Ramen is one of the most popular types of meal in Japan. Coming from China, Japan developed its own unique characteristics, styles and flavor. From the many restaurants avaiable nearby train stations, busy avenues, Ramen can be found everywhere. Not only that, going to a conveniente store and buying a cup noodle is one of the most convenient meals for travelers. Below check some interesting and useful information about Ramen.
1. Historical overview
The introduction of Chinese noodles in Japan is said to have happened from 1868, around the beginning of the Meiji period to 1912. In 1923 the first ramen carts and street stalls appear in Tokyo and Yokohama. First known as Shina Soba, in 1950 the term Ramen became the preferred term for noodle soup in Japan and Ramen flavors such as Miso Soup Ramen (created in Sapporo in 1955). In 1958, frying noodles and dehydrating them, Momofuku Ando invents instant ramen and, in 1971, Cup Noodles are introduced, making instant ramen a famous convenient type of food around the world.
2. Broth Base
The broth of a Ramen can range from animal bones from pork, chicken, beef, to lighter types of broths made with sea kelp or or dried seafood. Ramen broths incorporate other kinds of ingredients such as onions, garlic, ginger, fresh scallions and mushrooms. The most common style of broth base found is Tonkotsu. Made with crushed pork bones that have been boiled for a long period, results in a cloudy white broth. It is particularly popular in the Kyushu region.
Shoyu sauce based soup, with a clear and brown stock usually made with chiken and vegetables. It may also contain other types of meat such as pork, fish or beef depending on the region. It is the most common flavor of Ramen and, sometimes, the reastaurant menu doesn’t specify this type of flavor as it might consider it the “regular” Ramen.
Seasoned with salt, it tends to be visually lighter and clearer than other types of Ramen. It is also typically made with Chiken, but can also come with pork.
Flavored with soybean paste, which produces a thick and brown soup. Nowadays, this type of Ramen can be found anywhere in Japan, but it has its origins in Hokkaido. The long cold winters of that region encouraged the creation of a stronger and healthier type of Ramen soup. Tonkotsu: Made with crushed pork bones that have been boiled for a long period, results in a cloudy white broth. It is particularly popular in the Kyushu region.
Ramen noodles might vary in size and shape but you'll typically get thin, straight noodles paired with the Tonkotsu style soup. Not as commonly, you might also find Dried Noodles. Made by drying fresh, uncooked noodles, they're occasionally used in restaurants but more commonly are a good option for home cooking. When talking about dried noodles, you look for a thinner and straighter shape. The famous Instant Noodles, invented in 1958 by Momofuku Ando, can be found in different shops such as markets and convenience stores, and represents the most convenient kind of Ramen for travelers.
Ramen’s toppings come in a variety of shapes and ingredients. First, Chashu, fatty slices of roasted or braised pork is a very common topping. Standard bowls of ramen usually come with one or two slices of it. A Ramen bowl commonly also comes with Menma (salty bamboo shoots), Negi (chopped or shredded leeks or green onion), and Tamago (egg). Another usual ingredient is Nori, sheets of dried laver (seaweed), the same ingredient used to wrap sushi rolls and make Temaki. It adds a little bit of crunchiness to the dish.
Created in 1958 by Momofuku Ando,Instant noodle might come in different forms, from the dried noodle block to Cup Noodle, it quick and easy to make at home or in your hotel room. Many Hotels in Japan provide and electric water heater in the room, which makes it very easy to go to the nearest Konbini and have something to eat in a moment of hurry. A wide range of different instant ramen products are sold in cups and packets. It can be found not only ant convenience stores but also supermarkets, and even at some vending machines. Japanese grocery stores sometimes might also sell separated toppings. Some of the noodle packs and cups come with the soup base included in a small pack inside.
7. Regional varieties
Ramen also differ by the varieties it can be found throughout the different regions of Japan. The Asahikawa ramen can be found in the center of Hokkaido, its main characteristic is the oily, shoyu based soup which includes thin, wavy noodles, typically topped with green onions, chashu, menma, and egg. The Sapporo ramen, on the other hand, is topped with Hokkaido regional specialties such as creamy butter and sweet corn. Tokyo, the capital of Japan, has in its regional style of Ramen medium thick, wavy noodles in a shoyu soup flavored with dashi fish stock.
8.Where to find Ramen
The best places to look for a Ramen-ya (restaurants specialized in Ramen) are busy locations such as nearby train stations, entertainment districts and along busy roads. Sometimes, a Ramen-ya that has a big amount of costumers in really busy places may only offer standing counter space. Ramen can also be found in menu from regular restaurants that serve a wider range of dishes, Izakayas and sometimes even convenience stores. Instant Ramen can be found everywhere, in many different types and brands.
9. Vending machines
Inside a Ramen-ya, the restaurants specialized in Ramen, it is common to find a vending machine near the entrance. Differently from a regular restaurant, in this situation you should pay the Ramen beforehand. Simply choose the type of dish you desire, insert the money on the vending machine, a ticket will come out and there will be a person to whom you should give your order. After that, you can seat on a table and wait for your meal.
Two interest ways of improving your knowledge about Ramen besides going to a Ramen-ya is: the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, and the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum. Created in 1994, the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum recreates the Tokyo from 1958, and you can find branches of famous ramen restaurants from Kyushu to Hokkaido including: Ide Shoten, Shinasobaya, Keyaki, Ryushanhai, Hachiya, Fukuchan, and Komurasaki. The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka tells the story of Instant Ramen since its first creation in 1958 by Momofuku Ando, the Museum has many exhibitions and attractions that would teach you everything you always wanted to know about instant ramen.
Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum
Adress: 2-14-21 Shinyokohama, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama-City, 222-0033, Japan
Business Hours: Open Everyday
Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
Address: 8-25 Masumi-cho, Ikeda-shi, Osaka 563-0041, Japan
Business hours: 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (Last admission is at 3:30 p.m.)
Ramen is one of the most common types of meal in Japan. The best places to look for a Ramen-ya (restaurants specialized in Ramen) are busy locations such as nearby train stations. Besides the different kinds of the most common flavors, Ramen also differ by the varieties it can be found throughout the different regions of Japan. Have you ever tried all these different types of Ramen?