In the United States, ramen is a cheap, nourishing staple for students and busy people alike. There is a lot of variation in the style of ramen that is available, but there are five basic elements that can be combined freely: soup, noodles, toppings, sauce and fat/oil. This level of freedom allows for the ramen we eat today to reflect local culture while keeping these five primary ingredients.
Aside from the broth, the most important part of ramen is the noodles. These noodles can be boiled in the same broth as the broth or served separately. In either case, the noodles should be seasoned before boiling. This is because if the noodles are seasoned afterward, the seasoning will dissolve into the water and make it bland.
Traditionally, the noodles for ramen are made from a mixture of wheat flour and rice flour. However, this is not a requirement and the type of flour used can have a significant impact on the flavor of ramen. Generally, it is preferred to use cake flour, which has less ash content than other varieties of flour.
The most common broth for ramen is chicken. It is often cooked with onion, ginger and garlic, which is a combination that provides a rich, complex flavor. The addition of shoyu (soy sauce) or miso is also a common ingredient to add more depth of flavor to the broth. If you are using shoyu, it is recommended to use low-sodium shoyu, which is available at most supermarkets. If you are using miso, you can substitute white miso for red or yellow if you prefer the flavor of one over the other.
Many ramen shops will serve their broth with chashu, marinated pork belly. This is often fatty, and it can be eaten with a knife or spoon. However, there are some ramen restaurants that use leaner cuts of pork such as rosu or katarosu for those who do not like the fatty taste of chashu.
Aside from meat, seafood and vegetables are popular ramen toppings. Other toppings can include gyoza, pickled veggies and a soft-boiled egg. Many people find the egg to be essential to a good bowl of ramen because it adds a richness to the overall flavor and can balance out the sweetness from the shoyu or miso.
When eating ramen, it is important to remember that the sodium content in ramen can be very high. Too much sodium can lead to health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney stones. It is therefore important to monitor the amount of ramen that you consume, and to choose lower-sodium options whenever possible. A few simple swaps, such as adding a tablespoon of mirin to your bowl, can drastically reduce the amount of sodium in your ramen. If you would like to cook your own ramen, be sure to use low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock and adjust the salt according to your preference. This can be done by tasting your ramen and adding salt as necessary.