The Origin of Ramen Noodles: Everything You Need to Know
Japanese food is considered to be one of the best foods across globe. Japanese cuisine is designed taking into consideration both taste and nutrition. The basic features of Japanese cuisine are the soups, the noodles and the different types of broths.
Japanese cuisine has gained a great popularity around globe with many of its traditional varieties including Sushi, Ramen. We will be travelling into the amazing world of ramen noodles which serves as one of the tastiest umami foods.
What Are Ramen Noodles
Ramen which literally means “pulled noodles” are the Japanese adaptation of Chinese wheat noodles and are now widely popular as Japanese noodle soup. It’s made up of the Chinese wheat noodles served with meat or fish-based broth. It is often flavored with soy sauce or miso that gives an umami flavor to the noodles. The umami flavor is one of the reasons to make the ramen noodles soup so famous.
Ramen also uses toppings such as sliced pork, a dried seaweed named nori, and scallions. With time nearly every region in Japan created its own variations of ramen, such as
- The Tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen of Kyushu
- The miso ramen of Hokkaido
- Mazemen is a ramen dish served with a sauce and not soup.
Most of the ramen noodles are made from four basic ingredients: wheat flour, salt, water, and kansui a type of alkaline mineral water that contains sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate with a pinch of phosphoric acid sometimes.
The kansui is the specific ingredient in ramen noodles which was originated in Mongolia. Making noodles with kansui results into a yellowish hue with a firm texture. Eggs or chicken may be substituted for kansui.
Ramen noodles specifically come in several shapes and lengths. They are different from the other kind of noodles which come with a fixed type of noodle shape. Ramen sometimes are thick, sometimes thin, sometimes even ribbon-like, while sometimes either straight or wrinkled.
Interestingly, traditionally ramen noodles were made by hand, however, as the popularity increased it became hard to fulfil the demand. So nowadays in-house noodle making methods are implemented separately to keep up with the ramen legacy.
What Made the Ramen Noodles So Popular?
Ramen noodles though come with a full package, like with proper shape, length and nutrition, they are specially known for the great delicious mouth-watering savory taste they give out. This is the umami flavor you will burst into after relishing on a ramen dish. This umami flavor comes out due to the monosodium glutamate (MSG) content ramen noodles have.
To know what is monosodium Glutamate(MSG), you need to understand that, MSG is the main ingredient that gives your soup, or for that matter, any food, an Umami taste you won’t resist. Apart from these taste bud treats, the varieties introduced with ramen like the most loved instant ramen, were some of the few dishes that were perfect for the fast life Japan was moving into. These factors were the prime reasons of the growing craze for Ramen.
After its advent from China, ramen got a quick adoration from average Japanese households. It successfully made it through the events, with the American occupation after WW2, to the expansion of instant ramen in Japan in the seventies, that exploded a mania for ramen.
America’s welcome nod for ramen and Japanese culture proved to be a complete game changer. Ramen had hit the western market and was flourishing rapidly.
Ramen gained attention during the world war two, when Japan was facing a huge food security crisis. Ramen was quick to make, reasonably priced keeping in mind the Japanese working class. Hence, the ramen market quickly took over the post WW2 Japan and rest of the world.
The Origin of Ramen Noodles
As seen above, Ramen noodles root back their genesis to a distinct Chinese soup which came to Japan in the nineteenth century with Chinese tradesmen.
As per goes the story, ramen originally came from China and made its way over to Japan in 1859, where the early adaptations were of wheat noodles dipped in meat broth with a roasted pork topping.
By 1910 the first ramen shop opened at Asakusa, Tokyo, where they served the ramen arranged in Japanese style. Until the 1950s ramen was popularly known as shina soba throughout Japan.
With Japan’s defeat in WWII American military occupied the country from 1945 to 1952. During this post WW2 era, Japan faced some of the worst food shortage in the country. As Japan had to strategically reduce rice production during the war as production shifted to colonies in China and Taiwan, the only food available was the newly arriving wheat, one of the main ingredients in Ramen.
All these events gave birth to a craze for ramen. As mentioned earlier the main ingredient of Japanese soups and broths is the amino acid glutamate.
So, when it comes to ramen, one of the best shops serving authentic ramen noodles made it naturally from boiling dried kombu seaweed, which is the best source of monosodium glutamate. It can also come from dried shrimp or bonito flakes, or from fermented soy. Instant ramen allowed everyone to create their own versions of this dish by simply adding boiling water.
By 1980s ramen became a Japanese cultural icon and was studied around the world from many perspectives. At the same time, local varieties of ramen were hitting the national market.
Today ramen has achieved an arguably strong position in Japan’s most popular food’s list, and not only Japan, but the entire Asian, European and American markets.
Though invented in a backyard shed during bleak times, instant ramen has become a global food hit. It hit the Japanese markets when Japan was in an extreme bleak food shortage. Just take a walk into any food store, anywhere, and you’ll find a few colorful packets containing a dry raft of woven noodles and a foil flavor packet.
But, it’s not that ramen is something that is static, in fact, it keeps getting better and tastier. Ramen comes up with some or the other style to keep up its global presence. Be it a fancy restaurant or a classic resto, or just a street vendor, ramen is everywhere and equally appreciated and loved by all.
The natural umami flavor released with the first sip of that relishing noodle soup broth and the after taste that stays on your taste buds feels refreshing and unforgetting. Wanna try it out?