The History of Ramen Noodles
Ramen noodles were a Chinese invention brought over to Japan in the late 19th century. Up until the mid-20th century ramen noodles were referred to as shina soba or Chinese noodles. The basic makeup of ramen noodles is wheat flour, water and salt.
But the key ingredient in ramen noodles is kansui - also known as lye water - which is an alkaline water containing sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate. Kansui is sometimes substituted for eggs but it’s best if this special water is sourced as it gives ramen noodles their unique springiness and yellow-ish hue.
Ramen Noodles vs. Egg Noodles
In Western supermarkets, there is a massive variety of egg noodles available. So can egg noodles be a good substitute for ramen noodles? Most ramen experts say that egg noodles lack the texture and slight chewiness that proper good quality ramen noodles give.
In fact, there’s no real Western substitute for ramen. However, ramen fans have discovered a way of replicating it using spaghetti and boiling it with baking soda and salt. Chemical reactions within the cooking process give the pasta a ramen-esque texture. But ultimately, if you want the true ramen experience, you should source proper ramen from a supplier.
Here at Sous Chef, we can recommend three types of ramen noodles to get you started on your ramen journey:
These servings of pre-cooked ramen noodles are individually packaged. Simply add to a simmering broth a few minutes before serving, allowing the noodles to heat through.
Chuka-soba means Chinese-noodles, which differentiates ramen noodles from other forms of Japanese noodle. This pack of Hime Chuka soba noodles comes divided into 8 handy bundles and each bundle serves 1-2 people.
Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour. In fact, and rather confusingly, soba is the word for buckwheat in Japanese as well as meaning 'noodles' as mentioned above. Buckwheat gives the noodles their signature dark colour and nutty flavour. Soba noodles are very thin, measuring around 1mm in width before cooking.
How to Enjoy Proper Ramen Noodles
You've got your soup, you've got your noodles - now you need the right kit. The serving ware for ramen is just as big a part of the ramen experience as the food itself. And in Japan, the following come as standard in any ramen shop you visit.
Ramen bowls – classic ramen bowls are quite deep with tapering sides, so they’re wider at the top than the bottom. This shape is ideal for the liquid/solid makeup of ramen. Ramen bowls are usually glazed with unique, eye-catching patterns and colours.
Chopsticks – to pick up your ramen noodles and meat/vegetables, choose a set - or several - that can see you through countless Japanese and Chinese meals.
Ramen ladles – make sure you get a good soup-to-noodle ratio with a specially made ladle. These ladles are essential for helping you slurp up the flavourful broth in between mouthfuls of noodles and toppings. Of course, once you get near the bottom, it's perfectly acceptable to slurp straight from the bowl to get every last drop of brothy goodness!