Ramen is a traditional Japanese dish involving 3 basic components – the broth, the noodles and the meat and additional toppings.

Broth – The heart and soul of any good ramen however lies in the broth. The deep, rich and meaty flavor of the broth truly warms the soul. While there are several variations of the dish itself the 2 most popular types of broth are the Shoyu- a lighter broth flavored with soy sauce and Miso – a darker cloudy broth flavored with fermented bean paste. The reason these ingredients are used is due to their depth of flavor each having its own distinctive taste.

Soy Sauce – It involves a perfect balance of all the flavors, the umami is caused by glutamic acid that is produced by breaking down of soybean proteins by koji mold (Aspergillus oryzae), the sweetness is brought by conversion of starch present in wheat to glucose due to fermentation, the acidity due to conversion of glucose by lactic acid bacteria.

Miso – it is made from soybeans and grains like rice or barley mixed with salt and koji mold which is fermented from a few weeks to a year. Different types of miso vary in flavor depending on the level of fermentation. Light misos have less salt and more koji which speeds up fermentation, this miso is aged for less time and has a sweeter flavor. Dark misos have more salt and are aged for longer giving them a deeper umami flavor.

For any ramen broth the base comes from bones, tradtitionally pork or beef bones are used but in India where availability of these bone is limited, chicken bones can be used. The bones are roasted to extract maximum flavor as it triggers the Maliard Reaction (browning of the bones) water is the added to deglaze the bones and the bones are cooked in the pressure cooker for maximum efficiency, it is important to note that the bones should be washed to get rid of blood and scum before cooking. If chicken bones are used there is a way to enhance flavor as chicken on its own can be bland, adding bacon cubes can really give that rich meaty flavor. Addition of bacon, however, makes the broth fatty but the quick fix for this is simply to freeze the broth and spoon out the fat. Along with the bones ingredients like soy sauce, mirin, ginger, scallions and dried shitake mushrooms are added to the broth which makes the broth three dimensional and layered.

At the base of the broth a special Tare sauce made from the water of soaked kombu leaves for 7-8 hours boiled with soy sauce can be used to concentrate the flavor of the broth.

Noodles – Your preferred type of noodles can be used thin wheat noodles, soba or buckwheat noodles, flat and broad udon noodles, etc.

Toppings – Traditionally chashu pork slices are used but in India glazed or marinated chicken can be used. Along with this a perfect soft boiled egg whose yolk oozes into the broth, greens like scallions, bean sprouts, sliced cabbage and chilly oil round off this flavor bomb of a dish.

Credit for research and writeup: Anvay Sane

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