Translated by Jasmine Nishino
The Secret to Delicious Ramen - 7 Basic Toppings!
When you think of ramen toppings, what do you imagine? Slices of pork, egg, cilantro? In this article, we will introduce some popular toppings for ramen.
Written by Inubushi Yoshiyuki
Ramen is a noodle dish that is one of the highlights of Japanese food. Depending on the type of noodles, soup, and various toppings added to this dish, the flavor changes. Due to the numerous choices available, people have developed their own favorite combinations of ramen.
In this article, we would like to get in depth with typical toppings at ramen shops in Japan. You may want to use this as a guide for the next time you order a bowl of ramen.
1. Chashu Pork
First up will be the chashu. Found in almost every bowl of ramen, it is a popular topping made using mainly pork ribs. Most stores make their own chashu by slowly simmering grilled pork ribs in their own soup for long periods of time. Depending on the soup's sweetness or spiciness, the flavor of the chashu changes according to the chef.
Depending on the chef, some shops serve kakuni instead of the chashu. Kakuni are bite-sized pork ribs that have been cooked in seasoned soup with herbs and spices. The rather distinctive sweetness and the softness also makes them a great topping on ramen.
The thickness of the meat, its hardness, flavor and the amount of fat in it all changes the taste of the chashu. If you are a fan of ramen, perhaps you should go out to find the perfect chashu to suit your tastes.
2. Flavored Egg
Eggs are also a very popular topping on ramen, but the ajitsuki tamago or the flavored egg is even more popular. This "flavored egg" is a half-boiled egg that has been cooked in a seasoned sauce.
The sauce is mainly soy sauce based and the flavored egg whites match well with the creamy yolk in the ramen. Thick soups such as miso-based ramen often have a raw egg instead of a flavored egg as a topping instead.
Menma, otherwise known as ‘shinachiku’ are slices of fermented bamboo. Each bite of the crunchy bamboo brings out the sweetness and the flavor. Many people favor the menma as a topping for its texture and unique fragrance.
Most ramen comes with some sort of vegetable toppings such as bean sprouts for miso ramen or cabbage for salt ramen. The vegetable toppings vary according to the soup base, but one that is used frequently as a topping regardless of the soup base is the scallion or green onion. The fragrance of the scallion manages to ease the denseness of the ramen and provides a different texture while eating.
There are plenty of types of ramen where seaweed is used as a topping. Seaweed has many nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamins, and calcium. How it's eaten varies by person, but some people prefer eating the crispy seaweed first or there are those who eat it together with the noodles. Some even order rice on the side and eat the seaweed soaked in the soup with the rice. You can always find your own way of eating seaweed on ramen.
6. Ground Garlic
When visiting a ramen shop, you will find many condiments on the table. In many shops ground garlic is provided along with other condiments on the table, and you are able to top it according to your preference (some shops may require an additional fee for this topping).
Garlic has a distinctive scent along with a spiciness, so if you feel the need for a change of flavor after tasting your ramen, it may make for a nice addition to your bowl.
There are some ramen where corn and butterare used as toppings. The crisp texture and the sweetness of the corn ease the greasiness of the ramen and the butter adds more depth to the soup. These two toppings are commonly found in miso ramen. It is a combination loved by people of all ages.
Expand Your World of Ramen with Toppings
Toppings will vary according to the shop you visit, so you can always include additional toppings to customize your ramen to your preference. Most additional toppings cost from 80 - 200 Yen.
Lately, there are shops that provide unique toppings such as sprouts, wood ear mushrooms, and cilantro too. It may be worth checking out some different shops in order to to find out the latest trend.
When you add certain toppings, the flavor of the ramen will change. With one additional topping, you may be able to change your usual ramen and enjoy it differently.
Next time you visit a ramen shop, you may want to challenge yourself to try some toppings instead of just going for the classic menu!