If you are even distantly part of the pop culture you might have heard of Ramen noodles. It is one of the constantly mentioned food items in popular SNS like Tiktok and Instagram. Ramen/Ramyeon is a noodle soup. Its popularity is soaring the sky lately. And it is being included in the menu of various restaurants because of its demand.
What is Ramen?
Ramen is a noodle soup from Japan. It comprises of Chinese-style wheat noodles. The noodles are served in a meat or fish-based broth with toppings such sliced pork, nori, menma, and scallions. People normally prefer to flavor it with soy sauce or miso. The broth is the main part of Ramen. This slurpy dish is the comfort food of many Asian Countries. And slowly it’s taking over the west too. Nearly every region in Japan has its variation of ramen.
Ramen Noodles Origin And History
Like every other food item, there are also a lot of theories regarding the origin of ramen. The more credible theory is that it was Chinese immigrants living in Yokohama’s Chinatown who introduced ramen in Japan. It was in the late 19th or early 20th century. According to the Yokohama Ramen Museum’s records, ramen originated in China. And after that, it arrived in Japan in 1859. Wheat noodles in broth with Chinese-style roast pork were the first iterations.
Ramen-noodle businesses first became popular in both nations in the early 1900s. A substantial number of overseas Chinese had settled in the three major ports of Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagasaki, developing Chinatown. It was most likely the Chinese laborers selling meals from food carts who brought the wheat-based noodles to the Japanese. Originally ramen was named “Chinese soba” noodles in Japan until the 1950s.
Initial Establishment in Japan
Following the Second Sino-Japanese War, when Japanese troops returned from China with a new appreciation for Chinese cuisine, ramen’s popularity in Japan exploded. During that time, Japanese people reportedly call it “Dragon Noodle”. After world war 2, Japan was already suffering from food shortages. The Wheat noodles acted as a great replacement at that time.
A lot of small food courts were established to sell ramen. Establishing various small Ramen yatai(food court) gave a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for postwar small-scale enterprise. Furthermore, it was Americans who heavily promoted the nutritional benefits of wheat and animal protein. As a result of a combination of these reasons, wheat noodles became popular in Japan’s rice-based society. Also, throughout time, ramen noodles started to grow to connect with city life.
From Hand-Crafted Dish To Instant Noodle
Instant noodles have gained recognition as a soothing, quick, and cheap meal. According to the official origin tale of instant ramen noodles, Momofuku Ando was a Taiwanese-born Japanese man. He was inspired to invent instant ramen after watching long queues for black market ramen in his war-torn country during post-WWII Japan and a notion that food is a bridge to peace. Furthermore, Ando is the owner and founder of the famous Nissin company in Japan. He created the first “instant” noodle by developing the complete production process. From noodle-making through steaming and seasoning to dehydrating the noodles in hot oil, a process now known as flash frying. However, his newly designed instant ramen did not release until 1958, years after Japan’s postwar economic boom.
After the massive success of his Instant Ramen, and his experience from his trip to USA Ando came up with the Cup Ramen Noodles. These cup noodles are popular throughout the world these days. And instant noodle has been able to create a very large global market.
Types of Ramen Noodles
Various types of ramen are the key players in the noodle soup industry, with a few basic broths forming the base for most ramen. While these are the most common styles, there are several variations of ramen available throughout Japan. Japan offers a diverse range of regional ramen variants. It extends not only across regions but also across different ramen establishments within those regions.
Outside of Japan, the United States and other ramen-heavy countries have experimented with the classic formula and come up with some unique versions. One of the joys of ramen is how much you can customize it. And this has certainly been the case with the introduction of spicier ramen variants. As you can see, there aren’t many ingredients in these ramen broths, but each one has its distinct flavor profile – whether tangy or light, hazy or clear, salty or fresh. Now, Let’s take a closer look at a few of them.
