Ramen is one of the most popular Japanese dishes for both Japanese people as well as foreigners. You can basically walk into any ramen shop in Japan and expect not to be disappointed.
Not sure about you but ramen is one of my own favourite Japanese foods and it’s perfect for many occasions: a filling lunch, a quick meal when you’re in a hurry, the drunk food that will recharge you for more drinks, and the hungover meal that you need to relieve the pain.
Making ramen in Japan is an art. There are so many different types of ramen out there from different regions of Japan with different ways of making broths, toppings and sauces. On top of that, there are many different kinds of fusion ramen as well. Ramen competitions are held regularly in Japan and ramen chefs are constantly coming up with unique ideas to create the most amazing ramen experience for their audiences.
Here is a breakdown of every type of ramen (as of now)!
There are mainly four kinds of ramen broth out there. Depending on whether or not meat is being used brewed in the broth and what type of meat is being used to brew with the soup, each soup can taste very different. Shio (Salt)- this is the lightest broth of all, also the oldest. It’s usually very clear with a pale colour. It is made with a lot of salt along with vegetable stock or meat stock. Usually served with thin ramen noodles.
Shoyu (Soy sauce)
Although Shoyu means soy sauce, Shoyu broth doesn’t just contain soy sauce. It is made with vegetable stock and meat, usually chicken, along with a lot of soy sauce. It is still very light, with a hint of salt.
Tonkotsu (Pork bones)
Tonkotsu is the thickest broth, made by cooking pork bones, pork collagen and fat for long hours. Some restaurants brew the broth for the entire day or even longer, making the broth extra rich and thick.
Though miso soup is made and eaten commonly amongst households, miso ramen didn’t become popular until the mid-1900s. Originated in Hokkaido, this broth is made with miso as well as meat broth. The broth is slightly thicker than shoyu broth.
This is perhaps one of the newest types of ramen broth. It is made with pork bones and vegetables, with a finishing touch of curry seasoning.
Ingredients being brewed in the broth
As seen in the broth section of the blog, ingredients are often used to enhance the taste of the broth. Tonkotsu (Pork bones)- This is one of the most common ingredients used to brew the broth for ramen in Japan. Pork bones are usually brewed for hours and hours to get the flavours deep inside the broth. The broth is usually quite cloudy, with a strong pork taste.
Toripaitan (Chicken)- Toripaitan hasn’t been around for long but it has gained a lot of popularity, especially in recent years. It is quite light with a hint taste of chicken.
Kyouka has become very popular in recent years. It’s brewed fish bones and fish meat, sometimes with pork bones as well. It can be very rich and thick, depending on the particular restaurant.
Tomato ramen reminds me of tomato-based pasta, but lighter and with more broth. Basil is occasionally used, adding a refreshing aftertaste to the ramen. There are vegetarian tomato ramens and tomato ramens for meat-lovers too.
With increasing numbers of vegetarians/vegans in our society today,, a few ramen restaurants have started serving vegetarian options, although it is by no means a widespread phenomenon just yet. Vegetarian ramen is usually made with tomato, shiyo or miso broth, topped with vegetables. Ichiran, one of the most famous ramen chains recently created a branch that serves only vegan ramen.
Ingredients used in the broth to add a special zest Butter- Originated in Hokkaido, the land of delicious milk and dairy products. Ramen stores in Hokkaido began adding butter to their ramen. It creates an extra creamy texture along with a milky aftertaste.
Cheese ramen might sound very strange but it is absolutely amazing! It is a popular topping for Korean noodles and has taken its place as one of the most unique and must-try options. One of the most famous restaurants that serves cheese ramen is Tukumo Ramen and, check out this photo! It looks crazy but once you mix in the cheese and the cheese melts into the broth, it creates a perfect thick, creamy texture and taste.
Tom yum originated in Thailand and is one of the most popular soups that you can get. Recently, tom yum ramen has been popping up in all kinds of restaurants as a seasonal option. It adds a mix of spiciness and little sourness to the broth, bringing a unique flavour to the ramen.
Tsuta ramen restaurant is the first ever ramen restaurant to receive a Michelin Star and is also famous for adding truffle sauce to the broth. The truffle taste is not overwhelming; it just adds a sparkle aftertaste to the ramen.
Yuzu is a citrus fruit that has a sweet and sour flavour. Ramen restaurants usually serve yuzu ramen with a shio broth. It is especially popular in summer since restaurants serve cold ramen with this flavour for a refreshing and cooling aftertaste.
Ways to enjoy your bowl of ramen
This is the most common type of ramen. It’s where noodles are soaked in the broth, and served with toppings.
Tsukemen is where you have the noodles in one bowl and broth in another. You eat tsukemen by picking up your noodles with your chopsticks, dipping them into the broth and then popping it into your mouth. The broth of tsukemen tends to be richer, and the noodles tend to be thicker
Abura means “oil”. Aburasoba is ramen in an oil and sauce mix. Picture fried noodles with a tiny bit more sauce and oil than other noodles you’re used to.
Mazesoba originated in Taiwan and although it is similar to aburasoba, it has a lot less oil. Mazesoba has dry noodles at the bottom, with toppings cooked with a pinch of sauce. You soften the noodles with the sauce by stirring every together (“maze” means to mix) before eating it.
Ramen Side dishes
This has always amazed me but a lot of Japanese people have rice with their ramen. After finishing their ramen, they take their rice and place it into the remaning broth in the bowl, making a small risotto. For those of you that don’t think one bowl of ramen is enough or are a bit bored with the texture after eating all the noodles, you can definitely consider this option!
Whenever I bring a foreign friend to a ramen restaurant, they tend to ask me questions like, “what’s that on the ramen?” or “what’s this on the ramen?” And, to be honest, I don’t always know. So for your and my own education, here is a breakdown of every common topping you see on ramen.
Nori is seaweed. Your ramen will almost always be served with two pieces of seaweed, sometimes even more. Let it soak up all of the broth before you put it in your mouth.
Japanese condiment made from lacto-fermented bamboo shoots. The bamboo shoots are dried in the sun or through other means before the process of fermentation. Menma is a common topping for noodle soups, notably ramen.
Finely chopped up green onion. Depending on the bowl of the ramen, the quantity of green onion can change drastically.
Thin slices of braised pork belly. They are tender flavourful and the most common topping on ramen.
Ajitama (‘aji’ means flavour and ‘tama’ is the short form of ‘tamago’ which means egg) are half-boiled eggs with sweet soy sauce flavouring. It’s commonly used as a topping on ramen in Japan, but can also be eaten on its own as a snack. Most ramen restaurants will serve ajitama ala carte on their menus.
Ramen is undoubtedly a popular Japanese dish, often seen in anime and manga and movies. However, what we don’t get to see in those media is the complexity and creativity of making ramen. So stop by a ramen restaurant, go crazy with the toppings and broths, and have yourself a good time!