The Secret of Soup

The secret of ramen

When noodles are served with soup and toppings in a single bowl we call this Ramen.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the best ramen comes simply by the balance between these three elements.

The Secret of Soup ~ broth

Pork bones

Pork bones are the most commonly used ingredient to make ramen soup broth.
There are five types of pork bones: knuckle, rib and spine, leg and head but even within the same pig, the appearance of each bone can differ. With these ingredients a lot of different soups can be made by various combinations.

Here are explained each bone features:

  • Knuckle

    This bone resembles the form of a person's fist. It is one of the essential ingredients to take a thick soup with good taste and long conservation.

  • Rib and spine

    Cheaper than knuckle, good soon but not suitable for long conservation.

  • Leg

    Ideal to add a deep taste to knuckle bone soup. It has a strong taste but it requires adequate preparation (cleaning and washing).

  • Pig head

    Ideal to make a good quality broth but be careful to not be seen by customers when using it since can scare for its appearance.

Pork bones are characterized by its high collagen content compared to chicken bones, and a large amount of gelatinous material, ideal to obtain a firm soup. The oil produced then can be seen over the surface of the sauce.

However, if you keep boiling for a long time, the floating oil will disappear and the soup will become cloudy.
This is because the gelatinous substance dissolved in the soup acts as an emulsifier, and the oil separated from the soup emulsifies and dissolves in it. When the turbid soup is so well emulsified it is said that this makes the taste smoother and brings another flavor to the soup.

Chicken bones

The soup taken from chicken is characterized by a large amount of glutamic acid, a component of umami taste. This ingredient is the basis of the ramen soup flavor. However, compared to pork bones, chicken has less protein called collagen, which is the source of gelatin. So even if it is boiled for a long time, it does not become cloudy remaining a clear soup.

If you use not only chicken bones but also chicken parts with meat, you can get sweet and thick soup without turbidity. This happens because there is a lot of protein, which is the source of umami in the meat as well as lot of collagen in the bone part near it. In addition, a lot of collagen is also contained in the feet of chickens commonly referred as “maple leaf” (momiji in Japanese) for their resemblance.

Here are explained each bone features:

  • Chicken bones

    These are the bones left after having removed the edible part. Suitable to obtain a clear soup.

  • Momiji chicken legs

    From the feet of the chicken a good soup is relatively quick and easy to taste but previously a careful preparation (cleaning and washing) such as removing nails is necessary.

    モミジ

Dried fish flakes (for Japanese dashi broth)

Dried bonito or mackerel flakes are used to prepare Japanese-style soup stock. To get a Japanese-style soup you should combine kelp with dried fish flakes. This follows the Japanese method of obtaining a taste using different ingredients rather than only one. Scientifically indeed combining the Inosine acid from bonito flakes and glutamate of kelp will make the broth taste more delicious.

Asahikawa Ramen uses a lot of Japanese-style soup from dried mackerel to bring out its unique flavor and taste. Boiling then has also has the function of eliminating the smell of pork bones.

Flavored vegetables

Soups that use bones, especially pork bones, need to have their smell reduced. Onion, garlic and ginger are suitable for this. Ginger, in particular, contains ingredients that eliminate the smell of meat and fish, so its deodorizing effect is significant. By simmering vegetables with a pungent taste and a distinctive odor such as garlic and onions, the smell will change into a sweeter one giving the soup a moderate sweetness. In order to a produce this natural sweetness, it is best to prepare it simply with vegetables without adding sugar.

主The main flavor and vegetables used are the following:

  • Onion, welsh onion, carrot, cabbage, potato, apple

    All used to add sweetness. However, the type of sweetness is different for each one.

  • Ginger, Garlic

    Used to reduce the smell of meat

Other materials

There are many other ingredients that can be used to obtain soup for ramen. For example beef bones. Beef bones are famous because they can produce soups rich both in flavor and taste, completely different from pork.

Another particular ingredient is laurel used by some restaurants to take the smell of meat giving a unique flavor.

Secret of the soup ~ tare sauce, oil

At the ramen restaurants, the soup is often seasoned with an original dressing. Generally soy sauce, miso and salt are used. However, there are also many ramen restaurants who like to use, for example, vegetables simmered in soy sauce or spice to obtain umami or to blend several kinds of miso with a secret preparation.

Soy sauce tare sauce

Soy sauce is the most recognized kind of ramen dressing around the world and also in Japan there are many who say that soy sauce ramen is the main way to prepare ramen.

There are five types of soy sauce: light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, tamari soy sauce, white soy sauce and double-brewed soy sauce.
Light soy sauce is generally preferred as it does not cover flavor of the other ingredients. On the other hand there are 120 kinds of fragrant ingredients, such as brandy, coffee, vanilla, and whiskey, found in concentrated soy sauce, which may hide the flavor of the ingredients.
In that respect, it is possible to make a better use of each ingredient taste if the soy sauce is light. Sometimes however light soy sauce may lack in flavor so a more delicious soup can be made increasing it by using concentrated soy sauce.There are also ramen restaurants where you can add fish sauce such as Nuoc mam and Nampura used for Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.

There are various ways to make soy sauce tare sauce, but the most common method is to add soy sauce, sake, garlic, ginger and spices to the soup in which chashu pork was simmered.

  • Light soy sauce

    The color is light but salinity high. Good compatibility with soup stock and mirin.

  • Dark soy sauce

    It has a strong smell and removes the raw taste of meat and fish.

