Life Hack: Using an electric kettle as an instant noodle-maker

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

Cooking udon, or any other kind of fresh pasta, just got a whole lot easier.

Excluding the pot of leftover curry and can of Ebisu sitting in my fridge, I think my T-fal electric kettle might be the most wonderful thing in my kitchen. All I have to do is fill it from the tap, flip the switch, and in seconds I’ve got a pot of boiling water with which to make tea, coffee, or hot chocolate.

It also comes in handy if I’m craving noodles, since the spout makes it easy to pour into cup ramen. But it turns out an electric kettle can be useful even for making noodles of the non-instant variety, as shown by Japanese Twitter user @aya_royal_1025.

@aya_royal_1025 hails from Kagawa, which is so famous for udon noodles that it’s jokingly called “Udon Prefecture.” As a staple food of the region, Kagawa’s residents of course spend a lot of time every year cooking udon, which would ordinarily entail boiling a pot of water, tossing in the noodles, then stirring them as they cook.

At some point, though, @aya_royal_1025 came up with a quicker way of getting things done: just toss the uncooked noodles into the kettle along with the necessary amount of water and flash cook them with the press of a button.

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Despite the unorthodox cooking method, @aya_royal_1025 says the resulting noodles aren’t soggy or mushy, an also promises that they taste just as good as udon made in the traditional manner.

There are a couple of things to be aware of. For starters, @aya_royal_1025 doesn’t mention one way or another whether using the kettle for a purpose it clearly wasn’t originally designed for has any effect on its longevity. Also, since you’re now using the kettle to cook instead of just boil water, you’ll want to wash the apparatus out when you’re done, so that no udon residue sticks to its inside (just like you would after making noodles in a regular pot). Finally, a normal-sized kettle is only going to have room to make a single-person-sized portion.

But if you’re in the mood for some actual udon (or any other kind of noodle) even though you’re strapped for time, this sounds like an amazingly convenient way to speed things up in the kitchen.

Japanese Zen Buddhist temple starts selling instant vegan soba and udon noodles

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RocketNews 24:

Upon coming to Japan, a lot of people are surprised to discover just how difficult finding vegetarian food can be. Many people imagine Japan as a country that eats very little meat, and while that’s definitely true in comparison to North America and western Europe, the flipside is that you’ll find at least a little bit of meat in just about all dishes, including salads and vegetable stews with surprising frequency.

Things get trickier still if you’re trying to stick to a vegan diet. Even something as simple as noodles are generally out, since almost all broths are made with meat or fish stock. But if you’ve got an aversion to meat coupled with a craving for soba or udon, you’re in luck, with two new types of vegan instant noodles produced by a Zen Buddhist temple.

As a temple of the Soto sect of Zen, Yokohama’s Soji Temple is primarily concerned with nourishing the souls of worshippers. The institution’s newest venture, though, is more concerned with your physical nourishment, as evidenced by its name, Zen-Foods.

Many devout Buddhist monks in Japan adhere to a strict vegan diet called shojin ryori. In recent years, the cuisine has obtained a somewhat chic status, bolstered by its healthy image and connection to temple lodges that have become increasingly popular places for travelers to stay.

Under the supervision of Soji Temple, Zen-Foods has produced two types of instant noodles, both completely animal product-free, in accordance with the rules of shojin ryori.

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The Gahomen Soba buckwheat noodles, despite their elegant background, are made like any other instant variety. Open the lid, sprinkle on the soup powder, add hot water, and wait three minutes for everything to cook. Once it does, you’ll have a bowl of soba, swimming in a kelp/soy sauce broth, topped with soybeans, fried tofu, kikurage mushrooms, and an assortment of chingensai, warabi, and zenmai greens.

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Meanwhile, the Gahomen Udon wheat noodles’ has a vegetable broth seasoned with salt. While soba and udon toppings are largely interchangeable in Japanese cuisine, Zen-Foods gives its two types of noodles completely different accompaniments. With the udon, you can look forward to lotus root, green beans, and taro, among other veggies.

The udon does require a little more patience, though, as its cooking time is listed as five minutes. Looked at another way, though, that’s two more minutes for quiet meditation, self-reflection, or simply looking forward to your hot, healthy meal.

Gahomen Soba and Udon can be ordered here, directly from Zen-Foods, in packs of 12 for 3,600 yen (US$30).

Japanese poutine? Tokyo chain puts french fries on soba noodles

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RocketNews24:

Ramen burgers. Bulgogi tacos. Cronuts. Sometimes the stars align and the gods see fit to bless the world with visionary new dishes–the kind that make people say, “Is that even possible?” Eventually, those same people end up wondering why no one came up with the concept sooner.

One of our Japanese writers was able to experience the joy of culinary experimentation firsthand during a recent trip to Tokyo’s Nadai Fuji Soba, which is now serving… wait for it… French fry soba! Though at first glance you might think someone spilled their Happy Meal over a plate of noodles, the tasty result is sure to make you a believer.

The concept of French fry soba originated with Osaka’s Hankyu Soba Wakana. The dish later secretly made its debut in Tokyo through major soba chain Nadai Fuji Soba, which began offering the variation on traditional soba at limited locations. Curious as to whether fries and soba really could make a good pairing, our writer decided to try it for himself. The experience ultimately left him thinking French fry soba is going to become a staple among soba fans.

