Ramen has become synonymous with instant with the hard cake noodles that come with small packets of seasoning that can be made in under two minutes are most commonly found in the dorms of college students. Oddly enough, ramen is quite the opposite of affordable convenience food.
Japan is usually considered the birthplace of ramen. The truth is that the Japanese ramen is an adaptation of the Chinese wheat noodles. Meaning ramen has a Chinese origin. Though Japan has fully embraced the dish and truly made it their own, there is even a ramen museum Yokohama.
Another major misconception is the idea of ‘instant’ ramen. Ramen essentially refers to noodles cooked in a thick, rich broth with additional seasonings and vegetables to maximize the flavors. It is a dish bursting with umami.
In short, authentic ramen is a decadent dish that involves hours of hard work and a whole host of ingredients. It is the ultimate comfort food, perfect for chilly winter evenings.
Now that you know the origins of the dish, it is necessary to examine the individual components that are the hallmark of a good ramen bowl. These include the following:
The first essential component is wheat noodles. Ramen noodles are distinct from other wheat noodles as they are made with kansui, which lends them a yellowish tint. These noodles are firmer, which makes them perfect for being cooked in soup.
Next comes the soup, which forms the base for the noodles and provides most of the flavors. It is made from either chicken or pork broth. Additional ingredients can include; kelp, tuna flakes, dried baby sardines, beef or pork bones, onions, shiitake. All the ingredients are left to simmer to get the maximum taste.
The flavorings are divided into four different categories containing complementary ingredients to enhance the taste of the noodles. instead of chili, barbeque, creamy chicken, or soy sauce flavors,
the categories consist of; shoyu, shio, miso, and kare.
Finally, the toppings! These can vary depending upon the type of flavorings used and personal preference. Popular toppings include; barbequed pork pieces, green onions, squid, dried seaweed, beansprouts, boiled egg, and any other kind of vegetables, just to name a few. You can add in more than one topping. Most people add lots of toppings since they not only add taste but also provide varying textures that make the eating experience more enjoyable.
Like with any celebrated traditional dish, there is a specific way of eating ramen. Ramen should be eaten scalding hot and must be slurped before being chewed. The slurping action may seem rude, but it is viewed as a sign of appreciation in the Japanese culture. Doing so also helps to cool down the burning hot noodles and make them easier to eat.
Now that you know what to look for in a perfect bowl of ramen and how to eat it, go get some for yourself and enjoy a cozy, hearty meal.
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