Ramen is a quick and easy meal, bit there is a depth to it. Simple made up of 3 main ingredients and affordable ranging from 500 yen to 1000 yen. There are as many varieties as there are regions in Japan. It is a mix and match within the 3 basic ingredients, slight seasonal and regional variations included.
The 3 basic ingredients are the soup/broth, the noodles and the toppings.
The broth are of 2 kinds:
Clear broth made from a variety of ingredients, chicken, fish, pig bones, fish or vegetables and a frothy broth called tonkotsu made with pig bones cooked down for hours, the cartilage is what gives the foggy white broth, once the broth is made, it is seasoned with miso, soya sauce or salt. These are the 3 primary flavors.
The noodles also come in 2 basic styles: crinkly and straight. The straight noodles can be slurped without hassle, the crinkly noodles soak more of the soup with it. Noodles also come in different thickness selected on the flavor of the soups.
The toppings: Basic toppings are cooked bamboo shoots, char su roast pork and spring onions. Bean sprouts, Eggs, sea food are also added.
Across Japan there are a wide range of regional variations with their own specialties- Sapporo ramen seasoned with miso, Kitakata ramen in Fukushima is the ramen town seasoned with locally brewed soy sauce, it is very light on the stomach and can be eaten for breakfast, Hakata ramen from Fukuoka with tonkotsu soup, straight thin noodles which is cheap and fast. The most popular is the miso ramen, it’s been around for more than 50 years.
The roots of ramen lie in china. Noodles are a staple of china, whereas rice is the staple of Japan.
In the second half of the 17th century during the Tokugawa rule is when the ramen noodle dishes became to be. A visiting Chinese Confucius scholar Zhu Zhiyu who treated the then lord to noodles. Records show that they were described as similar to the udon noodles of japan. Based on the description, the dish was remade. However these noodles failed to catch on in Japan, when Japan opened up to the world, Chinese communities formed near the ports and the dawn of the 19th century saw the spread of ramen, the adding of soy sauce to the broth made it homely, something the Japanese palates could recognize. The world war brought in another innovation to the noodles – the instant ramen. Infusing the noodles with the soup before they dried up, all you needed was hot water. This took 10 years to take shape. Now it is a global phenomenon.
The ramen may have been born in china, but it was re-invented and made into a national favorite.