Japan is known for its great cuisine, and ramen, alongside perhaps sushi and tempura, 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 kinds of ramen with 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.
In addition, you will have a different experience depending on the kind of noodle selected (thin, medium, thick…).
However, we will just cover here the main types of broth in the ramen world, which is way more than enough to apprehend the variety of possible combinations. And, before going through, please keep in mind they are not the only five that exist, but the five most popular you could order 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 has 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 was actually not 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 could 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 will 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.
Tonkotsu ramen is 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.
The final type of ramen on this list is curry ramen, which consists in the association of both worlds of curry and ramen. Born quite recently (and spontaneously) in Japan, it’s no wonder that it works because of the adoration of people for Japanese curry. This ramen is simply made with a curry soup, which is mainly made with pork bones and vegetables and is seasoned with curry.
Although these are the five main categories of ramen you can find, there are many other varieties, such as tsukemen (cold noodles served with a separate serving of broth for dipping), fish base, abura soba (literally oily noodles) and even more unusual flavors such as duck! If you are a fan of ramen, no doubt you have tasted, or are planning to taste, all of the above!
Which one is your favorite and why?