This simple dish is gaining popularity in the international scene and it looks like it’s here to stay. It’s gaining traction and has already surpassed its Japanese food predecessors Tempura, Sushi, Sashimi, and Katsu. Ramen houses are popping out everywhere and you don’t need to book a ticket to Japan to enjoy it. It’s hot, fast, delicious, and apparently good for you. After a long day at work or in the gym, it really hits the spot. If you like noodles, then you’ll like ramen. But you’d be surprised to know that there are actually different types of ramen and they don’t all come with soup.
There is even ramen in a can! Check out my post on Canned Ramen recipes.
Birth of Ramen
Ramen is actually composed of two Japanese words, “Ra” which means pull or pulled and “Men” which means noodles. So, basically it means “Pulled Noodles” which is how they were made in the olden days. You might recall that the Chinese also has a noodle dish called “Lamien” which also means pulled noodles, and yes it sounds like ramen too.
Actually, ramen is actually inspired by Lamien. Lamien was brought to Japan by the Chinese after the Sino-Japanese war where it opened its doors again during the Meiji Restoration.
Basically, a ramen consists of noodles and broth or sauce. Unlike its Chinese predecessor, Ramen uses wheat instead of flour but like Lamien, they are thin and stringy.
A ramen won’t be complete without toppings which are pleasant to both your eyes and taste buds. Toppings are combinations of meat like Chashu (pork), boiled egg, preserved vegetables like bamboo shoots, dried or rehydrated seaweeds, sliced leeks, seafood, scallions, or sesame seeds. Some ramen houses also add their house chili oil to make spicy variations.
Types of Ramen
There are actually four types of ramen you can choose from. Within each type, there are a lot of variations depending on the flavor and toppings added.
This is the most popular type of ramen and is a most similar to La Mien. Each variation of this ramen differs in terms of the broth used, flavoring, and toppings added into the soup.
The basic ramen broth is very simple. It is usually made from pork, chicken bones, or a combination of the two. Some recipes call for the addition Konbu (a kind of kelp) and Dashi, which is a clear soup made from Bonito (salted tuna flakes) or Niboshi (dried salted achovy). This broth provides a distinct subtle flavor that acts as a blank canvass for Ramen Houses to create their own unique ramen masterpiece. It’s the taste that you can’t put your finger on, one that is familiar yet unknown.
Flavor is added to the basic broth to make the flavor bolder and distinguishes one ramen from another. Each region or Ramen house boasts of their own flavoring by adding different ingredients and applying different methods. There are 5 main types of ramen flavors:
Shio actually means salt and is the most traditional way Ramen is flavored. Because only salt is added, these broths are clear in appearance and may taste saltier than the others. This is the traditional way ramens are seasoned.
Shoyu follows Shio as the next most traditional type and is made by adding fermented soya beans (nope, not soy sauce), it’s a special recipe and is unique to each ramen house. Like Shio, the broth remains clear but will be darker in color and will have a tinge of sweetness to it. If you have a simpler taste profile, we suggest you try Shio or Shoyu based ramen. Honshu is the home of this traditional type of flavor.
This one is more familiar to us. Miso paste is added to the broth making the flavor profile more complex and adds a richness to it. If you like the yummy fermented taste of miso soup, you will love this type of ramen. This type of ramen flavor is known to be famous in Hokkaido.
This is a concentrated soup that is made by boiling up grounded pork bones for 12 to 15 hours until all the collagen has dissolved into the stock. This results in a whitish soup that has a very distinct flavor that is popular in Kyushu Island.
As the name implies, this type of ramen has no soup but is served with a dressing or dipping sauce. There are three types of Dry Ramen that you can try.
Tsukemen (Dipping Ramen)
This dry ramen is served with a very flavorful concentrated dipping sauce. Noodles and toppings are served separately from the sauce. To enjoy them, you simple get some noodles with your chopstick, dip the noodles in the sauce and enjoy. People prefer this type of ramen because noodles gets coated in the very flavorful dipping sauce. These are perfect for people who are not fond of soup or broth. Tsukemen is usually served lukewarm so you can dive into them immediately once they hit the table.
Hiyashi Chuka (Cold Ramen)
This dry ramen is usually served in the summer. Unlike Tsukemen, the sauce is poured over the noodles before the toppings are added. They are usually topped with cucumber, chilled omelette strips, ham and crab sticks arranged beautifully on top of the noodles. Traditionally, the sauce is made of vinegar and soy sauce.
Abura Ramen (Oil Ramen)
This dry ramen resembles the Italian pasta we know and love. The noodles are bathed in a thickflavorful sauce like Tsukemen but is fortified with vinegar and oil. This is then topped with a combination of toppings sometimes including a raw egg.
All Types of Ramen
We hope this widens your knowledge about ramen. Now that you know what types of ramen there is out there. It’s time to visit your local Ramen shop and give each of them a try. You might end up liking Dry Ramen better than Soup Ramen or maybe you’ll prefer to cool down with a Cold Ramen.