Ramen is one of the most popular dishes in Japan, and for good reason.
It is a satisfying bowl of noodles, toppings and most importantly, broth.
The broth is the soul of ramen, and it can make or break your experience. But do you know what makes a good ramen broth? And how many types of broth are there?
In this blog post, we will explore the different Japanese ramen broths, their origins, characteristics and how to enjoy them.
Whether you are a ramen novice or a seasoned slurper, you will find something new and delicious to try.
What is ramen broth?
Ramen broth is the liquid base of a ramen soup, and it is usually made by simmering various ingredients such as bones, meat, fish, vegetables, seaweed and spices for hours or even days.
The broth is then seasoned with salt, soy sauce, miso or other condiments to create different flavors.
The broth can be thick or thin, clear or cloudy, rich or light, depending on the ingredients and methods used.
The 4 main types of ramen broth
There are many regional variations of ramen broth in Japan, but they can be broadly categorized into 4 main types: shoyu, shio, miso and tonkotsu.
Each type has its own history, taste, and best pairings with noodles and toppings.
Let’s take a look at each one in detail.
Shoyu means soy sauce in Japanese, and shoyu ramen broth is seasoned with this dark and savory liquid.
Shoyu ramen broth is one of the oldest and most common types of ramen broth in Japan, and it originated in Tokyo during the Meiji era (1868-1912). Shoyu ramen broth is usually made with chicken bones, pork bones, or a combination of both, as well as vegetables and dried fish. The broth is clear and brown in color, and has a balanced flavor that is not too salty or sweet.
Shoyu ramen broth goes well with curly noodles that have a firm texture and can hold the sauce well. The typical toppings for shoyu ramen are sliced roast pork (chashu), boiled eggs (ajitama), bamboo shoots (menma), green onions (negi), and seaweed (nori).
Shoyu ramen is a classic and versatile choice that can suit any mood and preference.
Shio means salt in Japanese, and shio ramen broth is seasoned with this simple but essential ingredient.
Shio ramen broth is the oldest type of ramen broth in Japan, and it originated in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. Shio ramen broth is usually made with chicken bones, fish bones, or a combination of both, as well as vegetables and seaweed. The broth is clear and light in color, and has a delicate flavor that highlights the natural sweetness of the ingredients.
Shio ramen broth goes well with thin noodles that have a smooth texture and can absorb the subtle flavor of the broth. The typical toppings for shio ramen are sliced roast pork (chashu), boiled eggs (ajitama), corn kernels (kōn), butter cubes (batā), green onions (negi), and seaweed (nori).
Shio ramen is a refreshing and elegant choice that can warm you up on a cold day.
Miso means fermented soybean paste in Japanese, and ramen miso broth is seasoned with this thick and flavorful paste.
Miso ramen broth is the newest type of ramen broth in Japan, and it originated in Hokkaido in the 1950s. Miso ramen broth is usually made with chicken bones, pork bones, or a combination of both, as well as vegetables and spices. The broth is cloudy and yellowish in color, and has a rich flavor that is salty, sweet, and umami.
Miso ramen broth goes well with thick noodles that have a chewy texture and can match the intensity of the broth. The typical toppings for miso ramen are sliced roast pork (chashu), ground pork (niku miso), bean sprouts (moyashi), cabbage (kyabetsu), corn kernels (kōn), butter cubes (batā), green onions (negi), garlic chips (garikku chippu), and chili oil (rāyu).
Miso ramen is a hearty and satisfying choice that can fill you up with energy.
Tonkotsu means pork bones in Japanese, and tonkotsu ramen broth is made by boiling pork bones for a long time until they dissolve into a milky white liquid.
Tonkotsu ramen broth is the most recent type of ramen broth in Japan, and it originated in Kyushu, the southernmost island of Japan. Tonkotsu ramen broth is usually made with pork bones only, and sometimes with chicken bones or vegetables as well. The broth is opaque and creamy in color, and has a rich flavor that is fatty, savory, and collagen-rich.
Tonkotsu ramen broth goes well with thin noodles that have a soft texture and can blend with the broth. The typical toppings for tonkotsu ramen are sliced roast pork (chashu), boiled eggs (ajitama), pickled ginger (beni shōga), wood ear mushrooms (kikurage), green onions (negi), sesame seeds (goma), and garlic paste (ninniku).
Tonkotsu ramen is a decadent and indulgent choice that can make you feel happy.
How to enjoy ramen noodle soup
Now that you know the different types of ramen broth, how can you enjoy them to the fullest?
Here are some tips and tricks to make your ramen experience more enjoyable.
- Slurp your noodles. This may sound rude, but it is actually the proper way to eat ramen in Japan. Slurping your noodles helps you cool them down, mix them with the broth, and enhance the flavor. It also shows your appreciation to the chef and the dish.
- Drink your broth. Don’t leave your broth behind after finishing your noodles. The broth is the essence of ramen, and it contains a lot of nutrients and flavor. You can drink it directly from the bowl, or use a spoon if you prefer.
- Customize your ramen. Most ramen shops offer condiments such as vinegar, soy sauce, pepper, chili oil, garlic paste, and sesame seeds that you can add to your ramen to adjust the taste to your liking. You can also ask for extra toppings or noodles if you want more.
- Try different combinations. There are no fixed rules for what type of noodles, broth, and toppings go together. You can experiment with different combinations and find your favorite one. You can also try different regional styles of ramen, such as Sapporo-style miso ramen, Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen, or Kitakata-style shoyu ramen.