Ramen is one of the world’s most popular dishes. It is found in all manner of restaurants, from local mom-and-pop shops to multi-national chains, and each restaurant has its own unique flavor. But no matter the differences in ingredients, techniques and toppings, there is one thing that all ramen has in common: it has soup. There are countless ways to serve up the soup, with different kinds of noodles and seasonings, but it is the broth that makes a bowl of ramen what it is.
There are four major types of ramen: shoyu (salt), miso, tonkotsu and kare. These four variations differ in their seasonings and their noodle thickness, but they all feature the same base ingredients: chicken or vegetable stock, dried chashu (pork belly), tofu, seaweed and a variety of garnishes and condiments.
The earliest ramen is thought to have been developed in the 17th or 18th centuries. It was originally a Chinese dish called Rosu, a combination of noodles and roasted pork or scallions. Rosu was popular with Chinese students who studied at Kyoto’s Tokugawa Mitsukuni Academy, but it did not appeal to Japanese students. In an attempt to please both groups, the founder of Takeya Shokudo partnered with Wang Wen-chai to develop a ramen with lighter noodles and roast pork.
After World War II, a number of geopolitical factors helped to propel ramen into the fame it enjoys today. Solt’s research into ramen’s history involved reading everything from ramen graphic novels to government documents from the period of Japanese occupation by the United States. He discovered that the U.S. saturated Japan’s food market with wheat to help control Communism and prevent the country from gravitating towards the Communist Party. Because of the shortage of rice, many people turned to wheat-based noodles such as ramen.
Today, ramen is considered to be a staple of Japan’s cuisine. There are more than 10,000 ramen restaurants in the country, most of which are small family-owned businesses. The popularity of the dish also spreads to the United States and other countries around the world.
The first step to making your own ramen at home is to make the broth. This can be done in a few minutes. While the water is boiling, heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and add oil. Once the oil is hot, add miso paste and stir to incorporate. Slowly pour in the stock and coconut milk, whisking as you do so to ensure the mixture is fully dissolved. Add salt, and pepper to taste. When the broth is ready, add your desired noodle type and seasonings and top with a soft-boiled egg (if you’re including it). Serve. For a more vegetarian option, try using kelp noodles or zucchini noodles. If you’re cutting down on carbs, leave the egg off and load up on the bok choy instead. And for a vegan or gluten-free meal, skip the soy sauce and use Bragg’s or coconut aminos instead.