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Your Ultimate Ramen Guide

For many travelers to Japan, there is none quite as hearty as a good bowl of steaming hot ramen, especially on cold winter days. Furthermore, ramen is inexpensive and widely available that makes it an ideal option for budget travelers. Do you know that ramen wasn’t always so affordable? In the past, ramen was actually considered as a luxury food because it is cheaper to buy Udon (Japanese noodles) than ramen. It has become affordable and popular only after the World War II due to large amounts of cheap wheat flour imported from the United States. It was not until the 1980s that ramen was recognized as a Japanese cultural icon.

The true history of ramen still remains unclear. Some say ramen has a Chinese origin as the Japanese word for ramen comes from the Chinese word lamian. After Japanese adopted this noodles, they redefined it to suit their own tastes. Anyway, ramen is a Japanese kind of noodle soup consisting of wheat noodles served in a meat or fish-based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso, and adds a few different toppings before serving. However, the primary elements of this humble soup have been developed over centuries. There has never been more availability of high-quality ramen as there is today. There have also never been as many delicious new innovations topping in the dish as there is today.

Do you know to order your ramen? Many ramen shops have a vending machine right next to the entrance door for you to purchase a food ticket. Using a self-service ticket vending machine is quick and easy and the machine will largely be the same for all the ramen shops. Please prepare some 1000 yen notes or plenty of coins for the ticket vending machine. The machine has all the dishes displayed with a button to select them. After selected your dish, insert your money and then get change when you finish ordering. In some ramen shops, the ticket will be a paper one that prints out, while at others the ticket will be a plastic rectangular chip. Once you are inside the shop, hand your food ticket to the shop staff over the counter and the chefs will prepare your food. If you are unsure of what to do, ask the shop staff for assistance. There will most likely be an English menu, even if the shop staff does not speak much English.

Ramen Eating Etiquette

Basically, there is no particular strict etiquette for eating ramen, but you should pay attention to these few points:

  • The number one rule is to eat quickly. It is best to consume the dish as fast as possible before the ramen noodles soak up the soup and get mushy. Moreover, if you are taking your time in a ramen shop with a long waiting line, it is not only inconveniencing other customers, but also affecting the shop that relies on customers to eat quickly and go.
  • It is considered respectful not to talk while eating ramen. This shows respects to the cooks who took the great amount of time to create such a wonderful and delicious masterpiece.
  • It is considered respectful to slurp noodles as it shows that you enjoy the meal very much. In fact, slurping will cool the hot noodles and bring out the taste of the soup. Last but not least, some Hakata ramen restaurants allow for noodle-only refills, which known as kaedama. If you want to request a refill, please do it when you are half done with the noodles. Don’t forget to leave some delicious soup for your second helping of noodles.

The magic of the perfect bowl of ramen lies in several elements: noodles, broth, and toppings. But it is a complex broth that really makes a bowl of ramen sing. There are many different types of ramen broth, from rich ones made from collagen-rich pork bones to lighter ones that rely on miso for its flavor. No matter how you like yours, a bowl of steaming hot ramen is really a comfort food during your stay in Japan. Ramen shops are readily available on every street. If you are having a tough time deciding which ramen shop to go, you won’t be wrong with the big crowd queuing up outside the shop, especially during lunch and dinner. Surely, the waiting time is short as the number one rule of ramen is – eat quickly!

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