Well, the title is not maybe the most sophisticated I could create to attract your attention, but what to say more… Today’s article will be just fully focused on this amazing dish – nothing more nothing less.
Right, the introduction is not fancy as well, but it doesn’t matter, let’s just immerse ourselves into ramen!
At the very beginning, we should answer a very important question – what actually ramen is. Basically, ramen is an Asian soup. It came to Japan from China and quickly became very popular. Nowadays we can meet them in many variations, depending on a place and cook, who is preparing this meal for us. Anyway, there are still a couple of ways to tell apart what we can expect going with a specific option. Time to see the classifications variations then!
In this category, we can distinguish two types:
- assari – a light, clean and thin broth. It’s also less oily than the second option. Usually is flavoured with vegetables and fish.
- kotteri– an opaque, more heavy and oily broth. The structure of this version comes from long-boiled bones.
- chintan – it’s a clear soup, based on chicken. As for me, it was always assari version of paitan :D.
- miso – version with miso paste (done mostly from fermented soy) blended with fish broth or oily chicken. Sometimes it’s also combined with tonkotsu to make the taste more intense (kotteri).
- tonkotsu – an intense collagen decoction, long-boiled (12-15 hours) on pork bones (kotteri).
- paitan – it’s very similar to the above one, but the broth is based on chicken bones instead of pork’s ones (kotteri).
- shio – the closest version to original Chinese ramen. Salty, clear broth is very often served with chicken meatballs (assari).
- shoyu – clear, light broth flavoured with soy sauce (assari).
The above points are only examples, and shouldn’t be treated as the only ones. As each dish depends on the idea of the person, who is preparing it, you find more variations and combinations like for example, curry ramen – assari ramen with curry flavour! Really, each region, each place and each cook can offer us a totally different experience, so to manage our expectations it’s useful to know some wording using in this cuisine.
Now, when we have some basics, let’s learn something more about toppings that you can find in ramen.
- beni shoga – pickled gigner
- chashu – very thin slice of braised pork
- negi – spring onion
- nitamago – soft-boiled egg
- narutomaki – kind of a fish cake, done from cured fish. Each slice has a specific pink/ red spiral pattern
- menma – fermented bamboo shoot
- nori – dried seaweed
- mun/ shitake mushrooms – no comment needed I believe 🙂
- wakame – thin, stringy seaweed usually served as slices
Of course, same like with the flavour, there can be much more options, but here I am sharing with you the most common :). It’s worth to add, that not only toppings can be varied, but also noodles used in a specific dish – so far I’ve tried only with ramen noodles and udon, anyway I believe there is more options :D.
And the last point – meals resembling ramen, but being something different.
- Kaedama – extra portion of noodles, you can use, once you finished the one in your original meal. It’s not really a separate meal, but some restaurants serve it with an additional soup, so I decided to mention it as well.
- Tsukemen – a type of meal, where broth and noodles are served separately. The pasta is dipping in the broth just before eating.
- Tantamen– a spicy chilli noodle dish with minced pork and scallions.
Now, having some general knowledge about ramen, you can go and explore the reach world of tastes. My last suggestion would be for the first experience finding a restaurant that is specializing in ramen, not offering it as one of many options from Asian’s cuisine, but is an expert in this particular dish. This dish is not easy to prepare, so it’s better to try it somewhere, where people really know how to do it. Searching for such a place, you can notice that many of them focusing only on one type, like shoyu or tonkotsu – if I could be honest – that would be a restaurant I would check in the first place.
Anyway – Itadakimasu!