In Japan, Ramen is the love of life for everyone, from kids to grown-ups. This tasty and delicious dish has made us all Japanese kneel on our knees and ask, “Ramen, why are you so yummy!”
Well, if ramen could have talked, then I think it would have said that the magic lies in the ingredients and the person’s love who made it with care and love.
Yes, all the secrets behind the mouth-watering taste of ramen lie in the way it is made.
So, exactly, what are ramen noodles made of? I know you are here to know the answer, just like thousands of people wonder after tasting these treats.
Now, get ready to learn the wide variety of ingredients that make this simple dish a global phenomenon.
What Are Ramen Noodles Made Of & What’s in It?
Ramen noodles are made of four basic ingredients: wheat flour, salt, water, and kansui.
You probably don’t know what kansui is.
Well, it’s a type of mineral water that contains sodium carbonate, potassium carbonate, and sometimes a small amount of phosphoric acid.
Kansui normally comes from inner Mongolia, where the lakes are rich in minerals. This is what gives ramen their yellow coloring and firm texture.
By far, I have only talked about what ramen noodles are made out of. But the whole dish consists of some other things that give it a delicious taste and fancy look.
Besides the noodles, the broth/soup plays a major role in its yumminess. And the soup can be made from many different things.
Usually, the broth is prepared with pork and chicken stock, but it can also be fish or vegetable-based and include flavoring from shiitake mushrooms, onions, even kelp.
Depending on the fat absorbed by the soup, it can be thin and transparent or thick and creamy. Also, the broth can be flavored further by soy sauce or miso, a traditional Japanese seasoning made from fermented soy.
In addition to broth, ramen generally has a number of toppings. These can be some simple or fancy ingredients.
The most common toppings are chashu (Japanese braised pork belly), negi (green onion), and boiled or fermented eggs.
Apart from these, the chef can add whatever toppings according to his personal recipe, so you may also find bamboo shoots, nori seaweed, corn, kamaboko fish cake, and other types of vegetables.
Okay, by now, you have got a firm idea about what ramen noodles are basically made of. But, do you know how the thin strands of noodles are created?
If not, then you can learn from my next segment.
How Are The Ramen Strands Made?
Traditionally, chefs and homemakers made the noodles by hand.
The process starts by preparing a wheat-flour dough which is rolled into long bars, pulled, stretched, and then doubled.
They keep repeating this process until the noodles come out extremely thin.
Wait, do you think that stretching is simple and easy?
Well, it’s not.
Even though there are not many steps, it’s actually challenging to do it correctly. Many chefs practice for hours to master the hand-pulling techniques.
Just check the video below, and you will know how hard it is.
But again, there are plenty of modern machines that you can purchase from the market to make noodles at home.
So, no need to worry at all. You can still enjoy homemade ramen noodles without mastering any techniques.
As ramen is best when served fresh, most modern restaurants have these machines to keep up with the stream of customers.
Yet, many renowned ramen chefs choose to hand-pull noodles or cut strands from the rolled dough to serve the best out of the best.
Alright, it’s time to know how ramen has become a national craze in Japan.
Where Did Japnese Ramen Come From?
Although ramen is a traditional Japanese noodle soup, now it’s famous throughout the world.
According to legend, ramen came to Japan from China during the late 17th Century.
It is said that Confucian scholar Zhu Shunsui brought it when he came to Japan as a refugee, escaping Manchu rule in China. However, most experts consider this a folk tale.
According to historians, the more believable theory is that Chinese immigrants introduced ramen to Japan in the late 19th or early 20th Century.
As Japan was a major industrial power during this time, many immigrants from other Asian countries moved here for a better life.
In 1910, the first ramen shop was opened in Asakusa, Tokyo, where a Japanese owner employed twelve Cantonese immigrants to cook ramen for Japanese customers.
The restaurant was a huge hit, and it helped publicize this famous dish.
Yet, ramen didn’t become popular until the 50s. During World War II, Japan moved most of its rice production to colonies in Taiwan and mainland China.
Hence, there was a major rice shortage. Then, the US flooded the market with cheap wheat flour to deal with food shortages in Japan.
And that’s how wheat flour made its way as the key ingredient of today’s ramen.
In 1958, instant noodles were created, which immediately became famous all over Japan.
And by the 1980s, ramen had become one of the most famous Japanese dishes.
Now, you will find different types of instant ramen noodles in the convenience store or finely prepared bowls in restaurants to meet your expectations. As it’s a national phenomenon, the price of ramen is also kept minimal so that everyone can enjoy it with their family and friends.
Anyway, many types of ramen are available in Japan that are made with different ingredients.
