms: To achieve an umami flavor to ramen soup, add shiitake mushrooms. (Dried shiitakes can also be used as part of a dashi soup base.)
- Bok choy: Quarter this leafy cabbage before adding it to the ramen broth.
- Nori: Add thin sheets of dried seaweed to the ramen.
4 Tips for Making Ramen
If you're making Japanese ramen for the first time, consider these tips:
- The best ramen starts with high-quality ingredients. If you have the time, using homemade chicken stock and fresh ramen noodles will yield a more delicious soup.
- Prep toppings ahead of time. Ramen noodles cook quickly. To avoid soggy noodles, make sure your soup base and toppings are ready before you start cooking the noodles.
- Don't salt the ramen cooking water. Although ramen noodles cook similarly to pasta, you don't need to salt the cooking water since the noodles already contain salt.
- Add umami. Satisfying ramen broths are packed with umami from savory meat, miso paste, mushrooms, and/or MSG. If your ramen tastes bland, try adding an umami ingredient.