Hopelessly Ramen-tic: A Quick Guide On Ramen, The Japanese Noodle-Soup
Updated : May 26, 2021 10:05 IST
A visit to any big Japanese restaurant is incomplete without a round of Ramen, so what is about this noodle soup that is making us all go ga-ga.
It wasn't so long ago that India became obsessed with sushi and its variants. The bite-sized roll-ups made of fish, rice, veggies and meat became a commonplace in the fine-dining scene of the country a few years ago. But our fascination with Japanese food was far from dying down. In no time, we became hopelessly captivated by a certain soup dish and the rest, as they say, is history. A visit to any big Japanese restaurant is incomplete without a round of Ramen- a soothing noodle soup which often comes with addition of pork, chicken, half-boiled egg, scallions, mushrooms and other veggies. The broth can either be vegetarian or animal-based, and it may or may not be flavoured with condiments like soy or miso. This one-pot wonder became even more prominent due to the rise in popularity of K-Dramas. But the noodle soup they seem to be savouring with all their heart in their shows is called Ramyun, which is slightly different from the Japanese ramen. Both however, have a similar look and feel, and noodles play a key role in both soup dishes. Almost every major region in Japan has its own version of Ramen. For instance, tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen of Kyushu and the miso ramen of Hokkaido or shoyu ramen (soy-based ramen which is popular across Japan).
It is said that the first specialized ramen shop opened in Yokohama in 1910, but before that also serving noodles in hot broth was not an uncommon phenomenon. In fact, it is said that many Chinese vendors, would sell something like ramen and gyoza dumplings to workers stationed in Japan. They often used a bell to lure the customers towards their pull-carts. After Japan’s defeat in second world war, American military took over control of major parts of Japan. Several restrictions were imposed on food vendors, who had even started selling Ramen in black to survive. By 1950, Japan somewhat started recovering from the acute food shortage problem, wheat became accessible and the restrictions on food also loosened, thus ramen began to grow popular again. In the latter half of the century, instant noodles further added to the ever-growing demand of ramen- which now eliminated the need of making noodles from scratch.
Ramen essentially has two components: Noodles and soup. Noodles can be of any shape, long, thick, crinkly. Basic ingredients used to make these noodles are wheat flour, salt, water and alkaline mineral water known as kansui.
The ramen soup is typically made with chicken or bone broth, it could also be made of fish broth. There are several options for vegans as well.
No ramen is complete without the toppings. Some usual suspects being, kombu (kelp), katsuobushi (skipjack tuna flakes), niboshi (dried baby sardines), sliced pork, chicken, shiitake, and onions.
Ramen can also be classified on basis of their flavour and colour (mostly an off-shoot of the flavour being used).
Shoyu-based ramen is a soy-flavoured ramen, it is typically of brown colour and has a tangy, salty , savoury taste.
Shio is another traditional tyoe, which is usually much more soothing and has a umami, salty flavour. It is usually of pale-yellow colour.
Miso, a relatively newer kind of base . It is said to have been developed in Sapporo Hokkaido, this features a broth made of miso blended with meaty or fish-based stock. It has a thick, rich and nutty flavour, which can also seem sweet at times.
These are only some of the popular base of ramen broth that are usually found in restaurants.
If you are in Delhi, you can enjoy some of the best ramen in Guppy, Youmee, Fuji Japanese restaurant or Kofuku. While Mumbaikars can indulge at Mizu, Kofuko and Fatty Bao. Did we miss out on your favourite spots? Let us know in comments below.