Whether you’re a fan of instant or the premium bowl-shaped versions that are a lot closer to eating at a real ramen shop, we all know a bowl of this comforting soup can warm you up and give you the lift you need to get through a long day. But what goes into it to make it so good? Let’s take a look at some of the key ingredients and toppings.
The broth, of course, is key. And while the broths from different regions of Japan can differ slightly, they all have one thing in common: shoyu (soy sauce)! Shoyu is a mainstay in the cooking of all ramen, and the flavor it adds to the broth can be a game-changer. It’s also the reason ramen can be so versatile.
A few of the main types of ramen broth include miso, tonkotsu, and soy sauce-based shoyu. Each type of broth has its own unique flavor and uses, which are influenced by the region where it is made. Soy sauce-based shoyu, for example, is very similar to chashu and can be used in place of it. Miso has a deep umami flavor and is usually served with pork, while tonkotsu is very creamy thanks to the fat of the pork bones used to create it.
There are countless variations on ramen, from the noodles to the broth and even the garnishes. You can even make your own version of ramen at home using fresh, healthy ingredients and a slow cooker!
While it’s true that a lot of the convenience store ramen sold in packets is high in sodium, you can avoid this by making your own ramen from scratch. There are a number of recipes online for how to do so, but most involve boiling water in a heavy pot before adding the seasoning mix and noodles. This way, you’ll be able to customize the amount of salt and other spices in your ramen according to your preferences and avoid the high sodium content.
Another ingredient that’s important to have on hand when making a batch of homemade ramen is sesame oil, which gives the dish its signature nutty flavor. To make your own sesame oil, simply combine equal parts of ground sesame seeds and sunflower seed oils in a blender until smooth. It’s a simple kitchen hack that makes a huge difference in the taste of your ramen.
Aside from the savory broth, ramen can be topped with a variety of fresh or preserved vegetables and meats. Some of the most popular toppings include sliced or diced green onions, roasted or raw sesame seeds, a soft-boiled egg, and menma, a type of fermented bamboo shoot. Some ramen-ya also serve a selection of gyoza, the Chinese-style dumplings.
If you’re looking to step up the flavor in your ramen, try adding a bit of doubanjiang or gochujang. This Korean condiment, made with chili peppers and yuzu peel, is delicious mixed into the ramen broth and will add extra punches of umami.