If you’re a fan of comforting soups and noodles, you’ve likely tried ramen, the Japanese dish made of wheat noodles in broth with toppings. It’s a popular dish in Japan and there are many different regional styles to try, from Hakata’s silky Tonkotsu broth to Sapporo’s tangy miso soup. Outside of Asia, ramen is often found in restaurants that specialize in Asian cuisine. It’s also featured in several popular anime TV shows and films.
Ramen is a carbohydrate-rich, budget friendly and comforting dish that can be eaten on its own or as a starter to a larger meal. It’s also a great choice for people with food allergies, including celiac disease and gluten intolerance. It’s also an excellent source of protein and iron. However, if you’re watching your sodium intake or have a medical condition, it’s best to avoid instant ramen as it contains a high level of salt from the flavoring packet and broth.
The history of ramen dates back to the early 20th century. It evolved from Chinese noodle dishes and was first offered in Yokohama Chinatown as Shina soba, or thin curly noodles made with lye water (kansui). After the 1910 Kanto earthquake, the number of ramen shops increased significantly as the popularity of this type of noodles grew.
In 1958, Momofuku Ando of Nissin created instant ramen, further popularizing the dish in Japan. Today, ramen is considered to be a Japanese cultural icon. It is a beloved breakfast dish for children and adults, as well as a comfort food in colder weather.
The broth used for ramen can be either clear or creamy. It can be flavored with shoyu, or light brown soy sauce, shio, or salt. It can also be seasoned with miso, a fermented soybean paste, or tonkotsu, a rich milky broth made from simmered pork bones.
Other than the broth, ramen can be topped with marbled fatty pork slices, ground meat or fish cake, a hard boiled egg, and/or seaweed, bok choy, bean sprouts or scallions. It can also come with a side of rice or gyoza.
Regional variations of ramen are popular, and some even have their own names. For example, Hakata ramen, which is known for its thick straight noodles and cloudy Tonkotsu broth, was originally sold at fishing ports by local cooks who needed a hearty meal to keep them going during long hours on the sea. It has since become a global phenomenon, and is now served at Ippudo restaurants around the world.
Ramen can be prepared quickly and easily at home using ready-made instant noodles or by making fresh, authentic ramen from scratch. The latter option requires a bit more work as the noodles must be boiled and the soup prepared from the concentrated broth base included with them, but it can be worth the extra effort for the true ramen experience. It is important to choose quality noodles and broth for the tastiest ramen. You can purchase ramen noodles and broth at most Japanese grocery stores or online, although they require a little more preparation time than instant ramen.