In case you have been living under a rock for the last year or two, you know that Ramen noodles are a thing. A huge thing. Ramen restaurant have been popping up all over the US. The ramen scene is huge, and most every metropolitan area now boasts a plethora of Ramen dining choices.
To be clear, this is not your drunken college days sodium-laden Ramen. No, no, no.
This is Ramen for grown-ups, spiked with any combination of tantalizing and unique ingredients. Chefs take their Ramen very seriously, and with good reason.
The Ramen noodle dates back centuries. Theories conflict as to whether it originated in China or Japan, but today is identified as a Japanese comfort food. Most Ramen noodles are made from four basic ingredients: wheat flour, salt, water, and a type of alkaline mineral water called kansui.
Seasonings commonly added to ramen are black pepper, butter, chili pepper, sesame seeds, and crushed garlic. Soup recipes and methods of preparation tend to be closely guarded secrets.
Ramen is meant to be eaten quickly, as the noodles continue to cook in the broth, and can easily break down. Slurping is encouraged, both as it is a compliment to the chef, and because the act of slurping cools the noodle down, and spreads the flavor throughout the palate.
Now, are you wondering what to order? It is easy for the American Ramen craze to be similar to the American Sushi craze, with diners not venturing far past the ubiquitous, overly mainstreamed California Roll, hereby missing out on the breadth of the cuisine. Try to think outside the California Roll box and order boldly to fully take advantage of all that Ramen has to offer.
To ensure you can talk the talk, here’s a quick primer on the four main types of Ramen, courtesy of Kobi’s Kitchen.
- Shio (She-Oh) means salt and this is traditionally the way Ramen soup is flavored. All Western broths would be considered of the Shio type. The salt doesn’t affect the appearance of the broth and therefore Shio soup tends to light colored and clear. Shio flavored soup will tend to be a tad saltier than the other types.
- Shoyu (Show-You) means “soy sauce” and is next oldest flavor type. Instead of salt, a sauce made by fermenting soya beans is used to make the broth salty. This sauce is not your regular table soya sauce, but typically a special sauce with additional ingredients made according to a secret recipe. The broth for Shoyu is the only type that tends not to contain pork. Shoyu soup is also usually clear, but is dark colored and sweeter than Shio soup.
- Miso (Me-So)
In more recent times, Miso paste has also been used to give Ramen broth its savory taste. If Miso is used, it is immediately obvious as the soup will be opaque. Shio or Shoyu flavored soups merely accent the flavor of underlying broth, while miso leaves a fuller complex taste in the mouth since it also has a strong taste of its own.
- Tonkotsu (Tong-Coats-Zoo) is technically not a true flavor since it is contains either salt or soy sauce. It is made from boiling ground up pork bones for 12-15 hours till all the collagen has dissolved into the stock as gelatin. The result is a rich whitish soup that is distinct enough to consider Tonkotsu as a separate fourth flavor of Ramen. To be clear, the use of pork bones does not automatically mean the soup is of the Tonkotsu type. If the pork bones are boiled whole for a relatively shorter period, the result is just regular pork broth.
images via thrillist, pinterest, kobiskitchen