  • Tamari soy sauce

    Soy is the main ingredient. The color is dark but the smell and saltiness are reduced

  • White soy sauce

    Obtained from a little amount of wheat and soybeans. Used in bowls which need to keep the taste and the color of ingredients

  • Double brewed soy sauce

    Soy sauce obtained by adding fermented soybeans koji to an already prepared soy sauce. Rich both in taste and color.

For those who want to know more:

Guidance of factory tour 【Yamasa soy sauce Co., Ltd.】
A virtual tour of the Yamasa soy sauce plant in Choshi city, Chiba prefecture and the process of soy sauce explicated can be found at the following link.

Miso tare sauce

Miso ramen is the synonymous of Sapporo Ramen, where the taste of miso itself makes the taste of soup. Miso has a unique and intense flavor, so if a light soup is combined with miso it will lose its taste. In case the soup has a mild taste, the taste of the soup is still kept even with miso. Moreover, soy proteins in miso have the effect of absorbing the oil of the soup, so even a thick soup will have its taste reduced by miso.

There are many types of miso but among the basic ingredients the miso made from rice represents the 80% of the whole production. Besides rice miso, there are also barley miso and bean miso. Also, although the raw ingredients are the same, red or white miso can be produced with different production methods. The Hokkaido favorite one is the white miso made from rice. This type needs first to simmer soybeans, and then add salt and rice bran. It is commercialized as a short term fermentation miso. The miso used for miso tare sauce is the one from Niigata and Sendai, which use soybeans in a high proportion. In case of Nishikyo Miso, or miso with a low ratio of soy and intense tamari flavor, it tends to be unsuitable for miso ramen soup because the balance of taste is not equilibrated.

In order to make miso tare sauce, two or three kinds of miso with a high ratio of soybeans are blended while several kinds of vegetables such as onions and carrots or fruits like apples and peaches are put together and simmered. However, there are shops that blend five or more types of miso adding butter, wine, skimmed milk, powdered kelp and various spices to produce the more diverse tare sauces you might imagine.

For those who want to know more:

Japan Miso Promotion Board/ English Leaflet
You can understand most of things related to miso such as introductions to products and recipes for miso dishes in various parts of the country.

Salt tare sauce

The history of ramen is quite recent. It is said its origins can be found in China and that in Japan ramen was created as an adaptation of Chinese tanmen noodles during Meiji period (1868-1912). For this reason salted ramen is the closest version to the prototype of ramen in Japan, because tanmen noodles are salty. In addition, since the salt sauce is light, the taste of other ingredients is directly reflected in the taste of the soup. So it is said to be the most difficult ramen to be made.

In Japan, seawater is filtered and condensate first with a proton exchange membrane and then with a vacuum evaporator. After it is dewatered with a centrifugal separator and dried to obtain salt. In this way, the purity of sodium chloride is high and there are almost no impurities. However, recently the so called "natural salt", which contains a large amount of a mineral called "nigari", has attracted attention for its complex taste and texture. Such particular types of salt now are now highly requested for salt tare sauce. Products like “Ako salt” or “Filtrated deep Ocean Water” (water taken more than 200 meters deep in sea which is said to be low in bacteria due to low temperature and rich in nutrients) are a good example.

The most common way to make salt tare sauce is to dissolve salt in mirin, sake and soy sauce and add seasoning or sugar.

For those who want to know more:

The Salt Industry Center of Japan
Salt making process and tips for using salt in cooking are introduced.

Oil and fats

In ramen restaurants oil is used carefully when making soups. There are also many stores that process lard by their own. The taste and flavor of fats and oils seem to be an important factor in the taste of ramen.
Those resulting solid at normal temperature are called “fats” while the ones which are liquid are referred as “oils". The following are "fats and oils" used by ramen restaurants.

  • Lard

    There is pure lard made from pork fat and prepared lard mixed with beef fat. But in general, the second one is the mainly used. An oil (seasoning oil) flavored by deep-fried welsh onion, garlic, ginger and other vegetables is used as a seasoning oil for ramen.

  • Butter

    Butter made from milk is also one of fats and oils, and butter ramen from Sapporo is famous, but miso ramen and curry ramen are popular as well.

  • Chicken oil

    It is oil with sweetness, strong aroma and flavor. Add a small amount to the pork bone soup to make it mellow.

  • Soybean oil

    Oil made from soybean seeds. As it does not harden like fats and oils from animals, it is often used for cold Chinese foods. In addition, since it results light in taste, it is also used for people on diet.

  • Sesame oil

    It is used when you want a good aroma and stronger Chinese food taste. It is often used for cold Chinese food.

  • Olive oil

    Gaining popularity it is used for cold and easy to prepare ramen.

There are various types of fats and oils as they are essential to thicken the soup and improve the flavor.

Umami seasoning

It is said that the umami taste that is liked by the Japanese people comes from glutamate. This is mostly contained in rice, fish and soybeans that have been the staple food of Japan since ancient times. It is highly safe, and its seasoning action is not limited to simply imparting umami taste, but has a wide range of effects such as giving sourness, alleviating bitterness, enriching the meat taste and improving flavor. Glutamate is thus a seasoning widely used in ramen as well as in cooking.

On the other hand, the umami ingredient contained in many Western European dishes is the inosinic acid. Meat dishes such as pork and beef contain much of this inosinic acid. Seasonings with inosinic acid include Iriko (dried small sardines) bouillon. Other umami ingredients are guanylic acid, which is often contained in mushroom extracts and succinic acid, which is a shellfish extract found in shijimi and hamaguri clams.

For those who want to know more:

Umami Seasoning Association (Japanese only)
The features of umami among the five major basic tastes (sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness) are explained in a very easy-to-understand way. We would like you to know umami as the basis of Japanese cooking.

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