The Manual Guide to Ramen

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The east coast has been freezing for the last few weeks, and when you finally escape the cold, a bowl of ramen can be a hearty, satisfying meal that will warm you up and fill up your stomach with each slurp. It’s also tasty. When the Japanese noodle dish actually originated is up for debate; some say it happened in 1955 in Sapporo as a light and flavorful noodle soup, others say it began as early as 1900 when Chinese restaurants in Japan started serving a cut noodle dish with toppings and broth flavored with pork bones. What is certain is that in 1958 Momofuku Ando invented the instant ramen that eventually became favored by college students and those on a budget all over the world.

That ramen is a far cry from the elevated versions of today that foodies across the United States have to come to adore, like David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar, which serves Hozon Ramen, made with scallion, chickpeas and kale, or Ivan Orkin’s Ivan Ramen, which has Chicken Paitan Ramen, a composition of chicken confit, Schmaltz fried onions and rye noodle. Now, there’s even a ramen museum in Yokohama City Japan, and if you want to read up on the subject, check out Orkin’s book, which comes with several recipes you can make at home.

Here’s a ramen primer; traditionalists can opt to have it one of four different ways:

-Shio Ramen, which is basically served with a salt broth (shio means salt).

-Tonkotsu Ramen, the broth is made from boiling pork bones, fat, and collagen over high heat for many hours.

-Shōyu Ramen, which uses a soy sauce-based broth as its base.

-Miso Ramen, the newest of the classic varieties, made with miso paste.

Once you select which type of base you have, there is a seemingly endless amount of toppings that can be added: butter, scallions, egg, sesame seeds, garlic, Chāshū, menma, bean sprouts, corn, enoki mushrooms, seaweed, potatoes and more. Think of it as a blank canvas that you can decorate with as many flavors as you like. The results can be a culinary adventure, that depending on which way you go, can be thick and hearty, like a stew, or much lighter. We know that it’s our favorite meal on a cold winter day, thanks to the salty, meaty goodness we enjoy with each bite. So go on, head to your closest ramen joint and see what we’re talking about!