With blistering wind and temperatures close to freezing, a big bowl of warm, tasty soup can be a very satisfying way to end a long winter’s day. Thick and creamy, thin and salty, vegetables or noodles (or both) — the varieties of toasty, bowl-based entrees are endless!
One favourite that’s risen in culinary popularity over the last few years is ramen, a Japanese dish comprised of noodles, broth and a handful of spices and toppings. You may have come across the popular, budget-friendly instant noodle, but for the sake of this post we’ll be discussing the classically prepared Japanese comfort food.
The name ramen actually refers to the noodles, not so much the broth used in this soup. The broth, as well as the traditional toppings and spices vary greatly, making ramen an ideal choice for any palette or even most dietary restrictions. Let’s explore the basics!
What Is in My Ramen?
While the ramen noodle is a simple classifier for this dish, there are many different ways to dress it up or down that take it far beyond the basics. First, let’s take a look at the foundation of any soup: broth.
The Reason to Slurp
The stock used to make broth for ramen is typically chicken- or pork-based, the flavour of which develops further with additions like kombu (kelp), katsuobushi (fish flakes), niboshi (dried baby sardines), beef bones, pig bones, shiitake mushrooms and onions.1 This infusion is created over hours, creating a creamy consistency and distinctive flavours that makes each ramen restaurant unique.
From this basic tonkotsu-style broth, several variations exist:
- Shoyu, or “soy sauce” ramen is one of the most common. You can recognise it by its clear dark brown broth and salty, savoury flavour.
- Shio, or “salt” ramen has a pale, clear, light broth that starts out like the tonkotsu broth but does not involve boiling the bones nearly as long.
- Miso ramen flavours will be very familiar to those who indulge in this soybean-based soup staple on many Chinese and Japanese menus. It is a blend of miso and oily chicken or fish broth that creates a thick, nutty and slightly sweet soup.
- Curry ramen is just a small deviation from tonkotsu broth, with a creamy base spiced with curry powder for an extra pop of flavour and spice.
Top It off Right
Once you have the broth base and the noodles, the toppings are what really make each bowl of ramen so unique. With thousands of combinations, ramen can really mould to almost any taste profile or dietary preference — it’s no wonder it’s universally popular!
Here’s a list of some of the most common ingredients you’ll see on the menu at your local ramen restaurant:
- Chashu (sliced pork, barbecued or braised)
- Scallions (spring onions)
- Egg, soft or hard boiled
- Bean sprouts
- Menma (fermented bamboo shoots)
- Kakuni (Braised pork cubes)
- Nori (dried seaweed)
- Nartutomaki (fish cake)
- Wakame (sweet seaweed)
- Togarashi (Japanese spiced powder)
- Sesame seeds
Explore More Ramen
The magic of ramen comes down to a flavorful, balanced bowl filled with whatever your heart desires! Use this guide to get out of your comfort zone and try something new, or explore making your own at home with this ramen cheat sheet.
1 Wikipedia. (8 January 2018). Ramen. Retrieved 9 January 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramen
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