Ramen Talk

History of Ramen

Before we get into Samurai Noodle’s wavy egg noodles, here’s a brief history of ramen so that you can get an idea of where ramen came from.

There have been many theories as to when ramen was first made, who made it, and who ate it first in Japan. Unfortunately there is no clear answer to these questions, but it’s generally believed that ramen was brought from China in the early 1600’s. One theory states that the first ramen was served to Mitsukuni Tokugawa, also known as “Mito Kohmon”. He was the uncle of the Shougun of the Tokugawa family in the Edo Dynasty. However, the “ramen” that he ate was not the same ramen that we have today. Ramen in the 1600’s consisted of plain noodles in soup with no toppings. Over the next 300 years, ramen remained as noodles-in-soup until the early 1900’s when the first ramen shop called “Rai Rai Ken” opened in Tokyo. After World War II, ramen became a huge hit and began to spread throughout Japan, where it would then become localized. Some of the localized ramen styles today are the Hakata Ramen, Nagahama Ramen, Kumamoto Ramen, Kurume Ramen, Onomichi Ramen, Wakayama Ramen, Tokyo Ramen (Shouyu Ramen), Yokohama Ramen (a.k.a. “Ie-kei”), Kitakata Ramen, Tsugaru Ramen, Asahikawa Ramen, and Sapporo Ramen.

There are, of course, many more localized ramen in Japan, but they are all named after the city or region it was developed. Each of these localized ramen typically uses locally famous produce or fish to create their own unique ramen flavors. One good example is the Sapporo Miso Ramen. The city of Sapporo is located in Hokkaido, Japan, which prides themselves as Japan’s primary dairy producers. In order to incorporate their local specialty, the Sapporo Miso Ramen commonly contains pads of butter. If anyone has ever wondered why Samurai Noodle’s Miso ramen contains butter, it is because we are emulating the Sapporo Miso Ramen!

Another example of a city using their local specialties in their ramen is the Asahikawa Ramen. Asahikawa is a city within the Hokkaido region, and specializes in milk. Therefore, the Asahikawa Ramen often contains milk. If anyone ever wondered why our popular seasonal ramen, the Shiro Tonkotsu, contains milk, it’s because it is based off of the Asahikawa Ramen. At Samurai Noodle, we have always aimed to serve authentic traditional ramen from across Japan, here in America. *I personally don’t like “surprise” ramen like ramen with tempura, ramen with tonkAtsu, ramen with sukiyaki… No… you never see such ramen in Japan.

Types of Noodles

Now that we briefly covered the history of ramen and talked about some of the localized ramen, let’s talk about the type of noodles used across Japan. With an exception for the Tonkotsu Ramen in Kyushu Japan (includes Hakata, Nagahama, Kurume, Kumamoto, ect), almost all other ramen in Japan use egg noodles. For this very reason, we have many customers who get confused when they first see our thin, white, Tonkotsu noodles. The typical image that most people have of ramen noodles is the yellow wavy egg noodles that have even been used in a famous ramen movie, Tampopo. Just like the Tonkotsu noodles, egg noodles are also made out of wheat flour. However, adding an egg gives it a more bouncy or elastic texture. Some people still look for the “Koshi” (bite) in egg noodles and request it to be cooked firm (kata-men), but people generally order egg noodles to enjoy the elastic texture rather than the Koshi of the noodles. Then again, there are many types of ramen in Japan and the majority of them use egg noodles, so it is almost impossible to standardize.

When making ramen noodles, there are four main factors that define its taste and texture. These factors are the wheat flour to substance flour ratio, which influences the taste, the water to four ratios which affects the texture, the ingredients which affects both the taste and texture, and the shape which affects how absorbent the noodle is. Just like our Tonkotsu noodles, the egg noodles made at Samurai Noodle are not translucent. Again, this proves that our noodles have high wheat flour which gives our noodles the sweet rich wheat flour taste. We also make our noodles with a higher Ka-Sui-Ritsu (water to flour ration) and our noodles are considered to be “Ta-Ka-Sui”(多加水), which means “high water ratio” noodles. The unique characteristic of Ta-Ka-Sui noodles compared to Sho-Ka-Sui (low water ratio)(少加水) is a bouncy or elastic texture. Our Tonkotsu noodles are Sho-Ka-Sui (or called Tei-ka-sui) and also do not contain any egg in order to emphasize the Koshi in our noodles.

The egg noodles we make are Ta-Ka-Sui and contain eggs in order to amplify the elastic texture of our noodles. Lastly, we make our egg noodles wavy because the wavy shape allows the noodles to absorb more soup while thin noodles like our Tonkotsu noodles do not. In order to balance the flavor of the noodles, we serve wavy egg noodles in our Shouyu Ramen and other chicken broth based soups while we serve our Tonkotsu noodles in our Tonkotsu and other pork broth based soups. Since our Tonkotsu Ramen broth has a deeper rich flavor, our Tonkotsu noodles do not need to absorb as much soup. Our Shouyu Ramen broth has a light refreshing taste, so we made our egg noodles wavy to allow it to absorb more flavor.

To request a specific firmness, you can tell your server the following options when you order your wavy egg noodles:
– Kata men (firm); 60-70 seconds to cook. *Undercooked
– Normal; 90 seconds to cook *store’s recommendation
– Soft; 120 seconds to cook. *If you are used to eating Chinese noodles, this would be similar to your preference.

Now, hopefully everyone understands why Samurai Noodle designed our thin wheat Tonkotsu and wavy egg noodles.