Available at three restaurants:
As of now, Nadai Fuji Soba is offering the groundbreaking dish at the following three Tokyo locations: 1) Kanda 2) Shibuya Shimoda Building 3) Uguisu. Though there is as yet no official word regarding whether the chain will be rolling out its product in all its restaurants, the public’s enthusiastic reception seems to suggest such a move is likely.

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More expensive than croquette soba
The dish costs 440 yen (US$3.68), which, somewhat surprisingly, sets it slightly higher than the fried chicken soba available for 410 yen ($3.43). It’s also more expensive than the 410-yen croquette soba, even though both dishes have a similar mouthfeel. Our writer couldn’t help wondering how the addition of french fries, a regular offering on fast food menus, could raise the price above the other options. Was the extra money worth it? Let’s see…

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Won’t the fries be too salty?

Since the fries are prepared on the spot, it takes about four minutes for the food to come out. After waiting expectantly, our writer finally had a chance to dig in. Let’s get right to what we need to know: It works! It really works! Though he expected to receive seasoned fries on top of his soba, it turned out this was not the case; the fries had no extra salt. The reason? You dip the fries in the broth instead. A stroke of genius worthy of a Nobel.

Even tastier over time

Though the fries weren’t necessarily crunchy, they also weren’t soggy, allowing you to really savor the flavor of the potato. Nor did the fries taste out of place with the soba. It also helps that the shape of the fries themselves prevents them from getting in the way when you’re slurping up the noodles. As time passes, the fries gradually soak up the flavor of the broth, making them even tastier than before.

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A surefire hit with soba lovers

Despite expecting the dish’s very different flavors to clash, our writer was pleasantly surprised at how well everything came together. In his opinion, this has all the makings of a staple, with guaranteed appeal for both soba newcomers and longtime aficionados.

And there you have it! Personally, we’re tempted to go buy some convenience store soba and dump a bag of fries on top. What could go wrong? On second thought, maybe we should make a trip to Nadai and try the real thing first.

Restaurant Details:

Name: Nadai Fuji Soba, Shibuya Shimoda Building
Location: 35-6 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya, Tokyo–Shimoda Building
Hours: 24-hour service

Photos © RocketNews24

▼ French fry soba makes landfall in Tokyo!

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The defrosted reality of 24 frozen meals at Thai 7-Elevens

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RocketNews 24:

The frozen food section at the local convenience store may not hold any lofty culinary treasures, but it does hold the key to saving time and energy after a long day. All around the world, people value frozen foods for their convenience and, sometimes, their deliciousness.

But can you really trust the picture on the front of the package to be what comes out of the microwave? One Thai netizen went on a quest to demystify the frozen food section of Thailand’s 7-Elevens and posted photos of 24 heated up meals to see how they compared to people’s expectations.

Lonelynite, a user of the Thai webforum Pantip, posted the photos to share what a diet of only frozen meals from 7-Eleven would look like. The meals all cost between 30 to 45 baht (US$0.92 to US$1.38) and were a variety of Southeast Asian, Chinese, and Western cuisine. There were even a few Japanese foods including karaage fried chicken or Japanese-style curry. While some of the food looked pretty good, some did not look appetizing at all. Check out all 24 meals below!

 

1. Fish in red curry fried with rice

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2. Pork fried rice

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3. Japanese curry and tonkatsu (pork cutlet) with Japanese rice

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4. Stir fried mixed vegetables and omelette with rice

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5. Shrimp fried rice

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6. Korean-style chicken with rice

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7. Spaghetti carbonara with ham

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8. Spaghetti with chili pork basil leaf

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9. Stir-fried Japanese rice with salmon

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10. Chicken sausage fried rice

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11. American fried rice

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12. Stir-fried basil shrimp with rice

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13. Stir-fried chicken with chili paste and bamboo shoots

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14. Fried mackerel and shrimp paste sauce with rice

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15. Hainanese chicken rice with soup

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16. Pork panang curry with rice

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17. Karaage chicken with Japanese rice

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18. Spaghetti tomato sauce with chicken

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19. Stir-fried basil vegetarian protein with rice

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20. Stir-fried pork and basil with rice

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21. Noodles

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22. Stir-fried pork with basil leaf and rice

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23. Grilled pork steak with Japanese rice

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24. Crab fried rice

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How did the frozen meals of Thailand’s 7-Eleven match up to the photos on the package?

Slurp the City: NYC Ramen

Lucky Peach (by Brette Warshaw):
It’s 1:15 a.m. on a Saturday night, and I am standing in the entryway of Takashi. I’ve only been here for three minutes and the smell of the place—smoky meat-funk and pungent roasted garlic—has already embedded itself into my hair and clothes and esophagus. I may smell like this place forever.

Lucky Peach photographer Gabriele Stabile is with me. Over the next twenty-four hours, we will hit ten ramen shops. If all goes according to plan, we will see and eat and photograph and know the True State of Ramen in New York City.

At the moment, we are both one dinner and a few drinks into our respective evenings, and we’re getting nervous about the amount of overeating ahead of us. It’s still possible to turn back.

But then the hostess calls us in for ramen, and away we go.

Takashi, 456 Hudson Street, 1:15 a.m.

Takashi is a Korean-Japanese offal-focused tabletop barbecue place that serves ramen after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays to people who have had the foresight to reserve a spot a week in advance. It is a bizarrely urban type-A thing to do: to make a plan to eat something that you should probably be stumbling into spontaneously and drunkenly. I thought this late-night ramen death march was a good option for us—we’d get a few bowls out of the way, sleep them off, and wake up refreshed the next morning. Rookie mistake.

