Ramen I

The World’s Most Popular Pasta
Marco Polo’s Legacy?

Swung noodles, because of the stretching and the rolling, have a feel and texture cut noodles lack.” — Buwei Yang Chao

Instant Ramen

Ramen, if you count its instant varieties, is far and away the most popular pasta dish on earth

So how did an Asian pasta dish come to surpass its Italian original? We’ll come back to that.

More than 85 billion servings of instant ramen alone are served every year.which works out to 13 servings per person per year.  In some countries, the average number of servings is much higher. [1]

In South Korea, which may have the highest per capita consumption in the world, this wold, they consume a whopping 80 servings per person a year!

What Is Ramen? Ramen is the name for a Japanese noodle dish of Chinese origin. The dish is made of Chinese-style wheat noodles in a hot soup,  often flavored with soy sauce or other flavorings and served with toppings such as sliced roast pork, seaweed, green onions and other toppings. [2]

How Did Ramen Get Started? Ramen may have its origins in  a northern Chinese style of pulled noodles in which the action of pulling and rolling imparts a distinctive mouth-feel and texture to the wheat noodles.

How About Instant? Dr. Chao said that “A good northern cook, or even a cooking maid, knows how to swing noodles by herself.” The Chinese hand-pulled noodles took off in Japan and became popular in the early 20th century. [3]

But things have changed.  Most ramen consumed today are not handmade but made by machines. The handmade variety has its loyal fans and represents the top of the pyramid of the ramen world.

What was the Original Ramen?The original ramen appears to have originated in the Chinese family style pulled noodle, called in Chinese la mien (Japanese ramen). There are several other explanations of its origins and name, as explained in the comprehensive Wikipedia article on Ramen. [4]

How did an Asian Noodle Became the World’s Leading Pasta? What about Italy, where pasta originated?  Or maybe id didn’t.  There ae partisans who claim that pasta originated in Italy and spread Eastward, perhaps via Marco Polo or the Silk Road.

There are also those who claim the origin of pasta was in ancient China and it got popular in Italy around the time after Marco Polo got back to Europe.  So maybe Marco was the one who brought it from East to West.  The origin of pasta and whether it started in China is a separate subject. [5]

Ramen in Japan: Once ramen landed in Japan, it became very popular and became naturalized.  There ae several different versions of ramen, according to the region of Japan, and each locality has its own variation on these types.

Today ramen is considered a Japanese noodle, both in Japan and internationally.  But ramen has also developed its own major Asian variations, as we shall see, and is on the way to becoming an international food.

In Japan, ramen was regarded as an import from China, which quickly became domesticated, giving rise to several distinct Japanized variations of ramen. [6]

Main Types of Ramen in Japan: The main types, based on the stock preparation —

  • Shio — salty ramen — maybe the oldest type, a pale clear broth made with lots of salt
  • Tonkotsu — pork bone ramen (not to be confused with Tonkatsu or Pork Cutlers) —  made with pork bones to make a soup with a cloudy, milky colored broth
  • Shoyu — soy sauce ramen — made with a stock with added soy sauce, giving a brownish color
  • Miso ramen — made with added miso in the stock

There are also a number of local or regional variations in Japan —

  • Tokyo style — typically thin noodles in chicken broth
  • Yokohama style — thick, straight noodles in pork broth
  • Hakata style — named after the Northern Kyushu city — thin noodles in a thick pork broth
  • Sapporo style — named for the capital of the northern island of Hokkaido — based on a stock with extra miso, often contains seafood, bean sprouts, or corn
  • Kitakata or Northern Honshu style — thick, flat, curly noodles in stock based on pork and dried anchovies

Ramen is an extraordinary food product — What other noodle can boast of its own museum, movie and even encyclopedia? We’ll explore these in another Article.

Ramen in the Future – the Ramen Burger: A recent trend in the United States is the Ramen Burger, created by Keizo Shimamoto at Smorgasbord, a Brooklyn food market – Ramen Burgers are grilled ground Beef sandwiched between two Ramen-Noodle patties.

For Further Information:

[1] Worldwide consumption of instant ramen: Instant Ramen (Noodles, what you need to know about them — http://www.squidoo.com/Instant-Ramen
[2] “Ramen,” article, Wikipedia — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramen
[3] Buwei Yang Chao, How to Cook and Eat in Chinese (New York: John Day, 1949). In Chapter 19 she gives a detailed description of how to pull noddles, that is, make la mien or ramen. —  http://www.amazon.com/Cook-Chinese-Buwei-Yang-Chao/dp/0394717031
[4] “Ramen, article, Wikipedia.
[5] Rachel Lauden, “Origins of Chinese Pasta,Flavor & Fortune — http://www.flavorandfortune.com/dataaccess/article.php?ID=227
[6] “Ramen” article, Wikipedia, again, for more details of the regional variations.

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