Ramen Toppings and Noodles
Thanks to the abundance of online media that connects and informs everyone from all over the world, most people are familiar with ramen. A popular dish in Japan, ramen is eaten by many on a daily basis and is almost always available to purchase. There are many different types of ramen to choose from, and though the main components are generally the same, toppings and noodles can vastly differ.
Wide Variety of Ramen Toppings
Think of a bowl of ramen like you would a hamburger. You can eat hamburgers plain with just a piece of meat between two buns. Yet, even something as simple as that can have vast variances. What kind of meat is used? What type of bread are the buns made from? Did you use one patty or two? Ramen is very similar in this sense. The basic concept of noodles in a broth with optional toppings is hardly revolutionary, but with so many options to choose from you could likely have a different bowl of ramen every single day of the year!
In this article, we’ll be looking closely at the varying ramen toppings and noodles. There are also many different broths used in ramen dishes, but we’ll save that for another time. As a rule, there are no rules to what you can put into your ramen, though traditional ramen dishes do follow a set list of ingredients to choose form. For now, let’s dive into the toppings most commonly used in ramen!
Meat Ramen Toppings
These toppings are perfect for any carnivores or omnivores who want to add a bit of heft or weight to their ramen. Whether you’re into meat from the land or sea, there’s plenty of delicious ramen toppings to satisfy any meat cravings you may have. The most common meat found in ramen dishes include, but are not limited to:
- Fatty slices of roasted or braised pork (Chashu)
- Pork Belly (Kakuni)
- Slices of steamed fish cake (Kamaboko)
- Shredded pork
- Ground meat
Vegetable Ramen Toppings
Who says eating your vegetables has to be boring? Any ramen dish can be enhanced by adding a few choice selections of vegetables that are sure to kick the flavor up a notch! You can load up your bowl with whatever combination of these delicious options you like:
- Bamboo shoots (Menma)
- Leeks (Negi)
- Beansprouts (Moyashi)
- Wakame seaweed
- Nori seaweed
- Sweet Corn
- Pickled ginger
- Fresh Garlic
- Fried string potatoes
Dairy and Sauce/Oil Ramen Toppings
No ramen is complete without oils and sauces. Butter and eggs are also a favored addition to the dish, as they compliment the broth and noodles in a delightful way! Try adding some of these ingredients to create a new depth of flavor:
- Hard boiled eggs (usually halved)
- Marinated eggs
- Soft boiled eggs
- Raw eggs
- Clarified pork fat
- Sesame oil
- Miso paste
- Soy sauce (Shoyu)
- Black garlic oil (Mayu)
Who doesn’t like a little seasoning? Unlike most other countries, Japan doesn’t have the same hang ups about controversial ingredients like MSG. If you’re feeling adventurous, tack on some much needed salty seasonings to make the flavors really pop:
- White or black pepper
- Japanese chili powder (Togarashi)
- Sansho pepper
- Chili paste
- Curry powder
- Yuzu spice paste (Yuzukosho)
Wide Variety Of Ramen Noodle Textures And Shapes
Almost as important as your toppings, the type of ramen noodles you use in your dish will provide you with different experiences of taste and flavor. Most people think that ramen noodles are all the same, but there are quite a very variances to the beloved noodle that can drastically impact the overall flavor of the meal.
A common belief in Japan – held mainly by serious ramen chefs and restaurant owners – is that ramen noodles are at their peak of flavor perfection for only the first five minutes after cooking. This means that if you want to experience the best possible flavor of your dish, you better eat fast! If you really want to consider yourself well versed in ramen noodle varieties, take a look at the varying differences below and see which type of noodle you might like best!
Thick vs. Thin
It’s often questioned why the thickness of ramen noodles really matters in the grand scheme of things. For many, it’s just a simple preference on how large or small their food is. For others, there are legitimate reasons why they prefer one over the other. Though it may seem crazy to think about, the thickness of ramen noodles actually contributes to the amount of broth that is absorbed into the noodle.
Why is broth absorption so important? For starters, if your noodles are sucking up less broth you might not get the proper ratio of broth to noodle. This can impact how you experience the dish. If your noodles are absorbing too much broth, they might be overloaded with flavor that takes way from the ramen noodles themselves, or even the ramen toppings you chose for the dish.
Whether your preference is to immerse yourself in the flavors of the broth or simply have a small taste, the size of your noodles may play a very important role in your experience of ramen.
Flat vs. Round
Depending on how the dough is kneaded and prepared, you might happen across ramen noodles that seem more flat than round. This variance, much like the thickness of the noodle, can play a part in the taste and flavor of the dish.
Unlike other differences in this section, flat and round ramen noodles are mainly different in texture and appearance alone. Some round ramen noodles can be chewier or more absorbent than their flat counterparts, but sometimes it’s the other way around. Overall, it’s widely thought that flat and round ramen noodles are made specifically to the preference of the chef.
Curly vs. Straight
It is said that curly ramen noodles will ‘catch’ the broth better than straight ramen noodles. It is also said that curly noodles have a better or more interesting texture than straight noodles, though that could be merely speculation. The science isn’t exact on this variance, but there are noticeable differences that can lead to personal conclusions on which is best.
An important difference to note is how each of these noodles interacts with chopsticks. Curly ramen noodles are easier to grab and hold, while straight ramen noodles have a greater chance of slipping and falling back into the broth. As mentioned above, since your goal is to eat the ramen before the five minute window of perfection is up, you might want to try curly ramen noodles if your chopsticks skills aren’t up to par.
Hard vs. Soft
It doesn’t take a scientist to know the difference between hard and soft noodles, but it might take one to understand the chemistry behind the reasons why ramen noodles may have varying consistencies. The flour used in making ramen noodles can have between 25-50% water present, and it’s been proven that the higher the water content the softer the noodle. Combined with the fact that the more protein present in the flour the more chewy a noodle can be, flour that is low in water content and high in protein will be both hard and chewy.
So what’s the difference between hard and soft noodles? To put it simply, harder noodles have more gluten in them than softer noodles, and are generally able to absorb more broth. If you don’t have an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten, then how hard or soft your ramen noodles are remains completely up to your preference. If you want to learn more about gluten free ramen, you can read all about it in our other blog, “Gluten Free Ramen”!
There’s a plethora of ingredients available to be used as ramen toppings, and more are being added to the list every day. As people outside of Japan begin to incorporate ramen into their diet, new recipes and discoveries are always popping up. A great example of this is the newfound love of American cheese on top of ramen! People say that it gives the tasty dish an added layer of creamy flavor, but it’s hard to tell if the trend with stick!
Hopefully everyone can find a combination of ingredients that makes their tastebuds happy! Let us know in the comments what your favorite ramen toppings are and which ramen noodles you like best!