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After we discussed sushi and its history last week, it is only fitting to talk about the second most popular Japanese food - ramen! 

Ironically, ramen is not originally from Japan. Ramen is an adapted version of a Chinese dish, first appearing in Yokohama in the early 1900s. The first shop specializing in ramen appeared in a Tokyo suburb in 1910. The dish wouldn’t see true success until nearly 40 years later. Following World War II and the accompanying food shortages in post-war Japan, tastes in Japan shifted radically. Thanks to the US occupation, bread and wheat were suddenly found everywhere. This helped lead to ramen becoming a popular staple food in the following decades. 

At first glance, ramen might not seem that unique. Noodles in broth with some toppings? Might as well be chicken noodle soup! However, that couldn’t be any farther from the truth. As with many things in Japan, authentic ramen takes a lot of skill, experience, and time to master. A good pork bone ramen broth takes many hours of cooking to make! The noodles must be plump and chewy, but not too chewy. And one of the more popular toppings, chashu (sliced BBQ pork belly), can make or break a good ramen. 

There are also many types of ramen. The original one is called shio, simply meaning salt in Japanese. The simplicity of this type of ramen, and comparatively less complex flavors allow more versatility in toppings and ingredients. A similar type is called shoyu ramen, or soy sauce ramen. This variety adds soy sauce into the broth, along with a multitude of toppings. The final type of ramen we will discuss today is miso ramen. Miso ramen is one of the most popular styles, utilizing the titular miso paste in the broth. Originating in Sapporo, Japan, the addition of miso helps to create a very complex and hearty soup. Miso ramen usually includes ingredients such as corn, bamboo shoots, garlic, and even butter. This tends to be a favorite in Western countries. 

In the United States, for many years when the word “ramen” was mentioned it usually was in reference to cup ramen or instant ramen. Invented in 1950s Japan, instant ramen noodles were key to the modern day success of ramen worldwide. By being a dry product, this allowed easy distribution and long-term storage. While a far cry from an authentic bowl of ramen, college students across the US know that a good cup of ramen noodles can hit the spot for a cheap price. 

In the last 10 years ramen shops have gained a strong following in the US, changing the perception of ramen from a broke college student’s meal into a memorable culinary experience. Whether you like hearty miso ramen or Maruchan chicken flavored instant ramen noodles, it is hard to debate the long-lasting impact and delicious taste of this versatile soup.

Dylan Coffey

Here’s a few of our faves in Houston:

Toukei - 9630 Clarewood Dr Suite A-15, Houston, TX 77036 

Kizuki Ramen - 23220 Grand Cir Blvd Suite 140, Katy, TX 77450

Samurai Noodle - 411 Smith St Suite F, Houston, TX 77002 

Traditional Ramen

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