Ramen is arguably one of the most well-known Japanese dishes, and is well loved amongst Japanese locals and globally all over the world. Considered the ultimate Japanese comfort food, typically a bowl of ramen in Japan costs less than $10 dollars and is served to hungry customers within minutes of ordering. Although a Japanese dish, ramen actually finds its origins in China, having been brought over to Yokohoma City in Japan by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th Century. The word ramen itself is a Japanese transcription of the Chinese word “la-mian” or “hand-pulled noodles'', as the dish was traditionally made with hand-pulled noodles. A classic bowl of ramen consists of a bowl of al dente wheat noodles, topped with sliced pork, vegetables and a soft boiled egg, all served in a steaming hot bowl of broth. There are four major types of Japanese ramen, which can be broken by down by the tare or base flavor of the broth
Miso ramen originates in the Northern Hokkaido Prefecture of Japan, and is made, unsurprisingly, with miso paste, a traditional Japanese seasoning made from fermented grains and soybeans. Unique in flavor, the miso taste is probably best described as a combination of salty cheese and nuts with a creamy texture. An oily stock made of pork, chicken or fish and miso paste are boiled together to create a nutty and thick soup. Depending on the color of the miso used, the miso broth can be anywhere from yellow to red in color. Miso ramen tends to have a robust flavor profile, tangy but slightly sweet, and can be mixed with a variety of toppings – butter and corn, leeks, scallions, bean sprouts, onion, cabbage, sliced pork, etc. Miso ramen is often paired with a thicker and chewy noodle.
Shio (Salt) Ramen
Shio Ramen is the oldest of the four types of tare. Shio in Japanese, literally means “salt”. However contrary to the name, Shio Ramen has a contrastingly light and refreshing flavor. The clear broth is made with chicken, vegetable or fish stock and plenty of salt. Occasionally, pork bones are used to make the broth. However, the pork bones are not boiled for as long, as a signature of the Shio Ramen is the lightness of its broth. The simplicity of the broth results in a simpler, more one-dimensional flavor profile. The noodles in Shio Ramen are usually straight and thin.
Shoyu (Soy-sauce) Ramen
Shoyu Ramen is made with a soy-sauce base, resulting in a tangy and salty flavor. The ramen broth is clear brown and made with either chicken or vegetable stock, seasoned with plenty of soy sauce to give it its signature brown color. Shoyu Ramen is generally lighter on the palette, as the broth is more one-dimensional and not as rich as the Tonkatsu and Miso ramen. Shoyu Ramen is often topped with bamboo shoots, green onions, carrots, fishcakes, seaweed, boiled eggs, and chili oil. Shoyu Ramen noodles are often thin and curly.
Tonkotsu (Pork) Ramen
Tonkotsu Ramen, probably one of the most popular types of ramen, is made from a pork-bone based broth. The broth is made by boiling pork meat and bone together for multiple hours (the longer the better), resulting in a cloudy, thick and milky broth, that is creamy and richer than the other three types of tare. The broth is mild in flavor and tastes almost milky. This ramen is often topped with green onions, sliced pork, egg, seaweed, and pickled ginger. The noodles are often wiry and thin.
Although definitely not inclusive of all of the different combinations, types and styles of ramen out there, these are the 4 main types of flavor profiles that you’ll often see as a base for your ramen. A key thing to keep in mind is, the cloudier the broth, then the richer the flavor; the clearer the broth, then the lighter the flavor. Whether you prefer a heartier bowl of ramen or a lighter bowl of ramen, the perfect bowl is out there for you!