Ramen isn’t just a bowl of Japanese noodle soup, and it goes way beyond the instant stuff you grew up eating in your dorm room. At a proper ramen house, the broth takes hours to slow cook, the noodles are often handmade, and the toppings are carefully considered and hand-crafted. There’s an entire culture that surrounds ramen, and Ippudo is hoping to share it with the world, one bowl at a time. Brit + Co spoke to Tomoyuki Yamane, director of corporate strategy for Chikaranomoto, the parent company of Ippudo, to learn four essential ramen-eating tips every seasoned foodie should know before ordering and diving into the bowl.
Proper tenderness for noodles
At Ippudo, you can order the noodles different textures (from extra soft / well done to al dente to extra firm). Which one is proper? According to Yamane, “There is no strict proper tenderness, but as we use ultra-thin noodles typical of Hakara-style ramen, we do recommend to try kata, i.e. al dente for the Italian pasta. That way you can enjoy the crunchy bite of the noodles and the fragrance of wheat flour matching perfectly with the silky tonkotsu (pork) broth. Many aficionados actually prefer barikata, which is firmer texture. This is only recommended for ultra-thin noodles, and for others, such as medium thickness, we recommend futsu (standard), as they need to cook longer to become softer, to absorb more soup.”
Eggs, nori seaweed, extra pork, spicy miso, even CORN are additional toppings you’ll often see at ramen houses. Which are proper and which ones are faux pas? “The clear favorite seems to be the tamago, soft-boiled eggs. Each bowl has its unique taste profile, so please ask your server for recommendations. Adding any extra spice or taking away oil and such key ingredients are not really recommended as they will destroy the taste profile which our ramen experts have labored greatly to achieve. Try them as they are, and then you can think of customizing it yourself later,” advises Yamane.
drink broth or eat noodles first?
Should you go straight for the noodles or take the time to slurp a little bit of the broth first, as it took longer to prepare? Yamane says, “Do as you wish! We do recommend to try the two separately. I tend to taste the soup first and then dive into the noodles, enjoying different elements separately first, and then together. [There are] many steps to enjoy the bowl of ramen, which is really a microcosm of many flavors.”
The importance of Slurping
In the West, mothers may tell you it’s improper to slurp noodles, but at a ramen noodle house, it’s encouraged! What’s the benefit? “When you slurp, you inhale the aroma of the soup and noodles while the taste explodes in your mouth. Humans detect taste not just on the taste buds but also through sense of smell. Slurping is the best way to combine these two, especially when one feasts on bowls of ramen,” explains Yamane.
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