Maybe some day I will tackle ramen

Periodically I get emails and comments asking me to post a recipe for one thing or another, usually something Japanese. I try to do so (eventually) with most things, though it may take a while between request and actual writeup since I try to make sure that if I do write it up, it will actually work. One of the things I've been asked about a lot is ramen, probably because it's so ubiquitous in Japan, and so tasty. Since it's usually served as a sort of fast food, and because the instant and cup-noodle varieties are well, so instant, people may assume that it's not hard to make.

But ramen is one of those foods that takes a lot of preparation, ingredients, and skill to really make properly. If you've ever seen the movie Tampopo (the best food movie of all time), where the eponymous heroine goes through many trials to perfect her ramen skills, you will have a general idea of what's involved. While not all ramen-ya may use pig's heads and the like to make their soup, a properly made ramen soup is deeply complex and does indeed use a lot of things like pork bones, whole chicken carcasses, and more. It makes sense to make such a soup in large, commercial quantities, but for the home kitchen? I'm not sure.

In Japan there are lots of readymade ramen preparations which are several steps above the instant kind. Some of those readymade soups and noodles are really pretty good. Otherwise, people just go to their favorite ramen-ya for their noodle fix - there are whole books and magazine issues dedicated to just ramen. I'm hoping that real ramen becomes as popular around the world as sushi has, so that the pleasure of slurping a hot bowl of tasty noodle soup can be experienced more easily.

Until then though...I'll probably content myself with the better varieties of instant at home, when I can afford the calorie hit. Though I've seen some pork 'osso bucco' at the supermarket recently...

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I can't wait until there's a ramen-ya in Philly. We are severely lacking in that department, and that's one thing New York has on us.

I have to say though Yoko... NY doesn't have a really great ramen-ya either...

So do you have some recommended brands/flavors of the instant stuff that you like? I've found a few (unfortunately I always forget to write them down - one had separate packets for soup base, veggies, and oil, and it was fantastic!) that I've really enjoyed, but I always end up feeling overwhelmed at the asian market when faced with an aisle full of colors and shapes... :)

I try to stay away as much as possible from instant ramen because they aren't exactly health food, but I do like the Myojo "Chuuka Zanmi" line - there is a picture of the cold noodles they make here. It's a sort of premium brand though which costs 1.5 - 2 times as much as most other brands. Another one that's not bad and is cheaper too, is Marutai Bo Ramen - the noodles are straight, instead of crinkled ('bo' means stick). Here's a picture of it.


I've started doing a series about making ramen, and it is a LOT of work—I have a LOT to learn, but so far I've got stock in the freezer with menma and chashu. Finding decent noodles is tricky, but I can't find a recipe for making them.

Hi Maki,

I'm wondering if yu have a good Yaki Udon recipe that you could share. Thanks!

Does the difficulty lie mainly in the preparation of the stock? Because a halfway compromise could be reached...

I'm half Japanese and never had Japanese food till my teens when Teriyaki became popular in food courts in Canada and my friends forced me to try it lol. The hubby and I tried to make our own Ramen one night. Didn't work out too well. They came out thick like Udon. If you want to try Ramen you need a really sharp knife and lots of time and patience to cut them just right.

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