Let’s know the details from here.
Types of Ramen And Their Key Ingredients
As we Japanese people have creative minds, invention runs in our blood. So, even though ramen originated in China, Japanese chefs give it their own styles and make this dish more luscious than ever.
Although there is wide variance because chefs invent different combinations, generally, you will find 5 different kinds of ramen.
This ramen comes in a thick broth made with pork bone and fat. It is cooked for several hours to infuse flavors and fat in the broth.
This procedure gives it an opaque creamy texture that almost looks like milk or gravy.
Talking about the taste, when you eat tonkotsu ramen, you will feel like floating in seventh heaven.
It’s one of my favorite ramen types, and I always suggest my foreign friends taste it at least once.
And you know what, each of them loved the taste and got hooked on this delicacy.
Shoyu ramen is recognized for its strong soy-sauce flavor. The soup is rich brown but clear, made from chicken or vegetable stock.
Regular toppings include menma bamboo shoots, nori seaweed, green onions, and eggs.
Shio ramen is the oldest and most traditional style of ramen. The broth is clear and yellow, made from a mixture of stocks that includes chicken, fish, and vegetables.
Sliced barbecued pork is the common topping but you might also find kamaboko fish roll or pickled plums.
It has a salty flavor, from which it obtains its name. (Shio means salt in Japanese)
If the word “kare” makes you think it may taste like curry, you are right.
This ramen consists of pork bone and vegetable soup, but its specific feature is the curry flavoring.
Miso ramen is the most recent type and also one of the most popular. It is purely Japanese as it contains a large amount of miso (traditional Japanese seasoning).
The soup can range from medium to thick consistency, made from chicken/fish and sometimes lard.
In addition, you will find miso ramen with a wide variety of toppings.
By the way, besides the above variations, you will find regional-style ramen all over Japan.
Let’s talk about those now.
Almost every region and large city in Japan has its own ramen variety. Among them, the below ones become nationally and globally famous.
Tokyo Style Ramen
This ramen consists of slightly thin curly noodles that are served in soy-flavored chicken broth. The soup typically has a touch of dashi (broth made from dried bonito flakes and sea kelp).
Typical toppings include chopped scallion, sliced pork, menma, kamaboko, nori, egg, and spinach.
When you visit Japan, this will be the ramen most similar to what you have seen abroad.
Sapporo Style Ramen
Sapporo is one of the most visited areas by foreigners in Japan because of its relatively cold climate.
And Sapporo-style ramen was introduced to provide the customers a hot treat in the chilly environment.
It features a rich broth seasoned with red miso and plenty of vegetables.
If you want to taste something different, Hakata ramen is a great choice. The noodles are thin but not curly, and the soup is thick, made from pork bone.
The toppings that are used in it are unique as well, usually pickled ginger and crushed garlic.
And, of course, slices of chashu pork, egg, green onions, and kikurage mushroom are also topped.
Onomichi is a ramen style, consisting of soy sauce-based broth that is occasionally seasoned with pork, chicken, seafood from the Seto Inland Sea, or dashi.
The broth is served hot along with flat wheat noodles of medium thickness and a generous serving of pork back fat.
Native to Yokohama, this variety of ramen features pork marrow and soy sauce broth. It contains thick, straight noodles that were first created by ramen shop Yoshimura-ya in 1974.
Common toppings include pork, green onions, and spinach.
By the by, are you a vegetarian? Then, you are probably sad after seeing all the non-veg items in ramen.
Well, take it easy cause there are some varieties of ramen that you can still enjoy. You may check this writing for further details on this topic.
Okay, until now, I only talked about different types of ramen noodles found in stalls or restaurants.
However, instant ramen noodles have a huge influence in the world of ramen, and I didn’t discuss it yet.
So, it’s time to learn about it without any further delay.
What Is Instant Ramen Made Of?
It’s evident that many people recognize ramen by its instant form or, more specifically, cup noodles.
In stores, you will find packages of dried ramen noodles that come in plastic wrap or in handy cups. The packages also contain flavorings and spices.
Usually, the main ingredients used in dried noodles are wheat flour, palm oil, and salt. And common things in the flavoring powder are salt, sugar, and monosodium glutamate.
Instant noodles are extremely popular in Japan and worldwide because it’s really easy to make them and eat them on the go.
Just boil hot water, pour it into the cup, put in the seasonings, wait for some time, and you will be rewarded with mouth-watering ramen noodles within minutes.
As its popularity rose worldwide, a rumor about instant ramen spread that they are made out of plastic and coated with wax.
For your kind information, ramen noodles are neither made out of plastic nor coated in wax.
