Whether you’re a ramen fiend or have yet to try this quintessential Japanese dish, our guide to ramen has all the info you need to know. This dish has become famous well beyond Japan, with restaurants and home cooks all over the world creating both classically authentic bowls and new twists.
We looked to some of the best Japanese foodie sources for the inside info on all-things ramen…
Ultimate Guide to Japanese Ramen
What exactly is ramen?
Basically, ramen is a Japanese noodle soup. It’s a delicious combination of a rich flavoured broth, noodles (which vary) and meats or vegetables, often topped with a boiled egg and other traditional toppings.
Where does ramen originate from?
The origin of the very first ramen is unknown, but it is believed that ramen originally came from an immigrant dish borrowed from China in the early 1900s. Now, each region in Japan has its own traditional variation.
What different types of ramen are there?
It’s safe to say that no two bowls of ramen are the same! Even the noodles and how ‘cooked’ you want them can completely change the taste of your ramen. Thin, straight noodles usually go with tonkotsu-style broths, while wavy, yellow noodles go well with miso broths.
Broth styles vary from light, clear broths, thick miso broths or a creamy brown broth made with pork bones stock.
- Shio — Shio is a light, clear broth seasoned with salt.
Shoyu — This is a soy sauce seasoning that makes a flavourful, light brown broth.
Tonkotsu — Tonkotsu ramen is made of pork bones which have been boiled down until they dissolve into a cloudy white broth.
Miso — Miso ramen soup is flavoured with soybean paste (miso) for a full flavour.
Different regional ramens include:
Sapporo’s famous miso ramen are thick and hearty. They usually feature fat, robust noodles and often have toppings of filling Hokkaido specialties such as creamy butter and sweet corn. This is one of the most famous ramen styles.
Hakata Ramen (Tonokatsu)
Hakata Ramen feature thin noodles in a thick, creamy tonkotsu soup, usually with fatty slices of chashu pork on top. Most people know this style of ramen as ‘tonokatsu ramen’, which refers to ‘pork bone’ for the flavouring of the broth.
Tokyo-style ramen typically feature medium thick, wavy noodles in a shoyu soup that’s flavoured with dashi fish stock. This style of ramen is popular all over Japan, and the world.
Ramen from Onomichi usually have a shoyu soup broth with dashi fish stock for extra flavour. Noodle for this ramen are typically thin, straight and firm and the dish often comes with green onions, chashu, menma, and a bit of pork lard for flavoring.
Kitakata Ramen feature a light shoyu soup that has flavour from pork bones, chicken stock and dried sardines, and come with wide, flat noodles that are chewy and wavy. Popular toppings include green onions, menma, and chashu.
Takayama ramen mostly makes use of chicken bones, bonito flakes and vegetables for a light, clear broth with a mild sweetness to it. Toppings include shallots.
Various ramen toppings:
Some of the favourite ramen toppings include fatty slices of chashu pork, negi green onions or leeks, menma bamboo shoots and tamago boiled, raw or marinated eggs, buttered corn, slices of steamed fish cake (kamaboko) or seaweed.
How do I eat ramen?
While eating your noodles, try to slurp like the locals. It’s not considered rude at all! Many people actually find it makes eating noodles with chopsticks easier. Focus on sucking the noodles into your mouth rather than simply making noise for the sake of it.
If you want to drink all the soup, feel free to dig in. You can even lift the bowl to your mouth. However, don’t feel like you have to! Finishing all the noodles and toppings but leaving some soup is still considered “done.”
How to order ramen in Japan:
Typical ramen-ya (ramen restaurants) in Japan usually only have a counter and a chef. In these shops, the meals are paid for in advance at a ticket machine. Insert your money, then select your ramen, drinks and whatever sides you want with the push of a button!
Get your change and hand the printed ticket to the chef, sit down and wait for your food.
How do I cook ramen at home?
It’s easier than you might think – traditional versions require a little extra time to get the rich, intense flavours of the broth, but you can make speedier versions too. Here’s some of the best ramen recipes out there:
This ramen is a weekend project, the broth simmers for up to eighteen hours, with some of the most wholesome ingredients you’ll ever use.
Recipe is by Sweet Tea and Thyme.
Easy homemade spicy shoyu ramen recipe. Top with soft boiled egg, fish cake, nori, and fall-apart tender chashu, this delicious bowl of spicy delight will sure satisfy your ramen craving!
Recipe is by Just One Cook Book.
Easy homemade chicken ramen, with a flavorful broth, roasted chicken, fresh veggies, lots of noodles, and a soft cooked egg. Inspired by traditional Japanese ramen, but on the table in under an hour.
Recipe is by Fork Knife Swoon.
You’ll love the savoury and nutty flavour of the broth for this miso ramen. This is an easy ramen recipe anyone can make at home – and it only takes a few minutes! It uses instant ramen for quickness, but fresh noodles are just as good (if not better!)
Recipe is by Pickled Plum.
Want to see more traditional Japanese dishes? Check out our list here.