Ramen is irresistibly delicious noodle soup with full of possibilities. Ramen is Japan’s Simple, quick and easily accessible food. Ramen for Japanese is like burgers or pizza to Americans. Everyone in Japan simply loves ramen. There are ramen shops in every corner of Japan .Most of the shops has their unique recipes of ramen. Almost each region has its distinctive ramen recipe. There are even ramen theme parks which serves these regional specialties. Japan has ramen museum and there are ramen festivals too. Such is the love for ramen in Japan!!
Ramen is globally known iconic Japanese food. Instant ramen were invented in Japan in 1958 and since then are being loved and enjoyed all over the world. But unlike instant noodles, it requires tremendous hard work, speed, deep understanding of flavors and culinary art to make delicious steaming bowl of ramen.
Ramen is basically noodles with savory soup. A simple meal with a complex flavors. Ramen consist of three ingredients soup, noodles and toppings. Broth is the soul of any ramen dish. It is believed that the origin of ramen lies in China; in the Chinese ‘lamian noodles’ (meaning hand-pulled noodles).But the use of ingredients like kombu seaweed ,dry sardines, bonito flakes in soup stock, add the ‘umami’ or a pleasant savory taste to the dish and makes it distinctively Japanese. Basic style of ramen are Shoyu (Soy sauce), Miso (Fermented bean paste),Shio(Salt),Tonkotsu (Pork bones broth).
There are no set standards or definitions for ramen recipe. Every place has their own philosophy of ramen. With numerous combinations of soups, noodles and toppings and also regional variations, ramen is a dish of endless possibilities.
So let’s start the gastronomic journey and explore the ramen obsession of Japan with these top 10 regional varieties of ramen.
Sapporo Ramen -
Sapporo, on the northern island of Hokkaido is well known for its miso ramen. Sapporo has been considered the birthplace of miso ramen. The distinguishing feature of Sapporo ramen is its thick, fatty soup with robust noodles. Hokkaido specialties like sweet-corn, butter, garlic, finely chopped pork are used as toppings along with many others. Sapporo ramen are rich and well suited for Hokkaido’s harsh winters. Sapporo miso ramen became famous in 1960 in all over japan. It was the first regional style ramen that became so popular nationwide. With its yummy ramen variation Sapporo city remains the ramen capital of this ramen obsessed nation.
Hakata Ramen –
Hakata ramen is a delight for pork lovers. The irresistible aroma and intense pork flavor of this tonkotsu ramen is beyond comparisons. The broth is milky, smooth and creamy. Soup is rich in texture and the noodles are thin, non-curly. Toppings include thin slices of chashu pork, mushrooms, pink pickled ginger and spicy mustard greens. One more feature of Hakata ramen is the table side condiments. Sesame seeds, garlic, and soy base can be used as per personal choices to enhance the flavors of the mild creamy soup. As its name suggests Hakata ramen originates from Hakata district of Fukuoka prefecture which is a part of southern island of Kyushu. The yatai or food carts in Hakata exemplify the local ramen love.
Wakayama is the sacred land for a ramen lover. Wakayama is renowned all over japan for its specialty, Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen. Many claim Wakayama ramen as ‘Japan’s most delicious ramen.’ Locally it is known as Chinese soba/noodles. The soup here is a perfect bend of extremely savory pork bone and soy sauce broth. Noodles are straight, yellow, and egg-based.
Kitakata situated in northern Honshu. It has the highest per-capita number of ramen establishments in Japan. Ramen here is a simple and soothing affair. No extravagant toppings and soups. Kitakata is rather known for its light, clean, subtle soy flavored soup. Soup is typically flavored with pork bones, chicken stock and dried sardines. Chashu pork and green onions are usually used as toppings. Noodles are generally flat and chewy. The ramen here are so well balanced and light in taste that it is considered as a best breakfast option.
Tokyo is a key contender in the ramen world of Japan. Ogikubo and Ebisu are two well known areas in Tokyo for their ramen. Tokyo ramen is mainly soy flavored. A special touch of dashi or niboshi is a peculiar characteristic of Tokyo ramen. It adds a unique slightly bitter, fishy taste to the chicken-pork broth. The noodles are moderately wide, curly. It is said that Tokyo ramen has a slight Chinese influence on it. The slandered toppings consist of sea weed, roast pork, bamboo shoots, spinach and chopped scallion.
Asahikawa from Hokkaido is famous for its rich soy style ramen tradition. Asahikawa ramen broth is known for being little oily. The broth is rich and complex in taste. Thin layer of oil on top of the soup is one of its unique features. The oil layer traps the heat and ensures that the ramen stays at the same temperature for the duration of the meal. The noodles are curly and of al dente nature and absorb the oily soup remarkably well.
Onomichi from Hiroshima prefecture has its distinctive ramen style. The chicken and pork based shoyu (soy) soup here has a dash of locally caught seafood flavor. Noodles are generally flat-wavy and chewy with less water content. Another specialty of Onomichi ramen is silky fat chunks of melted lard and pork fat floating on the top. ’Shukaen’ is cities well known ramen shop.
Nagoya ‘Taiwan’ Ramen –
Japans 4th largest city of Nagoya is famous for its Taiwan ramen style. There is no such recipe in Taiwan though. This recipe was invented by a Taiwanese immigrant chef in Nagoya in early 1970s and thus known as ‘Taiwan Ramen’. This is Nagoya’s very own shoyu(soy) ramen recipe with a kick of spices. Taiwan ramen is a soy broth ramen, topped with minced pork, garlic chives, and bean sprouts .Ample use of garlic and chili peppers is the characteristics of the dish. Unlike other ramen in the country this ramen is spicy and zesty!
Don’t go by the name. Although called as soba it is very similar to ramen. Okinawa soba represents Okinawa Prefecture in ramen map of Japan. These are Shio(salt) style ramen. Konbu (edible seaweed), katsuobushi flakes and pork are used to give the broth its distinctive flavor. The noodles here are thick and wavy and somewhat resembles udon and standard toppings are thick slice of pork belly, Fish cake, pickled ginger, ‘soki’ or boneless pork ribs.
Muroran Curry Ramen –
Muroran situated in Hkkaido is japans self proclaimed curry ramen kingdom. The specialty here is the curry flavored soup. Mainly curly noodle are used with this kind of soup. There are approximately 30 restaurants in Muroran serving curry ramen and every shop has their distinctive curry flavored soup recipe. First curry ramen recipe was created in 1965 in a shop called ‘Aji no daio’. Being a port city Murorans curry ramen has a naval connection.As in old days curry was considered a sailors staple food. In 2006 city of Muroran took a strategic approach and launched ‘Muroran curry ramen group’ to popularize their ramen recipe.
What an immense variety of flavors and combinations.Ramen is truly a dish with endless possibilities. Isn’t it?
Feeling hungry? Indulge in this scrumptious, delicious word of ramen.