So, don’t get puzzled by all this type of internet gossip.
By the way, are all of these discussions making you hungry?
Then, what are you waiting for? Just grab a ramen noodle pack from your kitchen pantry, and give yourself a feast.
But what if you don’t have one at your home right now!!
Well, don’t worry. To rescue you from hanging with cravings, I will let you know how to make homemade ramen.
How to Make Ramen Noodles at Home from Scratch
I have sat to write an article on Japanese ramen and not provide a recipe to try. It shouldn’t happen!!
Even if you don’t have any store-bought noodles packet at home, you can still make ramen from scratch.
Although there are loads of recipes available, I am providing the easiest one.
To make the strand of noodles, you will need the below ingredients:
- 500 gm bread flour
- 10 gm of liquid kansui (lye water or alkaline solution)
- 10 gm salt
- 200 ml purified water
- 1 egg yolk
- Add liquid kansui, salt, and egg yolk to 20 ml water. Stir the mixture well and set aside.
- Now, take the bread flour into a mixing bowl. Then, add the mixture (made in step 1) to flour and stir to combine. Once all the ingredients are blended, begin kneading with your hand.
- Put the dough in a zip lock bag and knead it for a few minutes. After that, let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Take out the roll from the bag and cut it out into equal pieces with a knife.
- Dust your work surface with potato starch and roll each piece of dough back and forth.
- Then, set the pasta machine and pass each piece through the roller. You should start by setting machine 1 and then work through to setting 5.
- Coat the dough sheets with potato starch to avoid sticking. After that, pass the sheets through the thin-width cutters of the machine to make the strands. Dust the noodles evenly with more potato starch.
- Cook immediately or store in a ziplock bag and put in the refrigerator for up to 2/3 days.
You may also check out the below video.
As we are done with making the strands of noodles, it’s time to make the broth and prepare our ramen dish.
Ingredients for making broth:
- 3 cups of chicken stock (water in which chicken is boiled)
- 1 ¼ cup of water
- 3 garlic cloves
- 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1 ginger root
- 16 dried shiitake mushrooms
- ¼ cup of dried kelp (optional)
For making the broth follow the below steps:
1. Cut the garlic cloves and slice the ginger. Add them to the chicken stock along with the soy sauce and water. Then bring this mixture to a boil. And after that, remove from heat.
2. Add mushrooms and kelp (if you have it) to the broth. Let them soak for five minutes, then strain the broth. Keep the strained out garlic, mushroom, ginger, and kelp solids for later use.
After making the broth, instantly prepare the ramen dish.
Ingredients needed for preparing the Ramen:
- 375 gm Ramen noodles (homemade or store-bought)
- 16 oz. pork
- 3 teaspoons of oil
- 4 boiled eggs
- 3 green onions
Ramen noodles preparation:
- Boil the noodles in the broth till they come out soft.
- While the noodles are boiling, slice the pork into pieces and fry them in the oil till lightly browned on each side. Also, cut off the onions into short, thin strips.
- When the noodles are done, divide them between four bowls (or according to your serving portion).
- Add a boiled egg (cut into two pieces), strips of green onions on top of each serving bowl. Add the stored garlic, ginger, mushroom, and kelp into four servings.
- Finally, add the pork to each bowl and serve.
Note that you can garnish your ramen dish with your favorite toppings instead of my recommended ones.
Now, if you have celiac disease, you can’t try out the above recipe because of the wheat flour existence. In such a case, you may use rice flour noodles instead of wheat flour noodles.
Although the taste won’t be the same, you can at least fill your desire.
And luckily, some brands make gluten-free, vegan ramen noodles. So, you can buy them and cook them at home.
Here I am attaching a simple recipe video for you.
I think it’s time for you to grab your kitchen apron and start cooking some delicious ramen.
And, I am on my way to say goodbye as there is nothing left to inform you.
How To Make Ramen Healthier
The salt seasoning package should be thrown away! Change it out for low-sodium bone or chicken broth. You can add a chicken breast to the simmering soup and shred it afterwards for more flavour.
Another option is to sprinkle green onions on top of chopped vegetables like cabbage, carrots, or mushrooms. Now your ramen contains more vitamins, nutrients, and minerals.
You want protein? Add some tofu or a boiled egg. Due to the egg’s health benefits and deliciousness, upscale ramen restaurants frequently provide one on the side.
From this writing, you got a broad idea about what ramen noodles are made of, along with their history and a recipe that you can try.
As they are made with various vegetables, meat, and eggs, they are really healthy and nutritious.
Lastly, have a house feast with your loved ones by eating yummy ramen.