Our fellow diners are the kinds of people you’d expect to find at a reservations-only late-night ramen spot in the West Village on a Saturday night: birthday parties of beautiful people, girls with white-blonde hairdos and expensive clothing, banker bros. It’s loud and crowded and dark, and surprisingly fun.

Takashi offers two kinds of ramen: Original and Grandma’s Spicy. Both broths are made from the bones of all the beef that they sell during normal hours, and are dark brown, shiny, and studded with slightly chewy-crunchy bits of deep-fried small intestine. The spicy ramen comes with a big blob of dark red paste (some kind ofgochujang, I suspect) plopped into the center. Mix it in and you get an entirely new, spicy, more intense soup. The spice makes everything else in the broth—the scallion, ginger, garlic, beef—snap into focus.

The broth is delicious. The rest of the stuff in the bowl, though, is lackluster: thin, lifeless noodles, tough, stringy “beef belly,” an egg cooked too hard to surrender its yolk to the broth. We eat the soup part and get the check, which comes with two sticks of Doublemint gum. Pointless—every follicle inside and out reeked deeply of garlic—but a nice gesture.

We go our separate ways, bloated and sleepy, with plans to meet for breakfast ramen the following morning.

9:06 a.m.

No question: we aren’t making it to 10 a.m. ramen.

Ippudo, 65 Fourth Avenue, 10:50 a.m.

New York’s East Village branch of the Japanese chain Ippudo is notorious for its long wait. We get there ten minutes before they open, and there is already a line. By 11 a.m. there are at least twenty people behind us.

At ramen shops in Japan, it is typical for the cooks to shout “irasshaimase” when customers walk in—it means “welcome.” At Ippudo, they very enthusiastically engage in this tradition—not just the cooks, but the entire army of servers as well—for each and every customer. If you’re coming in with the initial wave of customers, this means that for the first fifteen minutes of your meal, the entire restaurant is quaking with the sound of “irasshaimase” over and over and over and over, a chorus that drowns out the thump-untzing of the electronic music over the sound system.

We order the Shiromaru Hakata Classic and the Akamaru Modern. Both are made with the same tonkotsu broth—tonkotsu being a fatty, milky-white soup made by cooking pig bones so hard that they soften and give up their marrow. The Modern one has miso added to it, too, as well as a puddle of inky-black garlic oil.

The broth is good. Of course it’s good: it’s a bowl of fat! The miso ramen is better than the original. Though it has more stuff in it, it tastes more delicate, more nuanced. But both are good eating.

The noodles though, like Takashi’s, are thin, limp, boring. After a few bites of each ramen, the charm of the porky fattiness wanes. If we finish these bowls, we’re goners, so we pay our check and amble on.

 

Misoya, 129 Second Avenue, 12:02 p.m.

Around the corner from Ippudo is Misoya. (It’s a difficult place to miss, thanks to the garish sign outside on Second Avenue done up in weird fonts.)

It opens at noon, and we walk in on schedule. It’s empty. There is harp/lute music playing softly over the speakers. It feels more like a massage parlor than a ramen shop.

We get menus that are consistent with the signage aesthetics: the first page says, “Welcome to the World of MISO, The Power of MISO, ‘MISO’ IS JAPAN’S TREASURE!!!!” Misoya is also a chain in Japan that specializes in ramen made with different kinds of MISO from around the country.

We end up going with a kome miso with pork—described as the “standard miso”—and a mame miso (“made of beans, dark-colored miso”) with vegetables. The kome miso is filled with porchetta-y pork rounds, corn, bean sprouts, scallions; the mame has a giant salad’s worth of vegetables plunked on top along with beautiful white cubes of fried tofu. We taste them both and are shocked: these are way, way better than the ramen at our first two stops. The broths are rich and round—they’re all made with a base of pork, chicken, and mushrooms—but they’re balanced, with enough acidity to make you forget you’re eating a bowl of fat. When I get to the picking-out-all-of-the-vegetables stage of ramen consumption, I’m delighted to find that each—cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, and others—has been cooked or seasoned deliberately and separately, not just tossed in a kettle and boiled helter-skelter. The noodles—curly in the vegetable one, straighter in the pork one—feel like they have a purpose. It’s difficult to stop eating.

When we get up to leave, the place is still empty. What a shame.

Rai Rai Ken, 218 East 10th Street, 12:45 p.m.

Rai Rai Ken made the list because Gabriele, who now lives in Rome, holds the place very dear in his heart; he lived around the corner for ten years, and he is sentimental. It is a block and a half from Misoya, so denying him this visit would have been cruel. Rai Rai Ken is also the oldest ramen shop in downtown Manhattan, so eating there has some significance.

I’ll spare the joint on Gabriele’s account and just say this: the ramen is reminiscent of wonton soup at a bad suburban Chinese restaurant.{1} Preserve your cherished memories of Rai Rai Ken by not eating there.

 

Bassanova Ramen, 76 Mott Street, 1:40 p.m.

The first note I write down about Bassanova Ramen, another New York outpost of another Japanese chain, is: “Dirty as fuck.”

