Japan is known for its great cuisine, and ramen, alongside perhaps sushi and takoyaki, is probably one of the first types of food you think of if someone mentions Japanese dishes. Ramen, which typically consists of noodles served in hot broth with toppings, is extremely popular in Japan. Originally hailing from China, this versatile dish is featured in many Japanese restaurants and events, as well as in anime and manga, as one of Japan’s most loved foods that people like to eat for lunch, dinner, or even after a drunken night out. It truly is one of the country’s most well-loved comfort foods.
Although there are many types of ramen and you’ll find a huge variety of toppings including pork, corn, seaweed, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, onion, and soft boiled egg, most of the flavor can be found in the broth. Here are the four main types of broths you’ll find in ramen. Keep in mind that they are not the only four that exist, but the four most popular that you’ll find in a typical “ramen-ya” eatery.
Miso is an ingredient made from soybeans and salt that is often featured in Japanese food such as soups and sauces. It’s got a very distinctive, sharp flavor, and is the main ingredient in miso ramen.
Miso ramen is distinguishable by its slightly orange coloring and is often served with vegetables as its topping, though you might find variations with meat and egg, too. Miso ramen actually wasn’t invented in Japan until the 1960s, but now, this variation appears in most ramen restaurants.
Another popular ramen flavor choice is soy sauce, locally called “shoyu.” This rich and hearty version is recognizable by its darker coloring and it is commonly served with pork, onions, and egg.
Soy sauce ramen is a popular variation in Tokyo in particular, and has a delicious and tangy flavor.
Salt, or shio ramen, is the oldest type of ramen and you can recognize it by its clear coloring. As you would expect, its flavor is slightly saltier, albeit very tasty, as it is usually made with a chicken or pork base. You’ll often find shio ramen in Chinese restaurants, as well.
Shio ramen is typically served with a lot of seaweed and is considered a more “traditional” type of ramen than the others. Those who have issues with sodium might want to avoid this dish as it obviously contains a lot of salt.
The final type of ramen on this list is tonkotsu, an extremely popular variety of ramen that is made by boiling pork bones to create a creamy meat-based soup. Tonkotsu is often served with large chunks of chashu (thickly cut pork), egg, and menma (bamboo shoots). It was originally developed in Fukuoka, Kyushu, but is now commonly found all over Japan.
Although these are the four main categories of ramen you’ll find, there are many other varieties such as tsukemen (cold noodles served with a separate serving of broth for dipping), fish base, and even more unusual flavors such as duck! If you are a fan of ramen, no doubt you’ve tasted, or are planning to taste, all of the above! Which one is your favorite and why?