Ramen is a noodle soup that has a Chinese origin but was imported to Japan in the Meiji Period. Special Chinese style noodles are served in a meat or fish based broth flavored with different sauces or flavoring ingredients. The dish was gradually adapted to the local Japanese tastes and they are a very popular meal in Japan.
History of the Ramen Recipe
Ramen is of Chinese origin but it was bought over to Japan in the Meiji period. One theory is that these noodles were a version of hand pulled noodles that were prepared in China. The name ramen could have been derived from the Chinese word La Mien. Another theory is they were noodles that were cooked in a thick starchy sauce and called as Lumian. Another theory is that the noodles were derived from the Cantonese word Lo Mein that means to stir fry. The actual names for the dish have varied considerably over the last few years. Till the 1950s, the noodles were also called as shin soba or buckwheat noodles. Chinese immigrants from China are supposed to have bought the dish over from China. They started to prepare the noodles by cutting and then cooking the noodles in a broth of meat and vegetables and selling them in roadside stalls. By the late 1900s, the handcarts became synonymous with the noodles and they had become a very popular dish for eating out. The noodles gradually became an integral part of Japanese cuisine and by the 1958s; commercial or instant noodles were prepared. This made the dish very popular.
Ingredients Used and Popular Methods of Preparation of the Ramen Recipe
Ramen noodles are prepared with wheat flour, salt, water and kansui which is an alkaline mineral water. The water usually contains sodium carbonate, and potassium carbonate as well as phosphoric acid. This kansui water is perfect for making the noodles and gives the noodles a yellowish tinge and a good texture for cooking. The size and shape of the noodles may vary considerably and they may be fat or thin or even round. The noodles are then cooked in a broth of meat or vegetables and then served. Cooks train for several years before they can prepare the perfect broth and usually meat, chicken, pork, and vegetables are cooked together to create the broth. Special ingredients like seaweed, niboshe or dried baby sardines, meat bones, mushrooms, soy sauce, oyster sauce, bonito flakes, etc.
Serving and Eating Ramen Recipes
Ramen is usually served as a single dish. Seasonings that are added to the basic recipe include seasonings like black pepper, butter, chili pepper, sesame seeds, garlic etc. These can be sprinkled on top of the dish as a garnishing.
Popular Regional Variations of the Ramen Recipe
Standard versions of the recipe are cooked all over Japan. In the recent years, though several modern variations have come into national prominence. A few of the more popular versions are-
· Shio or salt versions is the oldest version of the soup and it made up of a yellowish broth. Plenty of salt is used and any combination of chicken, fish and seaweed is used to create the recipe. Pork bones may be added to this recipe along with meatballs, and noodles.
· Tonkotsu is another version that has a cloudy colored broth. A thick soup is made from pork bones and meat and fat and this broth is used to brew noodles in. The hearty pork broth brings out the creamy texture of the noodles. Vegetables and chicken are also added to the broth sometimes.
· Shoyu or soy sauce versions are another typically great variation that is based on a chicken and vegetable broth. The only difference is that a lot of soy sauce is added to the soup to make it darker, tangy, salty and savory in taste. This version usually uses curly noodles rather than flat or straight noodles. Sliced beef and chilli oil is a common topping that is used with these noodles.
· Miso is one of the newest entrants to the stable and it has a broth that is primarily made from miso. This gives the noodles a unique nutty, slightly sweet taste.
Many more regional variations are present based on these four main dishes. Ingredients and toppings may also change to suit individual tastes and seasons.
Health and Nutrition Facts of the Ramen-Noodles
A single serving of the ramen will have a high amount of carbohydrates, sodium and proteins. The dish is low in vitamins and minerals but it does contain vegetables and meats.
There is a special Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum that exhibits the history of ramen, noodles, broths, toppings and bowls that are used with the dish.
Ramen-ya are popular restaurants that serve only this variety of noodles. Apart from restaurants, there are now vending machines that also serve warm noodles in cans in Japan.