The space is a few steps down from the street, and it’s simultaneously freezing and sauna-like with broth steam. The kitchen is completely open, so you can see the guys in hoodies (with the hoods up!) sloshing broth and tare all over the floor. As if on cue, a girl with a nice manicure walks in, sits down at the table next to us, looks at the menu, and gets up to leave. {2}

This is the first place we’ve been with tsukemen on the menu, and so we order yuzu tsukemen and a green-curry ramen. And then we wait. And we wait. The food takes more than an hour to get to us, and we entertain ourselves by singing along to the decidedly awesome nineties hip-hop they’re playing. Bob Marley comes on, and Gabri is singing along in his Italian accent, and I’m thinking that this place might not suck as much as I’d like it to.

Finally the food arrives. The green curry is both deeply spiced and spicy; the noodles are good; the little charred shrimp are tasty and cute. It works. (The only weird thing is a small pile of mesclun on top. That gets put to the side.) The yuzu broth is spicy and citrusy; the noodles are thick and chewy. In both cases, there’s real, distinct, deliberate flavor.

It’s slow and dirty and I spend far too long listening to an Italian man sing along to Lauryn Hill, but the ramen is not without sparkly oddball charm. I’d go again.

 

Ganso, 25 Bond Street, Brooklyn, 3:15 p.m.

In the middle of the afternoon, Ganso, in Prospect Heights, is half-empty and the temperature is pleasant and you can hear each other and it’s clean—a relief after Bassanova. The room feels like a Brooklynized Momofuku Noodle Bar: wooden bars and tables and clean, straight lines, without the noise and bustle of the East Village.

They have what they call a classic Tokyo-style ramen and a miso ramen, but we go for the weirder stuff: a braised-short-rib ramen and the triple-shrimp ramen. {3} We also order sake, which makes our sixth {4} bowl of ramen of the day go down a little easier.

The triple-shrimp ramen has a Southeast Asian vibe: it’s dark red and shrimp paste-y, herbal and bright and citrusy, with frilly noodles and tons of herbs for garnish. It’s unlike anything else I’ve eaten today, and I love it for being not-ramen ramen. Ditto the short-rib ramen. Gabri keeps calling it an Italian stew, and he’s right; you taste the braising and the drippings and that savory meatiness of an Italian roast, all made richer and savorier with miso. Both ramen feel new; both are delicious. Purists might deny that these are ramen; they are noodle soups that taste very good. But who cares! This is Brooklyn. We are being served by a cute blond boy in plaid. I don’t care about authenticity.

Lauryn Hill is back on the stereo, and we’re not ready to leave, so we get mochi for dessert. I eat it all by myself. It’s time to head back to Manhattan.

 

Totto Ramen, 464 West 51st Street, 5:20 p.m.

We try going to the original Totto Ramen, on Fifty-Second and Ninth, but the wait is forty minutes long. The original spot is a lot cooler and grungier and grumpier and more like a Tokyo ramen shop than its little sister, but it’s cold outside and we’re on a tight schedule—so we head an avenue west to the second location.

The vibe here is nonexistent. It’s swankier than the original place; it feels new and not worn in, with bad lighting and acoustics. There are guys next to us talking about David Chang, which I find funny until I realize that this entire place is filled with food nerds. I am one of them.

We get the paitan, which is Totto’s classic—it’s a super simple ramen made with chicken fat. It’s even thicker and more opaque than the Ippudo broth and the takeaway is the same: it tastes good, but after each bite, it tastes less good. I keep eating kimchi to try to balance out the milky-fattiness, and then I eat the scallion garnish because it is a vegetable, and then I eat the chicken breast slices that are dry and not at all delicious, just to get a taste of some sort of leanness.

It might be that I’ve drunk too much fat today.

 

Hide-Chan, 248 East 52nd Street, 7:10 p.m.

We decide, walking up the stairs to Hide-Chan, that this is our last stop. We are both swollen and puffy and unrecognizable, and we can barely look at each other, and my rings and bracelets are now melded into my swollen paws.

Hide-Chan is a little less soulless than Totto—it’s broken up into a few different rooms, so the whole sad, cavernous space thing isn’t as apparent—but it’s loud and we can barely hear each other. The menu comes and we instantly order the spicy vegetable ramen, because the photo of it looks like a gigantic salad. (We also order the “Original since 1963” ramen, because I’m trying to keep up the façade that I still have any interest in noodle soup today.)

The vegetarian ramen tastes like a spa. The original ramen has globules of pork fat suspended in it. I become preoccupied with the grossness of the fat globules and start hunting for the biggest ones. I then eat all the garnishes out of the vegetable one. The noodles in both are fantastic—skinny in the tonkotsu, yellow and wavy in the vegetarian—and I eat a lot of them. Gabri gets a second wind and chats with the group of Taiwanese video game programmers next to us.

I go to the bathroom and scream at the amount that my face has swollen over the past twenty hours. The time has come. We pack up and leave.


I set out on this expedition hoping that I’d come out on the other end with bettered knowledge, an idea of what kind of ramen worked for me, and a more expansive view of what ramen is, at least within the confines of NYC. To some extent it worked: I learned that despite its popularity, milky-fatty tonkotsu broth is not for me—I’ll take a clearer, cleaner soup any day. I learned that pedigree means little, and that the Japanese-ness of a place is no guarantee that the soup is going to be good. I wanted to leave the day in love with one place, the place I could take my friends (Misoya is that place), but in all honesty, I woke up the next day never wanting to eat ramen again. Maybe the takeaway is this: if you want to immerse yourself in ramen, do not immerse yourself in ramen. Step into the river one bowl at a time and let it gradually carry you out to sea.

