Ramen may be a Japanese import into but it has definitely become a firm favorite among Americans. But there are still many things about these noodles that many of us don’t know yet, a shame because these things can affect our enjoyment of it. For example, ramen must be eaten within 15 minutes after its preparation so that it can be enjoyed at its best, and miso ramen has cold butter as its traditional topping.
Here are a few more things that you will want to know about ramen, which can be enjoyed in its various forms at a Wagamama Japanese restaurant.
Ordering Your Ramen Is Easy
When ordering your ramen, you can make the process easier by thinking about the Japanese approach to ramen. The noodles as a dish consists of three main elements – broth, noodles, and toppings. You should then make decisions in this order so that your bowl of ramen will likely tickle your palate and fill your tummy.
First, select your broth. The broth is the heart of ramen – and it shows because without it, the noodles and toppings will be less palatable. The best ramen chefs undergo intensive training to prepare the perfect broth that, in turn, can take several hours of boiling. The flavors are both simple and complex, refreshing and reenergizing, and filling so much so that many people can sip a few bowls of it in one sitting.
The types of ramen broths can be overwhelming for a beginner. But it can be summarized into the major types based on their appearance including:
- Shoyu, a soy sauce-based broth with a transparent brown color
- Tonkutso, a pork-based broth with a white milky color
- Miso, a miso-based broth with a brown non-transparent color
- Shio, a salt-based broth with a transparent appearance
Each broth will obviously have a unique flavor profile but all of them have the distinctive umami flavor of Japanese cuisine. If you’re in doubt, you can choose the one with the possibly familiar flavor, such as the tonkutso for beginners.
Second, choose your noodles. Ramen noodles come in several varieties from thick to thin, and straight to wrinkled, even one with a ribbon-like appearance. But all of these noodles are made from four basic ingredients, namely, wheat flour, kansui, water, and salt; kansui, an alkaline mineral water gives the noodles its firm texture and yellowish color.
Your choice will largely depend on your own preference for thickness, length and texture. You can also mix and match the broth and noodles until you find one that suits your palate and make it your regular order. But life’s too short to stay with a single ramen dish so experiment and keep your palate guessing.
Third, be creative with your ramen toppings. Don’t be shy about asking the English names for the toppings although these are already evident on sight, such as braised or barbecued sliced pork belly, marinated soft boiled eggs, and the usual vegetables – spring onions, bamboo shoots, and dried seaweed.
Ramen isn’t your bowl of instant noodles so you have the assurance that it’s satisfying and filling for your body and soul! No wonder it’s a favorite among people of all age and from all walks of life.
Being Mindful of Your Manners
Eating ramen in a Japanese restaurant may seem like a casual affair, almost like you’re in a fast-food joint. But eating Japanese food has its fair share of proper table manners that elevate the activity from the ordinary to the nearly extraordinary. Keep in mind, too, that dining out isn’t just feeding your body but it’s also about feeding your mind with culinary experiences.
With this in mind, you have to be mindful of your table manners.
- Eat your ramen as soon as it arrives at your table. Otherwise, the food’s umami flavors are disintegrating with every minute that you just let it sit there – the noodles start breaking down into a soggy mess, the fats in the toppings separate, and the broth becomes cool. Just stop with your social media activities, especially of taking photos for uploading to your Facebook account, and dive right in.
- Slurp your ramen like you mean it! Loud and proud is how ramen enthusiasts like to slurp on their noodles. This is true even when beginners may think that it’s rude, especially as Western customs dictate being dainty when eating soup.
There are good reasons for the slurping – or as people call it, your mouth imitating the sounds of a bathtub being drained. First, slurping allows the surrounding air to cool down the hot broth and noodles so you can enjoy it without scalding your mouth. Second, it aids in intensifying the umami flavors of the dish because slurping spreads the food around your mouth, just as when you’re drinking hot coffee. Third, it’s a compliment to the chef’s cooking ability.
And avoid indulging in the seasonings, condiments, and toppings! Keep in mind that the best Japanese ramen has the perfect balance of flavors so adding one too many of these elements will alter it, even make it less than satisfying and filling. You have to trust the chef in this case.