Ramen is a delicious, comforting and very popular food in Japan. Often served in a bowl of soup, it’s an easy meal to make and has been loved for centuries. It can be found all over Japan, especially in cities such as Tokyo and Yokohama but it can also be made at home.
When it comes to defining ramen, you need to start with the broth. It can come in a variety of flavors and is usually classified into the following categories: shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt), miso (soybean paste) or tonkotsu (pork bone).
Shoyu and Shio tend to be lighter in flavor, while Miso tends to have a robust taste. Tonkotsu, which is often referred to as Japanese beef stew, has a richer, deeper flavor and can be quite meaty.
The noodles themselves are made from wheat flour, water and kansui (alkaline mineral water). The noodle texture can be different depending on the chef and the region and kansui is a key ingredient to give the noodles their springiness.
There are many ramen types to choose from, each with their own distinctive flavor and unique style. Some of the most popular are miso ramen, Hakata (Fukuoka) style ramen, tonkotsu ramen and Kyushu ramen.
Miso ramen originated in Sapporo, Hokkaido and is characterized by its thick and rich broth. It’s best enjoyed when it’s steaming hot and is known to stand up well to a variety of toppings.
Some of the most common toppings are chashu, sliced pork, bamboo shoots, green onions and wood ear mushrooms. In addition to these, white sesame seeds, pickled ginger, and takana mustard with chili are often added as well.
Nori is a type of sun-dried seaweed that is common in Japanese cuisine and is often used as a topping for ramen. It’s also a common ingredient for sushi and sashimi. Narutomaki, a fish cake made from white fish paste, is also an option for ramen.
Aonegi, or chopped green onion is another important topping for ramen. It adds a nice crunch to the noodles and can be used in place of chashu.
Sesame seeds are another common topping for ramen, adding a light, subtle sweetness to the dish. They can also be ground into a powder for added flavour and aroma.
Pepper is a great option for ramen, bringing a fresh, spicy kick to the dish and is often included in a small amount with the other toppings. Using too much pepper can be too spicy, so it’s always good to try it in moderation.
Rayu is a hot, spicy oil that is commonly used as a condiment in Sichuan cuisine and is also popular as a ramen topping. It can be a great way to spice up your ramen, and is a fantastic accompaniment to Miso ramen.
There are a number of other toppings that can be used in ramen including, but not limited to; fried garlic chips, fried onions, bean sprouts, scallions, pickled ginger, leeks, nori, takana mustard with chili, and ground pork. All of these are incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed on their own or together to create a very special, bespoke ramen experience.