A guide to the regional ramen of Japan

Photographs courtesy of Nate Shockey, Mark Roberts, and the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum

 Lucky Peach:
A bowl of ramen consists of four basic elements: the broth, the tare, the noodles, and the toppings. The broth is generally a mix of pork, chicken, seafood, and vegetables, with each shop crafting their own blend. Most mix various parts of pig and fowl, some add more complex elements, and some never reveal their secrets. Though most diners categorize ramen into shoyu, miso, shio, and tonkotsutypes, many shops specialize in just one style, referred to simply as “ramen” on their menu. This guide details the basic characteristics of a number of established regional styles; it only scratches the surface of the myriad varieties of ramen being served every day across Japan.

Tare タレ: Also known as kaeshi, tare is the strong, salty flavored essence placed at the bottom of each bowl. Shoyu tare, based on a reduction of soy sauce and other elements, is the most common. The tare—shoyu, miso, shio, or otherwise—roughly determines the ramen’s “type.”

Shoyu 醤油: Soy sauce but so much more. Strictly speaking, most ramen is built upon a shoyu base, but the amount of variation in taste and style within the category is immense.

Miso 味噌: Fermented bean paste. Coming in many shades of brown, miso makes up another common ramen category. Though only a few regions specialize in this style, many shops offer their own home-blended miso-based bowls.

Shio 塩: Literally, “salt.” Typically lacking shoyu in the base, light-colored shio ramen is built upon a reduction made from dried seafood, seaweeds, and other salty ingredients with lots of umami. Many shops offer shio ramen, but only the city of Hakodate selects it for local pride.

Tonkotsu 豚骨: Pork bones and the ramen made therefrom. Unlike the varieties listed above, tonkotsu’s name and taste are derived primarily from the broth rather than the tare.


Asahikawa Ramen (旭川ラーメン)

1-asahikawa-withlineLocated at the base of the mountains smack in the middle of Japan’s northernmost island, Asahikawa is Hokkaido’s second-largest city, and is best known for its zoo and a rich ramen tradition. Uniquely Asahikawa-style ramen emerged in 1947, at the shops Hachiya (which began its life as an ice cream parlor) and Aoba. Asahikawa ramen is a blend of pork and chicken stocks and a seafood broth, making for a rich and complex soup with a shoyu base. The bowl is topped off with an insulating layer of lip-scalding melted lard to prevent the soup from losing heat in the frigid winter months. The current nationwide trend of blended “double” soup traces its roots to the Asahikawa ramen tradition, which is celebrated with an annual summer ramen festival.

Style/tare: Shoyu.
Toppings: Roast pork, scallions, bamboo shoots, lard.
Famous shops: Aoba (青葉), Hachiya (蜂屋).


Sapporo Ramen (札幌ラーメン)

2-sapporo-withlineThe northern city of Sapporo is one of Japan’s most famous ramen destinations, best known as the birthplace of miso ramen. Although Sapporo had its share of noodle shops before World War II, it cemented its place in ramen lore in 1955, when a customer at the noodle house Aji no Sanpei asked the chef to dump some noodles in his miso and pork soup. A new classic was born, and Sapporo ramen has since evolved into a rich and fatty soup accented with minced pork, ginger, and garlic. (Traditionally the miso base, broth, and vegetables are cooked together in a larded wok before being transferred to the bowl.) Sapporo miso ramen was the first regional style to take off nationally in the 1960s, and the city remains a ramen mecca, boasting a “Ramen Alley” with over a dozen shops.

Style/tare: Miso.
Toppings: Roast pork, scallions, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, minced pork, ginger, garlic, butter, corn.
Famous shops: Aji no Sanpei (味の三平), Sumire (すみれ), Shirakaba Sanso (白樺山荘).


Hakodate Ramen (函館ラーメン)

hakodate-forwebRamen came to Hakodate the same way it came to the rest of Japan—via the slow boat from China. For reasons lost to history, the standard soup served by the Chinese community in Hakodate had a thinner and lighter broth than the soy-based soup that took hold in Yokohama and Tokyo. As a result, this bustling maritime town is home to a mild, yellow chicken-and-pork broth boiled long and slow. Hakodate is the only city in Japan to claim shio ramen as its own creation, and the style is dominant within the town’s precincts. Toppings tend toward the standards, and noodles are cooked to be quite soft—comfort food on a cold winter day.

Style/tare: Shio.
Toppings: Roast pork, scallions, bamboo, nori, spinach, fish cake (naruto).
Famous shops: Miss Jun (ミス潤), Seiryuken (星龍軒).


Akayu Ramen (赤湯ラーメン)

akayu-forwebOne day in 1960, Sato Kazumi, the founder of ramen shop Ryushanhai, dropped a dollop of miso paste into the leftover soup and noodles he had taken home to eat with his family. After a bit of tweaking, Sato developed one of Japan’s most unusual ramen styles—sweet and mild ramen topped with an angry red ball of blended miso, chili, and garlic that slowly dissolves into the soup. Pop it in your mouth all at once and you’ll breathe fire like the Dragon of Shanghai that gives his shop its name. Thick, wavy, and chewy noodles topped with a dusting of powdered aonori seaweed swim below.

Style/tare: Miso.
Toppings: Roast pork, scallions, bamboo shoots, fish cake, miso-chili-garlic paste, powdered laver (aonori).
Famous shops: Ryushanhai (龍上海).


