Friday, 7 January 2011


Ramen (ラーメン) is a delicious noodle-soup dish. There're many variations, but the biggest bifurcation in the ramen world could be said to be between the 'real' ramen, that you get in restaurants and noodle bars, and instant ramen. The former tends to be a cheap staple for many Japanese, particularly in Tokyo, but an eye-opening culinary treat for Westerners. While the price is kept very low in noodle bars (the efficient way of serving helps with this), the quality can be excpetionally high.

The latter, instant ramen, is basically a plastic/cardboard cup, dried noodles, freeze-dried vegetables and a sachet of soup base, to which boiling water is added. If you're in the UK, you might think this sounds remarkably like a Pot Noodle, and you'd be right. But to be fair to ramen, Golden Wonder's offering is perhaps not the best example of the genre, and a trip to your local Asian supermarket can prove very enlightening as instant ramen can come in all shapes and sizes - and, of course, flavours.

Photo by Chipango

One of the best things about real ramen, as opposed to instant, is the various toppings that can be incorporated. Ham, seaweed, egg, spring onions (scallions), chillies, tofu, gyoza, meatballs, sesame seeds - the combinations are limitless. The broth is either clear (usually dashi fish stock or soy sauce-base) or cloudy (often pork bone-base), and the noodles can be straight or crinkled.

Remember, it's fine to noisily slurp your noodles - in fact, it's polite. If you're told "shizuka desune" ("you eat quietly"), give it a big shluurp! And once the noodles are gone, feel free to drink from the bowl - the broth is delicious, and if you use a spoon you'll be there all day.



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