Ramen is simply a Japanese soup made from long grain noodles. It usually consists of short grain noodles, typically Chinese-style thin wheat noodles, cooked in a pork or fish-style stock, and includes ingredients like scallions or thinly sliced vegetables, thinly sliced ginger, and mayo. Although many people confuse the two, to accurately refer to ramen as “ramen” or “noodle” would be misleading. Ramen can be made from any type of long grain noodles, including Udon, Nori, Sencha, Gozo, and many more. The soup is usually served during morning meals, but it’s also popular at dinner.
In western countries like the United States, the term “ramen” is rarely used except in the context of a Chinese or Japanese dish, where it is used to indicate a variety of soups like chicken tonkotsu soup, ginger carrots, or soybean sprouts. The first recipe for ramen was created during the Meiji Period (enchuria period) in nineteenth century. At that time, noodles were only used for cooking. They were also seen as a luxury item, so few households had them. The only place to find them was in small shops or houses along the road.
In Japan, however, ramen became more common, especially after the Meiji Period, when they were introduced by traders from China and Korea. In modern times, ramen has various definitions according to country, but they all agree on one thing: they are a soup made from long grain (often udon), noodles, and a variety of seasonings like soy sauce, shoyu (or soy oil), mirin (a distilled essence produced from rice) or ginger. Sometimes, the noodles are flatly fried. Most ramen is served cold. Some places serve it hot, but not all do.
In contrast to the Chinese wheat noodles, which are more firm and chewy, the Japanese ramen is softer and more elastic. To prepare it, you just need water and a pinch of sugar. No MSG or salt is needed, just water and the simple seasonings mentioned above. Because of its simpler preparation, the dish became more popular among Japanese people and spread all over the country. Ramen eventually became a national dish in Japan and is now enjoyed not only at home, but also restaurants all over the world.
The fame of ramen didn’t stop there. Ramen is now being served at fancy restaurants all over the world. American chefs have also discovered the genius of this simple soup and now, many ramen restaurants in the U.S. serve this very popular soup as a special offering. Of course, the popularity of ramen didn’t stop there, as the dish became even more famous in the Middle East, especially Egypt and Mesopotamia.
In North Africa and the Middle East, ramen was seen as a specialty of the Muslims. They used to bring the bowl of fresh ramen from China and mix it with their hot, strong soup that they made. By the time the Portuguese brought Portuguese chicken soup to Japan, the combination had already become a ramen staple. With the growing popularity of ramen all over the world, the dish has even been served in prison, where inmates would get together for ramen nights and share the dish with each other.