Ramen Soup for the Body and Soul

There’s nothing like a steaming hot bowl of chicken soup to make you feel better when you’re feeling a bit under the weather. Soup is food for the soul. There’s always that certain something about a hot bowl of soup that brings such comfort. Each country has a special recipe for soup that defines their culture. In the U.S. there’s good old chicken noodle soup, Vietnam has phở, Vienna is known for goulash, Italy has minestrone and Japan has ramen. What defines a good bowl of soup for me is something that’s hearty, warms the belly, and reminds me of what my mother used to make.

ramen2

Thirteen years ago, I had the opportunity to work at a ramen restaurant. At the time, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a soup person. I thought of soup as the first course of a meal and not a meal in itself. It lacked the essence to stand on its own. Only lately have I found myself craving for liquid gold that comes in the form of broth. I remember how tedious I found making the broth for ramen. I would observe the restaurant’s head cook as he would prepare the ingredients of the soup stock and thank my lucky stars I didn’t have to do it. It took hours to simmer gigantic meat bones, and the array of other condiments, vegetables, sauces, seafood, and meat would make my head spin.

Tonkatsu ramen. | thatwelike

Ramen (ラーメン) is a Japanese noodle soup made with Chinese-style wheat noodles, a tasty broth, and toppings. Depending on the type of ramen, it is topped with sliced pork (チャーシュー chāshū), green onions, or dried seaweed.  Originally from China, it was brought to Japan during the Meiji Period. Over the years, traditional aspects of Japanese cooking and taste have made their ramen unique.

ramen1

Ramen varieties. | toyohara

There are several types of ramen soup base. Some of the more popular ones are:

Tonkatsu ramen – pork-based; white and milky.

Shoyu ramen – soy-sauce based.

Miso ramen – miso (fermented bean paste) flavors the broth.

Shio ramen – salt-based.

Almost every region in Japan has its own variation of ramen. For instance, Hokkaido is known for miso ramen, and Kyushu for its pork bone ramen. Ramen restaurants can be found all over Japan and in many parts of the world.

Whenever I have a bowl of ramen soup, I now value the time and effort it takes to prepare all the ingredients that come together to make the perfect comfort food. Soup not only nourishes the body but warms the soul.