Kitakata Ramen (喜多方ラーメン)

kitakata-forwebThe small town of Kitakata boasts the highest ramen-to-resident ratio in the country, clocking in at roughly one shop for every 300 inhabitants. Kitakatans are known to eat their light, clean, shoyu-based soup for breakfast, and they’ve even developed a ramen burger made of pork sandwiched between griddled noodle patties. Order soba here and you’ll probably be served ramen instead. In the bowl, Kitakata keeps it simple, with a no-frills soup and minimal toppings. Noodles are hand-cut to be flat, wide, and curly; high water content makes them toothsome and chewy. Let’s hope the town escapes the ill effects of the nuclear meltdown at the not-far-enough-away Fukushima reactor.

Style/tare: Shoyu.
Toppings: Roast pork, scallions, bamboo shoots.
Famous shop: Genraiken (源来軒).


Shirakawa Ramen (白河ラーメン)

shirakawa-forwebAs in most cities in Japan, ramen in Shirakawa dates back to the prewar period, when it was served in Chinese restaurants and street-side stalls. Takei Toraji learned to sling noodles at those stalls before opening up his own shop, Tora Shokudo, where Shirakawa ramen proper took shape. Despite idolizing the bumbling postwar comedic folk hero Tora-san to the point of cooking with a bottle in one hand, Takei managed to develop a refined ramen characterized by light, simple soup and hand-kneaded noodles. Like most local styles across northeastern Japan, Shirakawa ramen features an unadorned shoyu broth that draws its taste from an abundance of local mineral ­water, which also makes for springy noodles with lots of give in the chew.

Style/tare: Shoyu.
Toppings: Roast pork, scallions, bamboo shoots, fish cake, nori, wontons, spinach.
Famous shops: Tora Shokudo (とら食堂), Kafutei (火風鼎), Suzuki Shokudo (すずき食堂).


Tsubame-Sanjo Ramen (燕三条ラーメン)

tsubame-forwebWhat’s the cure for living in a part of the country known mostly for freezing temperatures and silverware factories? Lard, lard, and more lard. The twin cities of Tsubame and Sanjo lay claim to one of the most unusual and unhealthy ramen variants anywhere in ­Japan—an already rich broth made of pork bones, chicken, and sardines is topped with an almost obscene amount of suspended pork fat. There’s enough lard and raw white onion shaken on top that it’s almost impossible to make out the extra-thick, linguine-like noodles hidden below. They say that the salt and calories go a long way to replenishing the body after a day’s work making forks and spoons.

Style/tare: Shoyu.
Toppings: Roast pork, bamboo shoots, chopped white onions, lard.
Famous shops: Fukuraiten (福来店), Ryûkaitei (龍華亭), Ramen Jun (らーめん潤).


Tokyo Ramen

tokyoramen-forwebToday, Tokyo is home to an almost unimaginable variety of ramen styles and trends, but buried amid the thousands of shops, there is such a thing as traditional Tokyo ramen. Drawing from the soy-based broth brought to Japan by Chinese immigrants more than 100 years ago, Tokyo’s shoyu ramen is made from pork, chicken, veggies, kombu seaweed, shaved bonito flakes (katsuobushi), and other dried fish. The standard bowl contains scallions, nori, roast pork, and bamboo shoots set atop curly noodles, and nowhere in the metropolis is very far from a neighborhood shop or late-night pushcart slinging this nostalgic standard. This simple-seeming yet subtly complex style is probably the most recognizable image of ramen for millions of hungry slurpers around the world.

Style/tare: Shoyu.
Toppings: Roast pork, scallions, bamboo shoots, fish cake, nori, spinach.
Famous shops: Chuka Soba Manpuku (中華そば萬福), Harukiya (春木屋), Sakaeya Milk Hall (栄屋ミルクホール).


Tokyo Tsukemen (つけ麺)

tsukemen-forwebRamen’s popularity has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade, and one of the most notable trends has been the rise of tsukemen. As much a different concept of ramen as a regional style, undressed tsukemen noodles are dipped into an accompanying bowl of fishy, barely diluted broth before slurping. Though tsukemen has taken the ramen world by storm of late, it traces its history to the early postwar era, when the now-legendary “God of ­Ramen,” Kazuo Yamagishi of ­Tokyo’s Taishoken, ­decided to offer his customers soup and noodles separately. The sweet, spicy, vinegary broth clinging to extra-fat noodles has spawned literally thousands of imitators—tsukemen has staked its claim in the noodle ­pantheon.

Style/tare: Shoyu.
Toppings: Roast pork, scallions, bamboo, fish cake.
Famous shops: Taishoken (大勝軒), Tetsu (哲), Rokurinsha (六厘舎).


Tokyo Abura Soba (油そば)

tokyoaburasoba-forwebLiterally meaning “oily noodles,” abura soba is ramen sans soup. Instead of sitting in broth, freshly boiled noodles are placed atop a thin layer of concentrated flavor essence (tare) and mixed by diners, who add vinegar, chili oil, and other toppings before stirring and slurping. This seemingly postmodern snack actually dates back to the mid-’50s, when a series of shops located in the suburbs west of Tokyo began serving soupless bowls. More recently, places like Junk Garage and Bubuka have upped the ante, adding a mess of toppings like raw eggs, mayo, hot peppers, chopped garlic, fried noodles, and, of course, lard to create a beast somewhere between noodle nachos and a heart attack in a bowl.

Style/tare: Shoyu.
Toppings: Roast pork, scallions, bamboo, vinegar, chili oil, mayo, raw egg, garlic, lard.
Famous shops: Chinchintei (珍珍亭), Bubuka (ぶぶか).


