In this guide, I will tell you all the basics about making ramen soup. How to make the perfect ramen soup? What kind of options are there in ramen bowls? What kind of noodles for noodle soup? How to make a good soup stock? What are the different styles of ramen soup? What is tare?
I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a really long time – for months. I started writing a little more than a week ago with a recipe where I told how to make ramen noodles from scratch myself. In this recipe, you can use these handmade noodles. Or instant noodles, like 98% of the day.
At the end of the post, I give three sauce options that work well as a broth base for ramen soup. (This málà sauce, which I published earlier, also fits the situation perfectly.)
Table of Contents
Ramen noodles: Global fashion food
Ramen noodles are one of the most popular Japanese dishes outside of Japan – along with sushi, of course. The magic of the dish comes from the interplay of the noodles and the delicious broth. Slurpsis sounds are part of it. This is not food to be eaten in moderation.
Ramen noodles have received many creative interpretations since at least the 1980s. In the United States, their popularity exploded after the mid-2000s, when David Chang opened his Momofuku restaurant in New York. Making delicious noodle soup is not difficult at home either.
Classic ramen soups
There are many versions of ramen soup. The most famous are:
- Shio – Ramen with tare containing salt. The broth is mild and tangy. Ramen soup with the most neutral taste, so it is flexible for different ingredients.
- Shoyu – Ramen with tare containing soy sauce. The most famous form of ramen soup. (Recipe for this type of soup at the end)
- Miso – Ramen with miso paste. The soups will have a rich and strong taste. (Recipe for this type of soup at the end)
- Tonkotsu – Thick and creamy ramen. The original version uses pork bones, but the soup can also be made vegan.
However, the options do not end there. For example, in tsukemen ramen, the broth and noodles are served separately. Tantanmen ramen is closely related to Dandan noodles. Tonyu ramen uses soy milk in the broth (a bit like this tom yam soup).
Ramen soup is assembled as follows:
- First, prepare all the side dishes. Bring the boiling water for the noodles and the broth to a boil.
- Take a deep plate, and put a little aromatic oil on the bottom of it. Add the tare and mix it with the oil.
- Boil the noodles – a couple of minutes is enough. Drain the noodles.
- Add the boiling broth to the bowl. Mix it carefully with oil and tar together.
- Carefully add the noodles to the soup.
- Decorate with your desired side dishes and vegetables. Offer up.
The five elements of a bowl of ramen
A ramen dish consists of five different parts:
Broth – A key part of ramen soup. Gives the dish its important base flavor.
Tare – Gives the soup its saltiness and brings multidimensionality to the taste. The name means sauce in Japanese. Tare can be used alone as a dipping sauce. In ramen bowls, it is mixed together with the broth.
(Seasoning) oil. Add aroma to food, and bring flavor to noodles.
Noodles. Add carbohydrates and a suitable chewiness to the portion.
Topping. Various side dishes. They can be fresh, fried, boiled, or poached. They bring flavor and textures, often also protein.
The components of a good ramen soup
Ramen soup has five main components: broth, tare, oil, noodles, and toppings.
Element 1: Broth
The easiest way to prepare broth for ramen is to use kombu seaweed and boil it for a while. If you eat fish, you can also use ready-made dashi powder.
Regular vegetable broth also works well in many soups.
If you want to go wild and have more time, you can also make a super-amazing Chinese soup broth.
If you want the soup to be thick, add either: 1) one very small peeled potato, 2) agar agar powder, or 3) coconut cream, especially if you are going to simmer the soup for a while.
Element 2: Tare
At its simplest, tare can mean either plain (Japanese) soy sauce or miso paste. However, if you have a wider variety of Asian spices available, you can use more creativity here. Suitable spices are, for example: dark soy sauce, sake, rice wine vinegar, mirin, chili paste, and sesame seed oil.
The tare can also be prepared in advance. It stays good in the fridge for at least a week. It can also be frozen.
