The Greatness of Ramen! Japanese Soul in a Bowl!
Jiro might dream of sushi but, the “soul food of Japan” is definitely ramen! Ramen shops are usually the last stop on the way home after a night of drinking and/or the hangover cure of choice the next morning. Ramen is comforting and unpretentious, can be made in a variety of styles to suit even the most picky of eaters, and sometimes you can order it without having to even speak or read a word of Japanese!
In addition to terabytes of blogs documenting the appearance, taste, and subtle nuances about it, there are songs, movies, and volumes of books and manga dedicated to ramen! Perhaps you have seen Juzo Itami’s classic film “Tanpopo” (1985) starring a very young Ken Watanabe or “The Ramen Girl” (2008) starring the late Brittany Murphy alongside veteran actor Toshiyuki Nishida.
In addition to the classic “Demae-dou Icchokusen” (2005) by SEXMACHINEGUNS, there has been a musical ramen resurgence with LADYBABY – “Renge Chance” (2016) and Kobushi Factory – “Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san no Uta” (2015) which was the theme song for the drama of the same name (which is based on a manga) starring former Momoiro Clover member Akari Hayami.
Even though you can get instant ramen cheaply whether it be something related to Nissin’s Cup Noodle or Top Ramen, it can’t even come close to the stuff that stirs the hearts of foodies and gourmets around the world. Ramen is sometimes called “chuuka soba” (中華そば, Chinese-style soba) in reference to it’s Chinese origins.
While there is no way to briefly explain the ever expanding types of ramen available just in Japan, it has been most often put into 4 major categories of: shoyu (醤油, soy sauce), shio (塩 salt), miso (味噌 fermented soybean paste), and tonkotsu (豚骨, pork bone). Of course there is quite a bit of overlap between them as soups can have infinite combinations of ingredients mixed together.
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