Instant Noodles are one of the most savoured dishes all over the world. The word ‘instant’ in respect of noodles is synonymous with the word ‘ramen’ which formed part of the first brand name in instant noodles i.e. ‘Chikun Ramen’ introduced in Japan in 1950′s. There are many types of ramen noodles and its interesting to know how different varieties are prepared and how they got their names.
Ramen refers to wheat noodles which are served in broth tastefuly flavoured with sauces or traditional seasonings such as ‘miso’ (ferment of rice, barley or soyabeans) and served with different toppings. The noodles are chinese-style noodles. The broth is meat based or fish based. Popular toppings include sliced pork, green onions, corn and dried ground meat. Some popular varieties of ramen based on regionality are given below.
Sapporo ramen derives its name from Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido in Japan. This is where Morito Omiya, the founder of Aji-no Sanpei restaurant created history by creating the world famous miso ramen. Chicken or fish broth is commonly used in Sapporo ramen. Sweetcorn, butter, bean sprouts, local seafood and fine choppings of pork are commonly used for topping Sapporo noodles.
Kitakata noodles derive their name from a place in Honshu province in Japan. These noodles are flat, thick, curly and prepared from buckwheat. These noodles are traditionally known as soba in Japanese. Their broth is prepared from pork and dried baby sardines. Ramen is so popular here that even the traditional soba here is now interchangeably known as ramen.
Tokyo ramen noodles are thin and curly. The serving compises of chicken broth which is soy flavored and has the typical touch of Japanese traditional broth called ‘dashi’. Sliced pork, egg, spinach, chopped scallion, fermented bamboo shoots (‘menma’), pieces of pureed white fish loaves (‘kamaboko’)are used as toppings. Tokyo ramen is a very popular fast food in Japan with people often queing up for hours at a stretch in front of popular restaurants.
Yokohama ramen is usually soft, straight and thick noodles, served in rich pork broth which is soy flavored. Boiled spinach, edible species of red alga or ‘nori’ seaweeds, shreds of Welsh onion and boiled eggs are used as toppings in Yokohama ramen.
Hakata ramen traces its name to a place in Kyushu province of Japan. They are served in rich cloudy white broth prepared from pork-bone fat and colagen. They are thin and non curly and resilent too. Pickled ginger, mustard greens, crushed garlic, sesame seeds are commonly used as toppings. Hakata ramen is very tasty. With pork bones broth they leave a long lingering taste on one’s mind. A variety of ingredients can be added to generate so many different tastes and this enormous variety is the reason behind their gaining so much popularity in Japan now a days.
Korean ramen is usually spicy and various flavours of chilli peppers are used. These are served differently in different Korean cities in a similar manner as in case of Japanese varieties in Japanese cities.
Besides the regionality aspect covered in ramens above there are popular varieties based on ingredients too.
The cabbage ramen is usually prepared by having cabbage salad with fried noodles or or cabbage fried alongwith the noodles or having cabbage as a soup ingredient. It is a cheap and healthy eating choice for kids as well. Cabbage can be substituted with feta cheese, chedar cheese, kraft cheese, mozarella or cheese whiz to generate different varieties of cheese ramen. Mozarella ramen can be combined with parmesan chicken to make parmesan noodles as a superb meal.
Fried pork chops are often added to a ramen noodle soup to add protein content and with added flavour of onions, seaweed and mushrooms.
Chicken ramen is popular all over the world. Chicken soup base is packaged with popular flavours in almost all brands of popular noodles. Additions such as chopped vegetables, eggs and mushroom add variety to taste.
By and large soupy ramens in chicken flavour, remain most popular among kids.
As may be seen the variety and flavours of ramens are based on the broth or soup used. The basic stock is made from pork or chicken and mixed with different ingredients such as tuna flakes, beef bones, onions, dried sardines etc and then flavored with salt, miso or soy sauce. The resulting mix can be categorised broadly into four varieties.
‘Shio’ or Salt ramen is made from plenty of salt, any combination of vegetables, chicken, fish, seaweeds. The soup is clear and light since pork bones are not boiled for long even if they are used. The noodle texture and thickness vary but they are usually straight. Lean chicken meatballs, pickled plums and kamaboko are used as popular toppings.
‘Tonkotsu’ or pork bone broth is cloudy white. These noodles are straight, thin and served with pickled ginger. Popular toppings include sesame seeds and ‘mayu’, a blackish aroma rich oil made from charred garlic.
‘Shoyu’ or soy sauce ramen is based on vegetables, fish or chicken broth with plenty of soy stock. The resulting soup is salty, tangy, savory but light. The toppings include marinated bamboo shoots, green onions, white fish loaves, sprouts, boiled eggs.
‘Miso’ ramen is blended with chicken or fish broth and sometimes with pig lard to produce a thick nutty sweet and delicious soup. The noodles are thick, curly and somewhat chewy. Butter, corn, onions , bean sprouts, crushed pork, white pepper, chopped garlic are some of the popular toppings.
As most of us are aware, ramen noodles are either dried or precooked. Dried noodles need to be cooked or kept in boiling water and contents of acoompanied flavouring pouches for two to five minutes, before eating. Precooked noodles are ready for consumption straight from the pack or after reheating. These are usually packed in easy to carry bowls or cups which can be heated in the microwave owen and be ready to eat.
The popularity and varieties in ramen have proliferated exponentially so much that it may be appropriate to list them centrally as a repository of information for ramen lovers and restaurants, document their compositions, methodology of cooking, nutritional facts, sale outlets etc. in the form of ramen encyclopedias. One may search and go through these to make a choice of buying a ramen and then ensure that there is salways a new taste to experience for ramen lovers in the family especially kids.