Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Some of the most popular foods in Japan originated abroad. Ramen is a classic example, it's culinary roots stretching across the sea to China. To call ramen "noodles in soup" does not do it justice. Ramen noodles come in different sizes and consistencies and may be served in a soup derived from meat, seafood or both. The mouth-watering morsels floating in your bowl may be from the farm, the field or the sea. As always in Japan, it depends who is serving you ramen; and where.
Japan's side streets and food stalls
Ramen noodles are a mix of flour, water, salt and something called. "kansui". An alkaline water, kansui gives the noodles some of their yellow colour. Eggs are sometimes used as well. Ramen may be thick or thin, crinkly or straight....
Ramen may be served in a meat or seafood based soup. "Tonkotsu ramen" is served in a pork based soup that is is rich and milky white. It is also known as "shiro" (white) ramen. Shiro ramen recipes typically come from southern Japan. The noodles are quite thin and chewy.
Tokyo style ramen is served in a clear soup usually made from dashi (Japanese fish stock), chicken and soy sauce. It can be garnished with fish cakes, sliced pork, boiled egg, bamboo shoots etc. It is sometimes called "Shoyu Ramen"; "shoyu" means soy sauce.
"Butter corn ramen" is a famous export from Hokkaido in Japan's far north. It is a comparitively rich and hearty ramen recipe; perfect comfort food in the area's cold climate.
Ramen restaurants can be found all over the world. Many Japanese chain ramen shops specialize in one particular ramen style or regional recipe. "Santouka" is famous for Hokkaido-style ramen. "Ippudo" established itself first in Kyushu, and their ramen recipes reflects their southern roots. Both now have hundreds of outlets all over the world.
Countless variations of ramen are out there! But the menu below shows some perennial bestsellers. Often diners can add their own garnishes and extras to order. Boiled eggs, extra "cha-shu" (sliced pork belly) and so on. For a surcharge, some establishments will provide a refill of noodles (kaedama) for extra hungry guests with leftover soup.
Other chains have developed outside Japan and are successful catering to the tastes of non-Japanese customers. "Wagamama" started in the UK offering Asian noodles, curries, salads and side dishes. It is hugely popular and has guests sitting at communal "long tables". The ramen, and the menu in general, is not traditional but has been adapted to suit British tastes and diets.
Diehard ramen fans make the pilgrimmage to Yokohama Ramen Museum in Tokyo. Old Tokyo has been recreated to offer visitors the opportunity to sample ramen recipes from across the country. All the best ramen bowls are offered up at a massive indoor food court.
Film fans may have seen Tampopo, Juzo Itami's excellent "Japanese noodle western". Two truck drivers stop for lunch at a struggling ramen restaurant. The food is so terrible that they end up staying to help the single mom who owns the business. Enlisting the help of a retired "ramen master" and stealing some of their competitors secrets help them turn the business around...
Sanbiki now offer ramen on our menu. Next door at Mori Mori instant and frozen ramen are bestsellers. Instant ramen may be simple, starving student food in some circles. Visit the Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka, Japan and you may be overwhelmed by the displays...
If you haven't yet, be sure and try out Sanbiki's ramen! We're experimenting with new recipes and will have special introductory prices.Feeling lazy? Quick and dirty just-add-water instant bowls and lots of frozen options are on sale next door at Mori Mori....Have a great week!