Yokohama Ie-kei Ramen (横浜家系ラーメン)

yokohama-forwebMost ramen histories trace the introduction of ramen to Japan to Yokohama, where it arrived with Chinese traders in the late nineteenth century. These days, Yokohama is better known for ie-kei ramen, a viscous, salty, and fatty tonkotsu-shoyu style pioneered at Yoshimuraya in 1974. The shop’s many imitators add the character ie(家, meaning “home”) to their names in tribute to the founder of this open-source ramen. When ordering, diners can calibrate the firmness of the noodles, the amount of suspended fat, and the saltiness of the soup to the delight of their tongue and the detriment of their arteries. Yokohama is also home to the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, a must-visit for any noodle aficionado.

Style/tare: Tonkotsu-shoyu.
Toppings: Three sheets of nori, stewed spinach, garlic, ginger, spicy bean paste.
Famous shops: Yoshimuraya (吉村家), Rokkakuya (六角家), Budoka (武道家).


Nagoya “Taiwan” Ramen (台湾ラーメン)

taiwanramen-forwebDon’t show up in Nagoya looking for “Nagoya ramen,” or you’ll go home hungry. The city’s best-known noodle dish is kishimen, the flatter and curlier cousin of udon, but Nagoya also has its own ramen legacy. “Taiwan ramen” is Nagoya’s claim to slurp fame—the name originates from the Taiwanese-born chef who ran the ramen shop Misen back in the ’70s. Wanting to give the locals a taste of home, he whipped up a reimagined version of Taiwanese danzimian, piling on ground pork, Chinese chives, green onions, and hot peppers. Taiwan ramen enjoyed a moment of fame in the ’80s, when a capsaicin-based diet craze swept Japan, and locals still love it. Apparently it’s a regular menu item in the corporate cafeteria at the Toyota headquarters in Nagoya.
Style/tare: Shoyu.
Toppings: Ground pork, Chinese chives, hot peppers, scallions, garlic.
Famous shops: Misen (味仙).


Kyoto Ramen (京都ラーメン)

kyoto-ramen-forwebGiven Kyoto’s cultural reputation, you might expect its ramen to be a rarefied and refined reworking of the humble noodle soup. But the old capital is home to two distinct types of down-home ramen: the thinner assari-kei shoyu ramen, and a thick, gritty chicken-soup kotteri-kei ramen, both of which are referred to as “Kyoto ramen.” The former is a blend of pork and chicken broth, with a dark soy base; the latter is a rich porridge-like soup culled mostly from chicken, topped with spicy bean paste, chives, garlic, and pungent local kujnoegi onions—it’s quite popular with the town’s large student population.

Style/tare: Shoyu.
Toppings: Assari-kei: roast pork, scallions, bamboo shoots, nori; some shops offer pats of butter. Kotteri-kei: roast pork, scallions, bamboo shoots, spicy chives, minced garlic, chili bean paste, white pepper.
Famous shops: Assari-kei: Shinpuku Saikan (新福菜館). Kotteri-kei: Tenka Ippin (天下一品), Tentenyu (天天有).


Wakayama Ramen (和歌山ラーメン)

wakayama-forwebWhereas eastern Japan is dominated by thinner shoyu ramen, western Japan is the kingdom of rich, porky tonkotsu soup—and Wakayama is the happy medium where the twain meet. Known by locals aschuka soba (“Chinese noodles”), Wakayama ramen is based on a strong soy sauce tare and a heap of long-simmered pork bones. The noodles resemble the long, thin, firm threads of Hakata ramen, but you won’t fail to find a pink-and-white fish cake of the kind that pop up often in Tokyo. Most shops also offer hayazushi—traditional western-Japanese-style vinegared-mackerel sushi pressed onto rice and wrapped in an edible leaf.

Style/tare: Tonkotsu-shoyu.
Toppings: Roast pork, scallions, bamboo shoots, fish cake.
Famous shops: Ide Shoten (井出商店), Marusan (丸三), Marutaka (丸高).


Tokushima Ramen

tokushima-forwebThe smallest of Japan’s four main islands, Shikoku is not known as a ramen hot spot. Udon is the ruling noodle in these parts, but Tokushima prefecture garners ramen ­respect for serving up a satisfying and complex shoyu soup. As the story goes, resourceful Tokushimans made broth out of the leftover pork bones from the many ham factories located nearby, and mixed in some extra-strong aged soy sauce to craft a tasty bowl not far removed from its cross-strait kissin’ cousin, Wakayama ramen. Add a few strips of thinly sliced pork belly, then break a raw egg on top of it all, and you’ve got a delicious dish. Tokushima ramen is sometimes divided into “black,” “yellow,” and “white” styles, in descending order of the strength of the soup served at a given shop.

Style/tare: Tonkotsu-shoyu.
Toppings: Scallions, pork belly, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, raw egg.
Famous shops: Inotani (いのたに), Shunyoken (春陽軒).


Onomichi Ramen (尾道ラーメン)

Onomichi ramen emerged as a distinct style in the years after World War II. It’s a relatively straightforward formula: take a lot of chicken, a little bit of pork, and add some local seafood—but it isn’t Onomichi ramen without a big helping of cooked lard and suspended pork fat on top. A shoyu base and homemade flat-wavy-chewy noodles round out the bowl. Onomichi got its own stop on the bullet train in 1988, and passengers have been known to get off the train just to grab a bowl. The city’s most famous shop, Shukaen, was founded in 1947, and most tourists don’t leave town without making a pilgrimage.

