There are hundreds of stories behind ramen noodles. A savory broth, flavorful meat, and a few toppings are basic components of a ramen dish and have evolved over time.
Most history indicates ramen noodles were migrated to Japan via China. The Japanese adopted the dish in the 1920s and started calling it “Ra-men”, while the Chinese called it “Lo-mein”, meaning “handmade noodle”. After the wartime, some Japanese had returned home after living in China and started opening ramen shops. It had great feedback from local Japanese. Since then, the ramen dish had developed to have more nutrition and variety.
There is no record of when it was introduced to the US. After World War II, the know-how of cuisine from troops and immigrants had been inherited over continents and to the US. A process of handmade ramen noodles from scratch is complicated, expensive, and time consuming. It becomes understandable why machine produced noodles are popular and are in place for economies of scale.
As Seattle is one of the top Asian populous cities in the state, ramen dishes are served in several Japanese, Chinese, and Asian-alike restaurants. Prices vary by restaurant and its components. The noodles themselves are cheap but the “accessories” make up the bulk of the price. Good broth and meat are the keys to complete the dish. Because of the size of a ramen dish–huge, and warm soup, Seattle eaters tend to warm themselves up with this kind of dish especially on a cold day. The tradition of eating soup is to slurp. This shows polite manners in eating ramen.
David Eam, the Chinese-American born, thinks of ramen as two types: cheap and fun. “There are two types of ramen noodles. Sometimes you’re really craving for cheap ramen like an instant noodle. It’s good on a cold day. With the other type, I think of Japanese booths where people eat side by side with another customer. There is no need for spoons, just chopsticks, and you slurp the soup while tilting the bowl with your hands. It’s more like an old friend; it’s not fine dining. It’s something you really enjoy every now and then” said David
Speaking of instant ramen noodles, they were first introduced to the U.S Market in 1970 by Momofuku Ado, the Founder of Nissin Foods. Because of its cheap price, it had become popular among college students and fast-food-at-home eaters.
Nutrition is debatable among eaters. Some say it’s healthy while others disagree. There is also a general misleading perception of ramen when “ramen” is mentioned. People tend to associate it with instant ramen and that leads to “fast food noodle” resulting to the conclusion of an unhealthy meal. “The first thing that comes to mind when I think of ramen is cheap and yummy. I think that ramen can be nutritious if it isn’t a packaged type that is often associated with college students. If I want some tasty ramen, I would check out a restaurant that has homemade broth, fresh noodles and ingredients” said Janelle Murakawa, a Japanese Pacific Islander.
In contrast, real foodies have different perspectives on ramen. Ramen speaks to them as a homemade meal; fresh noodle, homemade stock and long hours of charcoal meat. Anne Boonjarern, a Thai-American born, thinks it reminds her of mom’s home cooking.
“She doesn’t make ramen or noodle soup often, but just the scent of the broth and hot steam coming from the top of the bowl reminds me of when I want something tasty and filling”.
Although homemade gourmet ramen seems to take time and can be pricey, you can handpick from the way of cooking and the amount of each ingredient, to the way of eating and the amount of nutrition.
Jenefer Domingo, a Filipino-American born, considers herself a cook. She thinks homemade ramen is healthy. “Yes of course homemade ramen is healthier; it’s less sodium and preservatives. Homemade ramen with fresh ramen noodles is so good”, said Jen
Don’t jump to a conclusion just yet. Whether or not it’s healthy, it depends on two angles: nutrition standard and used ingredients. Whatever your perspective of ramen is, there’s no right or wrong. So, what does ramen speak to you?
Featured recipe: Gourmet Miso ramen with chicken and tofu – under 30 mins
- 1 skinless boneless chicken breast
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp chili oil
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 8 firm tofu cubes, about 1 inch
- 1 TBS vegetable oil
- 4 TBS white miso paste
- ¼ cup sake
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 tsp dashi no moto powder
- ½ tsp shichimi
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp chili oil
- 1 carton plus 2 cups chicken stock, no salt added
- 8 fresh ginger slices
- 2 TBS julienne leek
- miso paste from above (use all)
- 2 tsp dashi no moto powder
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 1 boiled egg cut in half lengthwise
- 2 TBS wakame (steep in hot water for 5 mins)
- ½ cup bean sprout
- 6 fish cake slices
- 1 tsp roasted white sesame seeds
- 1 tsp scallion (green and white part) cut in diagonal for garnish
- 9 oz ramen noodles
- 1 tsp Sesame oil, divide
- Season chicken with salt, pepper, and oils. Set aside.
- Heat up a cast iron pan or a skillet with oil. Sear tofu both sides in a hot pan for about 2 mins on each side. After they’re done, set aside and cover with foil
- Heat up a grill to medium high heat or about 400 F; grill it for 7 mins on each side or to your desire of doneness. Let it sit for 10 mins. Cover with foil
- Make miso paste. Combine all the ingredients together. Wisk well. This can be done ahead of time
- Boil chicken stock in a medium saucepan, add ginger and leek. Let it simmer for 10 mins. In a meantime, cook noodle in boiled water for about 2 mins or follow the instruction on a package
- After the noodles are cooked, rinse and divide them into prepared bowl. Pour ½ tsp sesame oil over cooked noodle. Use your hand to coat noodle with oil
- Arrange all the toppings on top of noodle
- Add miso paste in soup pot. Wisk until it’s dissolved
- Add dashi no moto powder and white pepper to a soup
- Use a slotted spoon to scoop out ginger and leek
- Taste for correction
- The soup needs to be very hot. Pour the soup over prepared noodle
- Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds and chopped scallions