You will find three different tare options at the end of this article. Use about 2 tablespoons of tare in the bottom of each bowl.
Element 3: Oil and grease
A bowl of ramen tastes better when you use a little oil. Use a relatively mild oil, for example, rapeseed oil or sunflower oil. Season the oil if you like. There are two ways to do this: boil the oil with the spices on medium heat, or heat the oil very hot and pour it over the spices.
The slow-cooking style is suitable if you want to flavor the oil with shallots and/or garlic. If you are using dry spices such as chili powder or herbs, heat the oil and pour it over the spices.
Use about 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of each bowl.
Element 4: Noodles
In an ideal situation, fresh noodles go well with ramen soup. You can often find them in Asian stores either frozen or refrigerated. But: in practice, this soup can be made with almost any kind of noodles. In addition to wheat noodles and soba noodles, rice noodles also go well with this soup.
If you want to get fancy, the recipe for homemade ramen noodles can be found here.
If you follow a gluten-free diet, use only buckwheat soba noodles (and gluten-free soy sauce).
Element 5: Fillings and toppings
There is a lot of room for improvisation in the toppings of the noodle soup. At least test the following:
- Spring onions
- Bamboo shoots
- (Frozen) beans
- Mushrooms (fry quickly)
- Carrot (fry quickly)
- Spinach (fried if desired)
- Eggplant (fry quickly)
- Cabbage (fry quickly)
- Tofu, tempeh, seitan, soy strips (fried if desired)
For those following a non-vegan diet, a boiled egg is also always a viable option.
You shouldn’t choose too many ingredients – 2-3 fillings/toppings are often enough.
If you want, season the vegetables/protein to be fried according to the mood of the day. Soy sauce mirin and rice vinegar work well as spices in these soups.
Here are inspirational pictures from one time when I cooked ramen noodles. I used Chinese vegetable broth as the base and Pippa Middlehurst’s mala paste as the filling.
At first, mala paste was put on the bottom of the bowl. The vegetables had already been prepared in advance:
Then the tare was mixed together with the hot broth:
A little more broth:
Then quickly stir in the noodles and vegetables. So fast that you don’t even have time to take a picture – – And that’s it!
By the way, that Middlehurst mala paste is super delicious! That mala paste can also be combined really well with dashi broth if you don’t want to bother with Chinese vegetable broth. (It’s quite tedious.)
A couple of technique tips
In the noodle bowl in the picture, the broth was basic dashi broth, and I used Tare’s spicy tare option.
Remember to prepare all the ingredients in advance before you start cooking the noodles – after that, the clock starts ticking. After that, a good order of business is as follows:
- While you wait for the broth and water to boil, prepare both the tare and the oil in the bowls and mix them.
- Cook the noodles for a few minutes. Drain them. (Do not rinse the noodles with cold water to prevent them from getting cold.)
- Put the noodles in a bowl and add the toppings. It is good to do this work step as quickly as possible so that the noodles remain firm enough.
When cooking ramen noodle soups, creativity and detachment are more than allowed.
Below are three different options for care. Two of these rely heavily on miso paste. The third is again suitable for situations when you are looking for a milder option.
My primary source for this story has been the book Vegan Ramen: 50 Plant-based Recipes for Ramen at Home by Armon Pakdel and Zoe Lichlyter. If the topic interests you more, I warmly recommend that book. It gives a lot of ideas for each of the five components. I also used a bit of Ramen Obsession: The Ultimate Bible for Mastering Japanese Ramen by Naomi Imatome-Yun and Robin Donovan. However, it was not as practical for me due to its meat-based recipe. Still a strong recommendation for the Japanese Soul Cooking cookbook by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat.
The recipe is part of my “Vegetable Soups from Asia” themed series. Its other parts are at least:
- Tom Kha – Thai coconut soup
- Vietnamese pho
- Udon soup
- Tom yam