Ramen… For me, it reminds me of childhood memories, of steaming bowls of noodles in a delicious, oily broth, with plenty of toppings to crunch and slurp in, of family and togetherness… It’s amazing how one simple bowl of these noodles, whether made in restaurant or instant, can hold such fond memories and feelings.
For those who don’t have the same nostalgic sense that I have with this dish, grab your chopsticks and prepare for a whole new world to open up to you!
So, what is ramen?
Ramen is a noodle whose origins are not exactly known– while many theorize that China made it, many others argue that ramen was simply influenced by cultures but Japan was ultimately the one who invented the tasty dish. From the simple dish came a complexity of flavors– from shio (salt) ramen, shoyu (soy sauce), miso, tonkotsu, or to regular flavors such as beef, chicken, and shrimp, the noodles also got retouched, with noodles made from egg, flour, and even rice!
The most common ramens known today are the 4 stated above (shio, shoyu, miso, tonkotsu), making their way into even anime culture, where you can see a beloved character slurping up the delicious noodles and broth.
Every component of ramen is unique and brings flavor to the otherwise simple dish– from the strong broth or the springy texture of the noodles to even the toppings, ramen can be quite the filling meal!
What are some common toppings for ramen?
Although you can enjoy this meal with just noodles and broth, it’s much more filling and enjoyed with it’s staple toppings, which include a soft boiled egg, green onions, and char siu (Chinese BBQ pork). Other things like other vegetables, butter, cheese, other types of meat, nori, and whatnot can be added into the concoction, but you’ll most likely find yourself with the staples, should you go to a Japanese ramen-ya.
And, if you decide to try your hand at making ramen at home, try out this simple recipe– Top Ramen (Not Your Average Top Ramen!).
A Brief History of Ramen
So we may know what ramen is, but many don’t know the rich history behind this rich brothy noodle soup.
The word, ramen, was taken from the Chinese word lamian (拉麵), but was first not even known as ramen… Before the 1950s, ramen was actually called “shina soba”! Today, ramen also takes on the name “chuka soba” meaning “Chinese soba”, though the word ramen is much more popularized than its counterpart.
Its first sightings were around the 1900s, when common folk would cart around simple pork and salt broths, accompanying it with noodles for the tired workers from the fields. It was also put into restaurants and also became one of the first industrialized foods, with noodle machines doling out these springy noodles by the minute.
With technology came the evolution of this wonderful noodle dish– in 1958, Momofuku Ando came up with the brilliant idea of fusing convenience and technology into ramen and created what we now know as the “instant noodle”. Momofuku, who later created Nissin foods, was the one who invented the ever-iconic “Cup Noodle”, paving way to a new method of eating the dish. Now with more than 50 flavors and different companies selling this type of instant noodle, this convenient style of ramen can be enjoyed in many different countries all throughout the world.
If you would like to learn more about ramen (since I’m just giving a very generalized view of it), look at the websites below!
The Strange History of Ramen by Alternet
Ramen History by Maruchan
The Social History of Ramen by Tofugu
Instant Noodles by Wikipedia
**And, as an added bonus, if you want to check out the Ramen Museum…