ラーメンTomek’s  RamenVisual Guide

What is ramen?

A good way to start an explanation is to say that it’s a combination of five elements:

1.

Broth スープ

The body of ramen. Unsalted, unspiced. Just the heart of the soup, the background, the richness of the bowl.

2.

Noodles

They are low in hydration and use kansui (alkaline water), which makes them chewier and helps to absorb the broth.

3.

Tare タレ

The taste of ramen. Occasionally translated as the secret sauce. Brings out the subtle notes and steers the direction of flavor.

4.

Aroma oil 香味油

For the full taste control, fat is separated from the broth and added back after being infused with additional aromas.

5.

Toppings トッピング

Many of the iconic ramen ingredients fall into this category. Ajitama, chashu, menma, negi.

Brief history

The ramen’s predecessor was called Chuka Soba and came to Japan with Chinese citizens in the XIX century.

At that time Japanese cuisine was dominated by plant-based and seafood products. Authors of the dish found a trick how to make it more appealing to the Japanese audience – they heavily relied on using soy sauce to tone down the heavy flavor of pork.

How to eat

Traditionally ramen is a heavy bowl of noodles, swiftly slurped alone in a small shop while seated at the counter. It is not uncommon for ramen shops to be staffed only by chefs, so machines are an established way of ordering.

People prefer to eat solid toppings and noodles using chopsticks, while a big spoon comes in handy to finish the soup. Noodles are slurped whole. It not only helps while they are still hot but is also believed to bring another level of taste experience.

Different styles

The biggest source of confusion about ramen comes from its diversity. The soup comes in many unique styles, which can differ between regions of Japan.

Many modern styles were born as experiments. The most successful ones eventually grow to the rank of a regional specialty and become known throughout Japan.

Some of the classic ramen recipes include:

Shoyu 醤油

The most classic Tokyo style bowl. Often constructed as so-called double soup, which is a mix of chicken stock and seafood dashi.

Shio

A very light variant that uses salt-based tare which enhances the flavor of chicken stock, but doesn’t introduce heavier soy sauce.

Miso 味噌

Uses miso paste as the base of the tare. Originates from Sapporo and is often served with butter and corn.

Tonkotsu 豚骨

The broth is made by cooking pork bones for 12 to 18 hours until it becomes white and creamy. Invented in the Fukuoka prefecture.

Tantanmen 麺々担

Inspired by the Chinese dish Dan Dan, features minced pork meat and a spicy red broth.

Tsukumen つけ麺

This ramen is split into two bowls. One with thick and intense broth, another with cold noodles and toppings.

And many more. Which leads to a question...

What makes real ramen?

A surprising consensus among many Japanese chefs is that authentic ingredients are not necessary for success. The same goes for sticking to original recipes.

What matters is to understand the philosophy of ramen and therefore follow the fundamental five elements. And the most crucial is an honest desire to bring a great experience to the customer. Anything that comes from those foundations will be a genuine ramen.

Designed by Tomasz Czajęcki in Helsinki, February 2022.