Ramen is a noodle dish made with pork broth and various toppings. It’s a quick, inexpensive and satisfying meal. It’s no wonder it’s become a popular fast food in the west as well as a cultural symbol of Japan alongside sushi, sake and matcha!
Instant ramen is very easy to make and requires no cooking skill or equipment. It is very popular in Japan as a lunch option for students and busy people. It also makes a great snack or comfort food for those with little time or energy.
There are many different types of instant ramen, from creamy white miso to spicy sesame tomoyuki. Each flavor has its own unique characteristics and ingredients, but they are all delicious!
The noodles used in ramen are usually made of buckwheat or rice. They are also available in a gluten free variety for those with celiac disease. The broth is normally made with pork, chicken or fish stock and can vary in flavour. The broth is seasoned with salt, soy sauce or miso and sometimes with garlic. Many shops have their own special recipe for their ramen but they all use the same flavour base called tare (pronounced tah-ray). This is a combination of seasonings that create the specific flavour for that particular ramen.
At up scale ramen bars, the noodles are hand-made and the broth is often slow simmered for hours to produce rich flavours. The tare (seasonings) is also more complex with the use of kelp, bonito flakes and dried Shiitake mushrooms which all add umami. This gives the ramen its flavour and is why it’s so good!
Ramen is enjoyed all over the world and each country and region has their own style. For example, pho has a lighter broth with rice noodles and is topped with fresh herbs instead of chashu (pork belly). Some people even enjoy adding chicken to their ramen for extra protein.
While ramen is not inherently unhealthy, the sodium content is high from the seasoning packet and is a contributing factor to high blood pressure. You can reduce the sodium in your ramen by cutting down on the amount of seasoning you add from the packet or drinking less of the soup. You can also add more vegetables and a soft-boiled egg to your bowl of ramen to increase the nutritional value. In Japan, it is polite to slurp your ramen as this helps cool down the hot noodles and enhances the flavours of the broth and toppings. The slurping noise is also thought to be very satisfying! It’s also customary to leave some unfinished broth in the bowl to show that you are enjoying it. This is a sign of respect to the chef!