The Untold Story of Japanese Ramen Noodles

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The Untold Story of Japanese Ramen Noodles

Japanese ramen noodles are a type of wheat noodle soup that is classified according to its soup base. They originated in China and have grown to be one of Japan’s most popular noodle dishes. Nearly every busy corner is home to a ramen restaurant (ramen-ya). With over 32,000 restaurants located throughout the country, each region will feature a variety of regional specialities.

Ramen noodles flourished throughout Japan with the opening of the port for trading towards the end of the Meiji era (1868-1912). In Kobe and Yokohama, a Chinatown was created (the main ports). Chuka-soba was the name of the ramen (which means Chinese soba). Tokyo’s first Ramen establishment opens. The proprietor of the restaurant asked 12 Chinese cooks from Yokohama’s Chinatown to work at his new establishment.

Where Did Ramen Originate From?

Although ramen has found a fruitful footing in the Land of the Rising Sun, where it is a frequently eaten dish on a daily basis, the Chinese claim credit for its conception. According to reports, the Ming dynasty scholar Shu Shunsui, who arrived in Japan as a refugee in the 17th century and immediately became an adviser to feudal lord Tokugawa Mitsukuni, is credited for establishing the ramen tradition.

Given that the house lord was accustomed to beginning meals with a basic udon soup, Shunsui advised he enliven it with a variety of items, ranging from vegetables to pork, in order to create a single balanced dish. Unfortunately, no documented documentation of the recipe has been passed down, and the delicate border between truth and folklore makes verifying the notion impossible.

Rather than that, the most probable explanation is that when Japan’s port cities opened to international commerce in the mid-19th century, the country found Laa-Mein, a Chinese noodle soup remarkably similar to ramen but lacking the topping. In Japan, the first person to consume Ramen in Japan was Mito Mitsukuni dated 1697.

Ramen Noodle Types

Ramen is a type of noodle that is slightly different from other types of noodles. Served in a large ramen noodle bowl, noodles ramen are combined with Kansui (alkalinized water). Kansui imparts a softer texture to wheat noodles. Only last year, an old Japanese book revealed that noodles made with Kansui and wheat called Keitai-men were offered in 1488, arguably the first ramen-style noodle eaten in Japan. When ramen first arrived in Japan, it was not well received by the people. The Japanese thought the soup was a tad bit too greasy.

Throughout its growth in Japan, ramen diverged significantly from its Chinese equivalent in order to appeal to the Japanese palate. Chashu pork, bamboo shoots, nori, and eggs were substituted as toppings. Additionally, the soup flavours varied significantly to include a soy sauce flavour that was not as fatty as the Chinese soups.

PostWar Ramen & Instant Noodles

Following the war, ramen was widely consumed due to its low cost of production and nutritional content. Ramen was a popular street snack until the 1950s when mobile carts served the cuisine.

Nisshin Chicken Ramen was the world’s first instant noodle, introduced in 1953 and quickly spread over the world. Numerous restaurants began offering a range of soups, including shellfish and miso. As a result, nearly every prefecture in Japan has its own distinct kind of ramen. Today, ramen is only available as quick food and is never offered in upscale restaurants.

Feudal Lord Tokugawa Mitsukuni
Feudal Lord Tokugawa Mitsukuni
Geisha Eating Japanese Ramen Noodles
Geisha Eating Japanese Ramen Noodles
Rise Of Ramen Noodles In Post War Japan
Rise of Ramen Noodles in Post War Japan
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