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All it takes is one whiff of those sodium, MSG, and preservative-heavy seasoning packets that come in instant ramen packages for us to be transported straight back to our undergrad days. We’re not sure just how many weeknights we spent slurping away on lukewarm ramen while studying for exams, and we’re afraid to tally it up. Suffice it to say, we ate more than enough. And while a certain sense of nostalgia accompanies the smell of instant ramen, the truth is we’re glad we’re past those days. Instant ramen just isn’t that good for our health.
Here’s the thing: while the instant stuff is hugely popular among those who are strapped for cash, time, or the energy to prepare their own meal, there’s an entire world of ramen out there that far-outstrips the flavor and nutritional value of the convenient college staple. In fact, authentic ramen is something of a national obsession.
Below, we’ve broken down true ramen into one of its most important categorizations: how the base is seasoned. We’re taking you through three traditional ramen seasonings and showing you how to make your own plant-based ramen at home.
What is Ramen Seasoning?
When we talk about ramen seasoning or tare, we’re referring to the actual salt that goes into making a ramen base taste authentic and flavorful. While you may think of salt as simply the white table salt that you sprinkle on top of your meals at restaurants, we have some news for you — there is a myriad of seasonings salts out there — and they’re not all just mineral compounds!
We’re guessing you’ve heard of miso before. Miso is Japanese for “fermented beans” and is just what it sounds like: a traditional Japanese seasoning that’s produced by fermenting rice, barley, and/or soybeans with salt and a fungus known as kōjikin.
The taste and color of miso can vary depending on your specific miso’s fermentation process; miso usually comes in a thick paste, and a good rule of thumb is that the lighter your miso, the more mellow in flavor it will taste.
When it comes to ramen, miso ramen is actually one of the youngest seasoning forms. In fact, the style only originated in Hokkaido in the mid-1960’s, as a response to the cold winters. People wanted a hearty and warm dish! These days, you’d be able to find miso ramen most places in Japan.
Try making this Miso Ramen Bowl With Tellicherry Black Pepper Tofu, pictured above, and these Zucchini “Ramen” Noodles.
If you’re eating shoyu ramen, it means you’re ordering a clear brown broth base that’s flavored with soy sauce, a Chinese liquid condiment that is made from fermented soybeans, salt, water and occasionally roasted grains. Shoyu ramen is most popular in the Kanto region of central Japan, although it originated in Yokohama.
Shoyu ramen is the most popular, standard ramen, and if you’re ordering off a menu in Japan that doesn’t specify its base, you’re likely ordering shoyu. However, the broth is typically made with chicken, fish, or beef broth, so make sure to ask for a vegetable broth if you’re eating plant-based!
Shio, which translates to “salt”, is considered the oldest of all the ramen broths. Shio ramen broth is light, clear and seasoned with — you guessed it — salt. While shio broth is traditionally made with a pork or chicken base, you can always sub for vegetable stock. Just check out this recipe for Savory Mushroom and Vegetable Ramen Soup, pictured above, to learn how it’s done.
Traditionally, tonkatsu, which literally translates to “pork bone” is considered the fourth ramen seasoning base. Tonkatsu broth is thick and creamy, due to the boiling of pork bones and fat for an extended period of time. Since tonkatsu is not plant-based, if you want to add a creamy element to your ramen, tahini is a good ingredient to use.
These 3-Ingredient Ramen Noodles Will Make You Swear Off the Instant Ones because they only contain water, flour, and baking soda, which is a replacement for the alkaline salt that is often used at ramen-centric eateries. Use these with your favorite seasoning base from above, and you’ll never crave the instant version again!
For more, check out 10 (Easy!) Ways to Make Ramen Without Instant Noodles. Visit our Food Monster App to find these ramen recipes and more. You can download it on your Android and iPhone or check it out on Instagram and Facebook. Start browsing to find more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes!
Lead image source: Miso Ramen Bowl With Tellicherry Black Pepper Tofu