Style/tare: Shoyu.
Toppings: Roast pork, scallions, bamboo shoots, lard.
Famous shops: Shukaen (朱華園).


Hakata Ramen (博多ラーメン)

hakata-forwebAny devotee of Hakata ramen knows that the best way to find a bowl is by following your nose. Broken pork bones are cooked over a high flame for days at a time here until the marrow seeps out, giving off a rancid odor that belies the smooth and creamy broth. While eating at street-side stalls along Fukuoka’s Nakasu River, drunken diners can order unlimited extra servings (kaedama) of the thin, unrisen noodles to dump in their soup; a true Hakata ramen fan will have his noodles dipped in boiling water for barely a second before slurping them almost raw. The final component of Hakata ramen (which is also known as Nagahama ramen) are the tableside toppings, including sesame seeds, garlic, pink pickled ginger, spicy mustard greens, and soy base to strengthen the soup.

Style/tare: Tonkotsu.
Toppings: Roast pork, scallions, nori, pickled ginger, garlic, spicy mustard greens (takana), garlic.
Famous shops: Ganso Nagahamaya (元祖長浜屋), Ichiryu (一竜), Ippudo (一風堂).


Kurume Ramen (久留米ラーメン)

kurume-forwebFew towns have exerted as great an influence on ramen history as Kurume. In 1937, Miyamoto Tokio’s street-side stand Nankin Senryo started serving porky tonkotsu ramen; ten years later, a pot of bones left simmering too hot for too long at the nearby shop Sankyu proved to be a happy accident when the chef found the stinky and milky-white marrow-infused soup to be highly delicious. The broth with the beastly stench quickly earned devotees, and Kurume ramen spread across Kyushu, giving the southern island its distinctive style. Bits of fried lard, lots of melted marrow, and tableside offerings of sesame, pickled ginger, and garlic give Kurume ramen a pungent punch.

Style/tare: Tonkotsu.
Toppings: Roast pork, scallions, nori, pickled ginger, sesame, spicy mustard greens, garlic.
Famous shops: Taiho (大砲), Tairyu (大龍).


Kumamoto Ramen (熊本ラーメン)

kumamote-forwebTonkotsu ramen spread from its birthplace in Kurume to take root in Kumamoto prefecture, where locals started cutting it with a little chicken broth. Like all Kyushu prefectures, Kumamoto serves straight noodles, though they’re a bit thicker and softer than those to the north. In addition to the standard toppings, most bowls of Kumamoto also feature pickled mustard greens, sliced wood-ear mushrooms (kikurage), bean sprouts, and cabbage. What sets Kumamoto ramen apart, and keeps its fans devoted, is a heavy hand with the garlic, laid on as both fried garlic chips and the black liquid known as mayu, made from garlic burned in sesame oil. If you’ve ever eaten at the worldwide chain Ajisen, you’ve probably tasted a bastardized version of Kumamoto ramen.

Style/tare: Tonkotsu.
Toppings: Roast pork, scallions, nori, wood-ear mushrooms, cabbage, garlic chips, burnt garlic oil.
Famous shops: Kodaiko (こだいこ), Kokutei (黒亭), Keika (桂花), Komurasaki (こむらさき).


Kagoshima Ramen (鹿児島ラーメン)

kagoshima-forwebKnown for its strong liquor, incomprehensible dialect, rebellious spirit, and mutton-chopped elders, Kagoshima is Japan’s Deep South. Kagoshima played a key role in ending the feudal shogunate and establishing modern Japan in the nineteenth century, and, as it turns out, their ramen is ahead of its time too. Kagoshima ramen cooks have been using their local brand of black pig (known stateside as Berkshire pork) since way before it was cool. The only ramen in Kyushu that doesn’t trace its origins back to Kurume, Kagoshima ramen features a surprisingly mild broth of pork, chicken, and veggie stock finished with burnt onions. Noodles are cooked quite a bit past al dente, and can be either quite thin or quite thick, reflecting influences from both Okinawa and Taiwan.

Style/tare: Tonkotsu-shoyu.
Toppings: Roast pork, scallions, bean sprouts, wood-ear mushrooms.
Famous shops: Noboruya (のぼる屋), Komurasaki (こむらさき), Wadaya (和田屋).

Lynn Chen spends an entire day eating noodles from “Around The World”

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 Audrey Magazine:

Last week, we gave you a list of 10 Asian soups to keep you warm over the holidays. Well it seems everyone is craving noodles this holiday season. Buzzfeed Yellow recently released a video titled “Noodles Around The World,” featuring actress Lynn Chen (Saving Face). There are already a million reasons we’d like to be Lynn Chen for a day, and it seems this video gives us yet another reason.

In the video, Chen spends the entire day eating noodles from around the world. Yes, you read that correctly — she ate noodles all day for work. Where do we sign up for this job?

Obviously, Chen didn’t actually travel around the world in a day to taste different dishes, but she did the next best thing — she explored the different restaurants available in the Los Angeles area.

During Chen’s hunt for noodle restaurants in LA, she was able to visit Sapp Coffee Shop, Papa Cristo’s, Pho 2000, Ma Dang Noodle House and Inti Restaurant. There are a number of other noodle dishes we wish she had covered in this video, but let’s be honest here– that’s already a lot of noodles to fit into one person in one day.