Man at His Best

An Esquire Guide: How To Enjoy Ramen

We asked the authors who wrote a book about Japanese cooking on how to do this properly. We got you covered.

BY Carissa Morais | Jan 4, 2017 | Food & Drink

Illustrations by Lipwei.

It’s a huge misconception (a crime, actually) that three-quarters of the world think that ramen is a silly hangover cure or “cheapo student food” that one can get from 7Eleven with loose change. We dissect Japan’s perfection in a bowl, strand by strand. Thanks to Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat, authors of Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond.

 

MAIN TYPES OF RAMEN

Shoyu ramen
This is as original as it gets. Hailing from Yokohama, shoyu ramen comes with a soy-sauce-based broth, so expect nuanced salty and sweet „lavours. Traditionally paired with chicken- or beef-based broths, it’s common to see tonkotsu broths „flavoured with shoyu.

Shio ramen
The sea-salt-based broth is clean and light; however, this is what we’d call an “acquired taste”. If you’re used to something that doesn’t require downing endless glasses of water, stay clear. Expect hints of ginger, garlic and saké fused into one salty mess.

Miso ramen: Known to be the youngest form of ramen, this Hokkaido staple gained popularity in the mid-’60s where the heavy and bold „lavours of the fermented bean paste came in handy during the cold weather. Probably one of the only bowls to have unique toppings like corn, shredded crispy pork and shitake mushrooms.

Tonkotsu ramen
The most popular of the lot, the Hakata porcine obsession has hogged the spotlight in recent times and we can see why. This robust pork bone broth is boiled for up to 15 hours, resulting in a milky, golden colour that leaves a nice, oily sheen on your lips—something to substitute that ChapStick.

Kimchi ramen
With the rise of K-pop, it seems like a no-brainer that a Korean version of this notable noodle dish would „ind itself a place on the menu eventually. Particularly popular for home-cooked ramen, the sour-spicy taste of kimchi is what amps the bowl with the kind of crunch that puts those store-bought pretenders to shame.

 

HOW TO EAT RAMEN

  1. Savour the soup while it’s hot. You’ll most probably burn your tongue, but we reckon that this is what we’d call the good kind of burn. Nurse that burn with a cold beer.
     
  2. Slurp loudly. Ono and Salat explain that it cools the noodles before they reach your lips. It also signals to the chef that his tireless labour in the kitchen hasn’t been in vain. Tip: ditch the white T-shirt while you’re at it.
     
  3. Tuck into the toppings after spending a considerable amount of time on the soup and the noodles, and slowly alternate between topping-noodle-soup. Repeat.
     
  4. Shut up and eat. Authentic ramen joints are silent—except for the slurping and the banters between the cooks. Ono and Salat explain that the ramen experience lasts for close to 10 minutes before it gets cold; hence, the golden rule of silence. If you’re thinking of shooting the bull, head for sushi instead.

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