What Is The Difference Between Saimin And Ramen?

If someone puts a saimin and a ramen bowl in front of you, there is a high probability that you will think you are served the same dishes.

Well, why not!! They just look like twins!!

Yes, people often get confused after seeing both these noodle items because they resemble a lot. Even I get asked a lot whether saimin is the same as ramen.

Since I am from Japan and have grown up eating various noodle dishes, I can easily say the variance instantly.

So, if you are curious to learn the difference between saimin and ramen, you hit the right spot. Today, I will show you where they differ from each other.

Difference Between Ramen And Saimin: Comprehensive Discussion

Ramen is a Japanese noodle dish, whereas Saimin is a Hawaiian noodle dish. Even though they look similar, one of the key differences lies in the dough.

Saimin noodle’s dough has more eggs and a higher amount of flour, which gives it an intense flavor and chewy texture.

Both dishes also differ in terms of taste. Soup of saimin is dashi-based and clean, whereas ramen broth is made from pork bone, chicken bone, bonito kelp, or other vegetables.

Saimin and ramen

Well, it’s just the basic difference between saimin and ramen, and there is more to know.

But, before getting into details, let’s compare them side by side.

Comparison Between Saimin And Ramen At A Glance

The below table contains the summary of today’s discussion.

Terms of Comparison Saimin Ramen
Definition
A Hawaiian noodle dish
A Japanese noodle dish
Noodle strands are made of
Wheat flour and eggs
Wheat flour-based (do not include eggs)
The thickness of the broth
Generally clear and lighter
Depends on the variance, can have thick, medium-thick, and transparent soup
The texture of the soup
Doesn’t have oil floating on the soup
Ramen’s soup is oilier than saimin
Usual toppings include
Boiled eggs, spam, chashu cut into long strings, narutomaki with the red outside, etc
Seasoned eggs, bamboo shoots, thinly sliced chashu, narutomaki with white outside, etc
Popular variations
Fried saimin and regular broth-based traditional saimin
Shoyu, shio, miso, and tonkotsu ramen
fried saimin and tonkotsu ramen

Alright, as you got a preview of their variation, it’s time to start our journey to learn about both dishes thoroughly.

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All About Saimin Noodles

Firstly, you need to know what saimin is as you may not know about it. Hence, be ready to get introduced to the bowl of saimin.

1. What is Saimin?

Saimin is a noodle soup dish that is a common item in Hawaii’s contemporary cuisine. Traditionally, saimin bowls consist of noodles, broth, and toppings.

Saimin with clear broth

The noodle strands are made of wheat flour and eggs which are served in a clear dashi-based broth topped with diced green onions and slices of kamaboko.

Modern versions of saimin come with more toppings like char siu, sliced egg, spam, or shredded nori.

toppings char siu, sliced egg, spam, shredded nori

Everyone has their own preferred saimin recipes but generally uses dried shrimp and kombu as major ingredients.

The usual table condiments that are mixed in the broth are soy sauce and Chinese hot mustard. These are added in small quantities based on each individual’s taste.

Soy sauce and chinese mustard

In Hawaii, many local residents often enjoy barbecued teriyaki beef sticks or hamburgers as a side dish with saimin.

You will find classic saimin noodles from fancy restaurants, non-fancy ones to the local 7-11, and McDonald’s Hawaii in this country.

Or, you can buy a packet version from the supermarket and make it at home to give yourself a tasty treat.

noodles tasty treat

By the way, you already noticed that I have mentioned that saimin is from Hawaii. But isn’t it unusual to see a noodle dish’s origin being from a country that is not north Asian?

I think if you learn their history, you will be able to know the reason behind it.

2. Origin of Saimin

The exact origin of saimin is debatable. However, certainly, saimin and many contemporary cuisines in Hawaii are related to the immigration of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, and Portuguese field workers during the plantation era in the late 1800s.

The popular belief goes that different ethnic groups used to work together on the sugar plantation field during this time.

After returning from work, communal meals were typical, where everyone shared something with others. For example, the Chinese would share noodles, while the Japanese would give some dashi, and the Portuguese would provide extra pork while dining in groups.

Not just ingredients but also cooking styles were traded, flavors were modified, and that’s how saimin was possibly created. 

However, this history of saimin’s origin is highly controversial as it is said that racial tension between various ethnic groups was recorded during this time.

Another theory is that saimin was born by a group of Japanese immigrants wanting to eat ramen. As there were limited ingredients available in Hawaii, instead of full replication to authentic ramen, they created saimin with handy ingredients.

eating ramen

I think debating on food’s origin is not that important while we are rewarded with such a yummy delicacy.

