The bouncy noodles, spicy pork and rich broth of ramen have been embraced by people around the world, with different cuisines and countries adding their own spin. Vietnamese pho, for example, uses rice noodles instead of wheat, and the broth is lighter in flavour. And in Thailand, they serve it topped with a handful of fragrant herbs.
In Japan, ramen has become very popular in recent years, with thousands of shops (or ‘ramen-ya’) across the country. It’s no longer seen as a cheap food for working class or college students but a meal to be enjoyed in style.
Ramen is made by simmering chicken or fish stock with soy sauce, mirin and a few other spices and aromatics in a pot. The noodles are then added to the boiling broth and cooked for a few minutes. Then the various toppings are sprinkled on top to create a complete and delicious bowl of ramen.
The most common toppings for ramen include the meaty pieces of chashu, sliced green onions and menma, and seaweed. Other common toppings include ajitsuke tamago (marinated egg), gyoza dumplings, sesame seeds and furikake (toasted and dried rice powder).
A simple bowl of ramen is easy to prepare at home – boil two cups of water, add the seasoning packet, and cook the noodles according to instructions on the package. Then, taste the broth and add salt, pepper, chili flakes, sesame oil, ginger paste or garlic to taste, and stir in the miso. You can make your own ramen broth using low-sodium chicken or fish stock, or you can use store-bought broth. If you’re using store-bought broth, I suggest that you choose one that has a lower sodium content.
Whether you’re making a simple bowl of ramen or something more elaborate, the toppings are what make it shine. It’s just like with clothes – you can dress it up with flashy or understated pieces to create a unique look, or you can go for the classics and simple.
Toppings are also a great way to make your ramen match your mood! If you’re feeling adventurous, try sprinkling on some furikake or sesame seeds to give it an extra crunch, or stir in some sriracha to add heat. You could also try adding some grilled skewers to your ramen, or some soft boiled egg slices for protein.
For the ultimate ramen experience, visit a ramen shop that offers several types of ramen, such as shoyu, miso, tonkotsu and kare. Some ramen-ya offer tsukemen, in which the noodles are served separately from the soup. They will serve you a ticket when you order, and the staff will bring you your bowl once you’re ready to enjoy it. In addition to a variety of ramen, some tsukemen shops offer other snacks, such as curry or mochi. Some restaurants even have a special menu for children, so you can bring the whole family and experience ramen together.