Seemingly every culture has its big bowl of noodles, and in Japan, the complex and comforting ramen is king. But even if your college obsession with Cup Noodles has given way to weekly jaunts to the hot new ramen spot in town, we bet there’s a lot you didn’t know about this salty, umami-kicked soup.
When you hear the word “ramen,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you’re like most of us, it’s probably a polystyrene cup filled with the sodium-laden instant noodles that you ate way too much of back in college. But over the past few years, there’s been a revolution, and real ramen — big steaming bowls of impossibly rich broth, springy noodles, and countless add-ins — has finally made its way across the Pacific in a big way.
Ramen starts with noodles, which are added to a rich and flavorful stock. The most common ramen styles are tonkotsu (rich, creamy, and made from pork bones), shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt), and miso, made with miso paste and chicken, pork, seafood, or vegetable broth. These broths typically boil away for hours, developing a rich flavor and texture that only time can create. Recipes are usually closely guarded, but just about all of them also contain kombu (kelp), mushrooms, and onions. Finally, toppings usually include a slab of roast pork called chashu, a soft-boiled egg, sprouts, scallions, dried seaweed, and fermented bamboo shoots, called menma.
So whether your knowledge of all things ramen starts and ends with instant noodles or no weekend is complete without checking out your city’s newest ramen hotspots, read on to learn 10 things about ramen.