Ramen is known for being one of the most iconic and versatile Asian food dishes around the world, and it’s not hard to see why. While the instant and inexpensive commercial version of the dish has increased its popularity and use in home kitchens, you can also begin to take your ramen to the next level with a few simple tips and tricks that don’t cost a lot but can make all the difference.
If you’re just starting on your journey to cooking Asian food at home, ramen is a great option to try. You can add heat, vegetables, herbs, and a whole lot more. And Fly By Jing has some of the ingredients you’re sure to love, like tribute peppers, chilis, and sauces. We also want to provide the information, history, and recipes that make it easy to both learn more about these great dishes and add a personal and unique taste to them all your own. When it comes to ramen, the only question is—where do you start?
What Is Ramen?
Ramen dishes are delicious combinations of soups and noodles and can be adjusted or changed to appeal to many different palates. The broth is usually meat or fish-based, and the many variations of ramen from across Japan mean that you can make the flavors you love with ingredients like pork, seaweed, chicken, vegetables, fish, and more.
Though you can find versions of ramen that embrace many different flavor profiles and heat levels, they originated from four basic variations: Shoyu, Shio, Miso, and Kare, or soy sauce, salt, miso flavoring, and curry, with Shio ramen being the oldest. Each has its own unique base of broth, different noodles, and specific fillings.
Making ramen is all about creating a balance of flavors, textures, and spices, which means you have many opportunities to make the dish your own.
History of Ramen
Like many of the best dishes in Asian cuisine, ramen evolved and changed over time to incorporate new flavors, available ingredients, and evolving cooking methods. The history of ramen is difficult to pinpoint. Some stories follow it all the way back to the mid-1600s, but it’s more likely that the Chinese immigrants to Japan first brought soup noodle dishes to Japan in the 19th and 20th-century.
Political and cultural movements expanded upon and made more popular the version of soup noodles that had begun to take root in Japan. Toward the end of the 1800s, there was a push to consume more meat across the country, as a result of western influence and the desire to increase individual fitness.
Later, the U.S. occupations and aid programs would lead to greater influences from the west, especially in the form of wheat shipments, presumably with the goal of encouraging Japanese citizens to adopt bread-baking in lieu of rice dishes. Of course, rice remains a staple of Japanese cooking today, but the surplus wheat did present an opportunity for noodle-making in a whole new way.
A man named Momofuku Ando, who was ethnically Chinese, but born in Taiwan when it was still under control by Japan, came up with the idea of producing Taiwanese pork noodles in a time-effective and inexpensive way. They could be mass-produced and then deep-fried, similar to the way tempura is cooked. By submerging the deep-fried noodles, you could return them to their soft and springy texture.
He launched these inexpensive, pre-packaged noodles in a period of unrest in Japan and across the continent of Asia. Eventually, they became ubiquitous across grocery store aisles in Japan and around the world.
Tips for Improving Instant Ramen
Instant ramen isn’t merely an inexpensive way to cook up savory and umami flavors in just a few minutes. It’s also an excellent canvas for all of your favorite spices, herbs, and ingredients, a way to harken back to some of the original ramen recipes. Here are just a few ways you can improve your instant ramen dishes at home without spending a lot of money today.
Spicy Sichuan Chili Crisp
Chili crisp is one of the most versatile condiments in Chinese cooking and can be used in dishes and as a dipping sauce for all of your favorite recipes, from dumplings to noodles and, of course, to ramen. You can make a delicious Sichuan chili crisp sauce with our chili crisp and a few other ingredients like vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, and garlic.
Zhong sauce has a rich umami flavoring with a hint of soy sauce and is easy to mix into your next bowl of ramen. You only need a little of this great ingredient to add mushroom and soy sauce-based flavors to your ramen. It also mixes well with noodles and vegetables, so you can add your favorite ingredients to the next pot.
Mala spice embraces all the best flavors of Sichuan cuisine, which is rich in spicy peppers and chilis. In fact, the word “mala” actually refers to the spicy and numbing qualities of the ingredient. It can be used to spice up ramen in the spicy chili sauce, as a rub for meats and tofu in stir fry, or even as an addition to your favorite cocktails.
Make Your Ramen Gourmet
One of the best parts of making ramen is taking it to the next level to share with friends and loved ones. You can make an inexpensive and gourmet dish for dinner parties or celebrations with a few simple additions.
Ramen is incredibly versatile and giving it a fresh, bright flavor can help to make the subtle and springy flavors really stand out. Aromatics, as the name would indicate, add a special burst of both scent and flavor to the dish. Some of the best options for your next dish of ramen include ginger, garlic, and scallions. You can either sauté them before you begin cooking up your noodles or sprinkle them over the top for a crunchy texture and bite of flavor.
A few basic herbs in your next bowl of ramen can take it to the next level. You have many options, depending on your flavor and heat preferences. Experiment with spices like curry powder or cumin for an earthy flavor that has a slight citrus base or cinnamon and star anise for those cold winter nights.
Soups are a great way to enjoy some of your favorite vegetables, and with ramen, you have endless possibilities. Different vegetables take different amounts of time to cook, and you still want to aim for those great balances of textures and flavors, so experiment with similar vegetables or cook accordingly.
Try out leafy vegetables like bok choy and spinach, or crunchy veggies like broccoli and snow peas. You can even use frozen vegetables; just adjust your cooking time. Mix and match your favorite vegetables with your broth and spice flavors to find ones you love.
One of the best ways to take your ramen dish from a late-night snack to a gourmet dinner with your family is to add your favorite proteins. The only limit is your imagination! You can use basic meats like chicken or pork, adapt your ramen for a more seafood flavor profile with shrimp, or make the dish fit a vegetarian diet by trying our protein options like tofu or edamame.
There’s a reason so many ramen dishes feature eggs! You have a lot of different options for preparing eggs to go along with your noodles and broth, like soft and hard-boiling, poaching, or frying. You can also try out the egg drop method, which adds both a delicious egg flavor and a beautiful bloom of egg ribbons in the soup.
It’s hard not to fall in love with ramen. It’s a filling dish that can be adapted for every occasion, whether you’re looking to spend a cozy night in or share a celebration with friends and family. Explore unique flavor options from our available ingredients here at Fly By Jing, like spices, oils, and chilis, or make your next bowl of ramen a more gourmet and main-course dish by taste-testing your favorite mix-ins, swapping out noodle options, and topping with condiments, proteins, and vegetables.
Fly By Jing is here to help you get the flavors you love every step of the way. We believe that Asian food should be accessible and exciting to everyone, which is why we want to provide the ingredients, histories, and recipes for our favorite dishes. Begin trying our ramen at home and share your favorite flavors today!