1. Tonkotsu Ramen
Tonkotsu ramen is a ramen dish that originated in Fukuoka on the Kyushu island of Japan. It is a specialty dish in both Fukuoka and Kyushu. Ton means pork and kotsu means bone. It has five major ingredients. Broth, Noodles, Pork, Egg, and Tare. Each is important and each has a role. The first step is to make the perfect broth by simmering bones, usually pork neck bones. Tonkotsu ramen features a murky, white broth that is probably the most popular ramen outside of Japan. This happens after cooking the pork bones for hours, giving them a creamy, almost milky flavor. When we cook collagen-rich pig parts like pork trotters and neck bones in water over high heat, the collagen in the connective tissue transforms into gelatin, which gives the bone broth its silky texture.
2. Miso Ramen Noodles
Miso ramen noodles taste hails from Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture. Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital, is famous for this meal. Today, chefs all across Sapporo have their unique take on the famous recipe. Despite the fact, the foundation dish remains the same. The texture of miso ramen is thick and smooth, with the typical acidic saltiness of fermented soybeans. Because miso is a paste, it thickens the soup slightly, making it slightly more full. Because of its hearty, salty nature, as well as the kotteri (thick-style) broth, miso ramen is one of the top Asian comfort meals. It was created in Japan’s colder regions. But that doesn’t stop us from enjoying it at any time of day!
3. Shio Ramen Noodles
“Shio” literally translates to “salt.” It’s a popular ramen dish in Hakodate, a port city on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. The broth is clear and pale in color, with a salty, delicious flavor. The list of ingredients will vary slightly from shop to shop. But the preparation normally includes a combination of dried seafood, kelp, salt, garlic, and ginger. The soup usually consists of a variety of vegetables, chicken, and occasionally pork or seafood. And it tastes amazing. Noodles are usually thin and straight. Char siu (bbq pork), Menma (seasoned bamboo shoots), ramen egg, nori, and scallions are all popular Shio Ramen noodles toppings.
4. Shoyu Ramen
Shoyu means soy sauce in Japanese. Japanese food revolves around soy sauce. It’s no surprise that Shoyu ramen was the first ramen ever made. And it is still going strong. Shoyu Ramen is simply ramen with a soy sauce-based broth that is often clear and brown. It tastes amazing. If you’re in Tokyo, Shoyu ramen is the most common type of ramen that you will find. Usually, people use the springy curly variety of noodles in Shoyu Ramen. Soy sauce and dashi stock give Shoyu ramen its umami flavor. Shoyu ramen begins with a soup base prepared from chicken or pork bones, shellfish, or dashi. Normally, we add the tare later to allow for numerous flavor profiles from a single stock. This also enables ramen business chefs to fine-tune the seasoning for each bowl of ramen.
5. Instant Ramen Noodles
Instant ramen consists of dried noodles and a seasoning packet. This pantry staple was first introduced in Japan in 1958 and is available in supermarkets all over the world. Some instant noodle products come in sealed packages that we can reheat or eat right out of the packet. Dry noodle blocks are meant to be cooked or soaked in boiling water before eating. But we can also eat it raw. Many people eat it raw by adding the seasonings. It is very popular. Furthermore, making it is quick. Most people prefer to add additional forms of proteins to increase their nutritional value.
Difference between Ramen and Ramyeon
Ramyeon is the Korean equivalent of instant ramen. It is South Korea’s comfort food. Ramen can be instant or fresh in Japan. Whereas, Ramyeon is always instant in Korea. The cooking instructions come with each packet of ramen. The key difference between these two noodle dishes is that ramen is normally made fresh, but Ramyeon is always made from dried noodles. There are also flavor distinctions, with Ramyeon being much spicier than ramen. Otherwise, they are almost similar. You can customize both of them with ingredients of your choice. Making Ramen might be a bit more work than making Ramyeon.
Popularity of Ramen/ Ramyeon
One of the most important reasons for Ramyeon and Ramen’s popularity in pop culture. Ramen is frequently mentioned in Asian television series and animation. The popularity of Korean movies, TV series, and Japanese anime is growing, as is the popularity of their cuisine. Ramen happens to be just one of those food items. We can safely claim that this noodle dish has found a place in everyone’s heart and will not be forgotten any time soon. So it’s safe to say that Ramen isn’t just a phenomenon. Therefore, It’s here to stay, and we’re here for it.
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