Today, Ramen may seem like the simplest, quickest way to eat, but it actually has roots in an ancient tradition. But even though making a true Ramen can take hours, you can replicate the magic of this warming noodle bowl at home.
Most of us have had a Maggi phase. Days when we crave nothing more than a hot bowl of noodles that come together in less than 10 minutes and still taste magical. But this storecupboard staple has many centuries of history that brought it to the noodle packets we know and love today.
The original form of Ramen began in 1800s China as a hearty, inexpensive meal that travelled to Japan with Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century. These immigrants began setting up Chinatowns in busy areas and soon the popularity of the dish started to spread. It was in Fukuoka in 1947 that the first Hakata tonkotsu Ramen was made, and entirely by mistake. Chefs over-boiled the pork broth and it took on a milky colour. But after tasting it, they realised they were on to something special.
Regional varieties of Ramen began to spring up all over the country and by 1950 there were hundreds of roadside stalls, each plying their own brand of ramen. By 1958, it had come time to bring the magic home and Momofuku Ando the Taiwanese-Japanese creator of Nissin Foods had invented Instant Ramen. Today, ramen is a global food, celebrated in ramen bars and restaurants around the globe. Japan has around 24,000 ramen shops, with 5,000 just in Tokyo.
A single bowl of professionally-made ramen can sometimes contain over 30 ingredients. The broths themselves are usually painstakingly simmered over many hours to achieve the perfect consistency and balance. But overall, all ramen has just a few elements that characterise them. The ideal Ramen consists of 4 parts and if you balance these out well, you can make a world-class Ramen at home.
The base of every ramen starts with good quality noodles. It’s better to go with thicker ones and to undercook them slightly as they continue to cook in the broth.
Ramen broth is usually a complex blend of dashi stocks and meaty broth, but any flavourful clear broth can serve the purpose. Combine many meat stocks for a more complex flavour.
The core seasoning defines the “type” of ramen. The three major categories are shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce) and miso (fermented soy bean).
Here’s where you can get imaginative. Fried tofu, braised meats, mushrooms, soft-boiled eggs, nori, anything goes. Load up your dish to your heart’s content