When you visit a Japanese noodle shop, the variety of ramen presents an exciting but confusing choice for first-timers. Despite the many different ingredients to top a bowl of ramen, there are typically three basic broths : shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), tonkotsu (pork bones) and miso (soybean paste) ramen. The variations come from the added seasonings and toppings.
The art of making ramen (chukamen) noodles takes years to perfect, and ramen shop cooks devise their own versions of broths and guard their secret seasoning recipes. But you can make your own delicious ramen soup at home. I do, and dare I say that I love my sumptuously rich broths better! Too many profit-driven small shops here in America skimp on ingredients. At home, you can give it all the love youve got.
Some ramen shops offer their house specials which are soups of their own design. Contrary to the belief that all Japanese food is bland, some Japanese enjoy spiciness (think spicy tuna sushi and wasabi) so they add blistering levels of chili pepper heat to their ramen.
You can top your ramen with a variety of fresh, raw or cooked ingredients such as boiled egg, seaweed, sprouts, barbecued pork, green onions, fishcake, cooked meat and seafood. In addition, popular condiments for ramen include shoyu, la-yu (red chili oil), vinegar and tongarashi (shichimi), a spicy pepper blend made from seven seasonings. You just sprinkle on top the noodles before eating. This way, you can control the level of heat.
Here is my recipe for Shoyu Ramen, perhaps the most popular ramen broth. (See BellaOnline.com Japanese food site Tonkotsu, Butter Corn and Miso Ramen Recipes, too!)
Shoyu Ramen (soy sauce)
Shoyu is the Japanese word for soy sauce. Although soy sauce is added to other ramen broths, in this type the soy sauce is the main seasoning.
1 quart dashi (konbu-katsuobushi stock)
¼ cup dried shrimps
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small slice fresh ginger (about ½E
1 Tbsp. cooking sake
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. ajinomoto, optional
seasoned or roasted nori sheets cut into strips
green scallions, sliced
toasted sesame seeds
barbecued pork, sliced*
In a large pot, bring all ingredients, except for sake, to a simmer. Stir to dissolve sugar and ajinomoto. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Strain. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding up to a teaspoon salt or more soy sauce if desired (some dried shrimps are saltier than others and you may not need added salt.) Pour this over bowls of cooked chukamen noodles and top with sliced green onions, seasoned nori strips, sesame seeds and sliced aburage.
Cooked pork for ramen is made in two different ways:
1. Pork meat (tenderloin, shoulder, cutlets) is simmered in a mixture of mirin and soy sauce just until done. Although this is a typical preparation for ramen pork, I think it is on the dry side and prefer char siu (Chinese-style barbecued pork).
2. Pork meat is slathered with a sweet barbecue sauce and roasted. This version is more Chinese-style but a favorite in Japan, too. Marinate pork shoulder with a blend of ½ cup hoisin sauce, ½ cup honey, 1/3 cup brown sugar, ¼ cup soy sauce, ½ tsp. Chinese five spice powder (optional), 1 tsp. sesame oil and ¼ cup cooking sherry. Cut meat into 3Ewide strips. Rub marinade over the meat and then the next day, roast uncovered on a rack set over a pan of water in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Turn and continue roasting for additional 25 minutes. Slice to serve.