For many people around the world ramen is an everyday comfort food that provides both a satisfying lunch and a quick weeknight dinner. But how did this delicious bowl of noodles come to be so popular? The answer lies in the unique combination of ingredients and cooking style that gives this dish its distinct taste and texture.
The story of ramen begins in 1910 at Rairaiken in Tokyo, Japan. This was the first ramen restaurant and is considered to be the official starting point for this popular noodle soup. Rairaiken’s owner was a Chinese immigrant and his original recipe was inspired by a pepper steak noodle (Rou Si Mian
Since its origin, ramen has grown into an international dish that has many different variations in flavor and style. In fact, ramen is so popular that it is now consumed more than a billion times a year worldwide! This massive global expansion of the noodle dish is a testament to its ease of preparation and its versatility.
One of the key elements that differentiates a bowl of ramen from another is the broth, which is also known as tare. Tare is a seasoning sauce made from salt, soy sauce or miso paste that is used to add flavor to the soup. The variety of tares available creates a wide range of ramen styles, each with its own unique taste and texture.
Typically, ramen broth is light in color because it is a combination of meat and fish stock. The base is often made with either pork bones or chicken bones and is usually seasoned with garlic, ginger, onions, and other vegetables. The soup can be flavored with soy sauce, miso, salt or chili oil. It’s not uncommon to find a variety of broths in one shop, as different regions like to experiment with their own special flavors and combinations.
The next essential element of a good ramen is the noodles. Noodles should be thin, wavy and long, and they must be cooked just right so that they are tender yet firm enough to hold up to the rich broth. Many shops cook their noodles with a mix of flour and a little rice flour, which helps give them their unique texture and consistency. The flour is ground from the center part of the wheat grain, which contains less ash than other parts. This makes the noodles whiter and softer, while the rice flour adds a more yellow color and a chewier texture.
While a variety of noodles can be found in ramen, the most common is mochi noodle, which has been made famous by a Japanese snack company named Mochiyu. Mochi noodle is made from a mixture of egg noodles and sticky rice dough that has been kneaded into a round shape. It is topped with marinated chashu, green onion slices and sesame seeds before serving.
While a variety of toppings can be found on a plate of ramen, the most important ingredient to a great bowl is a perfectly boiled ramen egg. Ramen eggs are commonly served boiled and unmarinated, but some shops prefer to serve theirs a bit more fried and lightly browned. To make a perfect ramen egg, simply bring a pot of water to a boil and let the eggs simmer for 6 – 6.5 minutes. Then, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the egg to an ice bath for 10 minutes. Once the eggs are cool enough to handle, peel and enjoy!