Ask anyone today which cuisine ramen belongs to and the answer is pretty much always "Japanese". Ramen noodles are so integrally linked to Japan that it's considered a national dish.
There are two basics about most ramen dishes. First, the use of kansui (baking soda and water) gives ramen noodles their yellow colour and chewy texture, and second, the noodles are usually served in a meat or vegetable broth. Tonkotsu is a dish that has its origins on the Kysuhu island of Japan and it takes many hours to prepare the pork-bones broth. This version has grilled pork ribs, kakuni and chashu pork, as well as vegetables, eggs and homemade noodles. As this is a dish that can be shared between two people, make some room if you're ordering by yourself!
Ramen's Chinese origins
If we look at the history of the dish, it seems that the Japanese were influenced by the Chinese when they first started cooking ramen. Ramen made its first appearance in Japan between the 17th and 20th centuries. Its origins have been linked with a scholar named Shu Shunsui who escaped Manchu rule in China and became an advisor to a Japanese feudal lord, but there are no historical records that verify this.
However, a Tokyo restaurant called Rai-Rai Ken, which employed Chinese cooks, first started selling "shina soba" in 1910. This term roughly translates to "Chinese noodle". Shina soba was a popular dish for workers as it was filling and cheap. It's a little ironic that the dish that people all over the world now consider quite a treat was once a "poor man's dinner".
Let's look at some of the different ramen dishes out there today.
Some of us love the idea of ramen noodles, but aren't into slurping broth. So go soupless and order Where is the Broth? from the Eat Me Ramen Bar. This is abura soba (noodles without broth), along with a 63 degree egg, chashu pork, veggies and crispy shallots. All the fun of eating ramen without the inconvenience of splashy broth!
So many ramen choices
You're spoilt for choice when it comes to ramen, firstly with the number of restaurants that serve it, but also the staggering range at individual restaurants. At Orient Foodies, the Soup Ramen menu has 12 different varieties, from seafood to beef, and pork to chicken. Our favourite has to be the Deep-Fried Chicken Ramen where the chicken is crumbed and deep-fried, before being served in a ramen noodle broth with egg and veggies. It's a kind of American-Japanese fusion dish!
Ramen goes Korean
Japanese cuisine doesn't have the monopoly on ramen dishes today. Not only do most pan-Asian restaurants serve it, but it's become a Korean speciality too. The Jin Ramen at SEOUL IN Ramen Lab has a seafood base, and is topped with assorted seafood, spring onion, bean sprout, shitake mushrooms and a poached egg. There's also a veggie option - the Soon Ramen.
While ramen may have started life with Chinese influences, it's fair to say that it's a dish overwhelmingly dominated by Japanese cooking today.
Whatever kind of ramen you're in the market for, you can order it now with Deliveroo.