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So, we can end this topic by saying, “whoever made saimin, you are just awesome.”

Okay, as you got some basic ideas about saimin, let’s step inside the ramen world!

All About Ramen Noodles

Ramen, the love of Japanese people, including me!!

Almost everyone is kinda familiar with this yummy delicacy. Yet if you don’t know much, then you will get a precise idea about it here.

1. What Is Ramen?

Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup. It is made of wheat flour-based noodles, meat or fish-based broth, and various toppings like chashu (sliced pork), nori (dried seaweed), menma, and scallions.

Ramen with various toppings

Almost every region in Japan has its own variety of ramen, like the miso ramen of Hokkaido, Tokyo-style ramen, tonkotsu ramen of Kyushu, and so on.

2. Origin of Ramen Noodles

Ramen is believed to be a Japanese adaption of Chinese wheat noodles. One theory states that ramen was introduced to Japan by the Chinese neo-Confucian scholar Zhu Shunsui during the 1660s. 

After he escaped from China and became a refugee in Japan, he served as an advisor to Tokugawa Mitsukuni. It is also said that Mitsukuni is the first Japanese person to eat ramen. 

However, this theory is rejected by most historians.

And the more believable assumption is that ramen was introduced to Japan by Chinese immigrants living in the Yokohama Chinatown in the late 19th or early 20th century.

In short, this dish originated in China and made its way to Japan. And Japanese people gave it their own style.

Well, till now, you got an overview of saimin and ramen. But, how you will differentiate the two is a big challenge.

Ramen that resembles saimin

As you know that saimin is just an adaption of ramen, they resemble a lot.

Don’t worry!! After going through my next segment, you will be able to tell them apart instantly.

Saimin Vs. Ramen Noodles: Simple Ways to Tell Them Apart

Both saimin and ramen are created by Japanese people. And they look like long-lost twins, one living in Japan and one in Hawaii!!

Anyway, now, I will point out some facts by which you will be able to recognize them individually.

1. There is a difference in the ingredients of noodles

The noodle strands of saimin are made of wheat flour and eggs. On the other hand, ramen noodles consist of wheat flour but do not include eggs.

Noodles of ramen

Typically, thick and wavy noodles are used for making saimin.

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However, the thickness of ramen depends on its variety. For instance, miso ramen has thick noodles, tonkotsu ramen is thin, and shio and shoyu ramen are medium-thick.

2. The soup of saimin and ramen are different

Saimin broth is usually a lot lighter than ramen broth. Usually, the soup is made from shrimp which has a light taste.

Even you won’t see oil floating on the saimin soup. This is because chicken or pork isn’t typically used in making the broth stock.

Clear and lighter broth

And that’s why saimin soup looks clear and transparent.

In my opinion, saimin broth has a kinda similar taste to Udon soup.

Udon soup

Another fact is that ramen broth is saltier than saimin—for example, shoyu, tonkotsu, miso, and shio ramen. All of their soup is saltier and oilier than saimin stock.

3. Toppings are similar with small differences

Most of the toppings of ramen and saimin are alike, yet there are slight differences.

For instance, the narutomaki used in saimin has red outside, and the one found in ramen has white outside.

Narutomaki with red outside and white outside

Also, chashu in saimin is cut into small cubes or long strings. Sometimes, spam is used instead of chashu in saimin.

In contrast, chashu in ramen is sliced thin.

Chashu long string and sliced thin

Moreover, ramen is often topped with ajitama (seasoned eggs) and menma (bamboo shoots), while boiled eggs are found in saimin as a topping.

4. The popularity of fried version

In Hawaii, pan-fried saimin is widely famous. It’s the same as saimin but without the soup.

Fried saimin

You will find fried saimin everywhere that regular saimin is available. So, you may guess how popular it is in Hawaii.

On the other hand, we Japanese love to slurp on our ramen noodles. That’s why broth-based ramen is prominent.

Broth based ramen

Although fried noodle, known as yakisoba, is available in Japan, it’s not classified as ramen.

Well, that’s all that made saimin a little bit different than ramen. 

But, remember that a lot of things depend on the chef making these dishes. And the appearance of saimin can be just as ramen if the chef wants to use similar toppings.

And my writing is based on the difference between both noodles’ typical versions.

Anyway as I am done with today’s topic, it’s time to move on to the closure part.

Conclusion

By now, you know that there is some difference between saimin and ramen that can be easily traced.

But again, they have more similarities than variations. Hence, I suggest you try both dishes at once, which will help you to know the contrast easily.

Hopefully, we will meet again through another writing. Till then, have a great time.