Perfect Ramen Noodles
The right noodles are a necessary element of a perfect bowl of ramen. The noodles are thin, like some Italian pasta (that word is a latinization of the Greek παστά) especially vermicelli or capellini. But ramen noodles are not the same. They are chewy, springy, and crinkly. They are often wrinkled into a 2 serving brick which makes a convenient way to prepare the right amount of noodles. The crinkles are also fun to look at and eat.

Aside from instant ramen (which is cheaper than food), these noodles from Taiwan are the closest-to-real-ramen-noodles which are available in most Asian and general grocery stores in Ann Arbor. This package is about 2 servings, but as inexpensive as they are, one could indulge in a ramen overdose. (They are even cheaper in the Asian groceries!!)
The yellow is food coloring, rather too bright, but interesting.
I’d point out that if you take the time and effort to make a ramen broth recipe, why would you use such inferior noodles?
That is like knitters who learn intricate stitches to make a master-piece sweater, but use cheap polyester yarn which pills even as you are knitting. Yes, that sweater would be washable. But like these noodles, your result is not worthy of your effort.
~In My Not So Humble Opinion

Ramen noodles are similar traditional Chinese 幼麵 thin noodles: lo mein, rolled and cut like Italian pasta. (Note that la mian, stretched wheat noodles are not the same.) Until the 1950s they were called shina soba (支那そば, literally “Chinese soba”), and today are called chūka soba (中華そば, also meaning “Chinese soba”).

These chuka soba are my favorite noodles. They are imported from Japan, so they are expensive—about $4 per 2 serving package—but worth it! Unfortunately it is not always available. The package is about the size of a pack of instant ramen noodles, but keep in mind that these have not been cooked and will expand 2 to 3 times this size. They have a lovely round crinkled texture, which remains even after boiling. The color is pale yellow from the potassium carbonate which is the agent used to make the water alkaline. Traditionally this mineral (salt?) came from the hard well water used to make ramen noodles. The higher ph water makes the noodles springy and chewy.
No food-coloring, no egg yolks.

Ramen differs from other noodles because alkaline water (kansui) is used to make the dough, which lends the noodles their firm springy texture. Traditional Chinese noodle makers may have been lucky enough to have hard well water with the necessary minerals dissolved in it, but modern noodle factories use potassium carbonate (sometimes combined with sodium carbonate), or kansui powder, or Chinese lye water under the brand name Koon Chun (presumably made with those chemicals).

I thought that the ready-made frozen ramen from Japan might be a source of excellent ramen noodles. The frozen udon I’ve bought have been pretty good.
I used the frozen noodles to make shoyu ramen with my home-made ramen broth. The noodles were not close to my favorite chuka soba from Japan, though they were a little better than the “ramen” from Taiwan. The package (for about 2 ½ servings) was not cheap: I expected better noodles.
I should have discarded the little packs of concentrated “miso ramen” flavoring, but I was curious. Very salty. And I was glad that I’d used the cheap noodles from Taiwan. I’d say, “We weren’t hungry after eating it, and it was quick to make.”
The bowl looks pretty, but the broth was so salty it had to be diluted to be edible. I’d hoped that some bloggers were right in advising me that ramen from Japan is better than the U.S. type, but this was not. I’d say the dried ramen packs are better than these frozen…

I want to try my hand at making ramen noodles because good noodles are very difficult to find in my area. I’ll look for the Koon Chun water. A little research indicates that potassium carbonate is sometimes used to mellow wine, so a wine-making supply store might carry that. I’ve also seen ramen recipes that use egg yolk in the dough. Those don’t seem right: the ph of an egg white is a bit higher than that of a yolk, so it would make sense to use the white; also, yolks have fat which would make the dough softer, like Italian pasta. After World War II, cheap flour imported from the U.S. swept the Japanese market. At the same time, millions of Japanese troops had returned from China and continental East Asia. Many of these returnees had become familiar with Chinese cuisine and subsequently set up Chinese restaurants across Japan. Eating ramen, while popular, was still a special occasion that required going out.
In 1958, instant noodles were invented by Momofuku Ando, the Taiwanese-Japanese founder and chairman of Nissin Foods. Named the greatest Japanese invention of the 20th century in a Japanese poll,[1] instant ramen allowed anyone to make this dish simply by adding boiling water.
Beginning in the 1980s, ramen became a Japanese cultural icon and was studied from many perspectives. At the same time, local varieties of ramen were hitting the national market and could even be ordered by their regional names. A ramen museum opened in Yokohama in 1994.[2]

8 thoughts on “Perfect Ramen Noodles

  1. Ah ramen would be purrrrrfect for the coming cold weather here. I think it is the crinkles I love plus all the toppings. Lets have an excursion to the ramen museum at once! Well okay a virtual excursion..

    • Our spring here has been very cold, except for one or two isolated days. I made the ramen stock and toppings so recently whent the temperatures should have been warm. Freezes well. It was good luck for me: the stock making was nice and warming on a cold dayI

      don’t know, can you get good ramen where you live in a restaurant?

      As to the excursion to the ramen museum, I’m interested in tasting a porky-white broth with butter, corn, and some bitter-ish greens on top. And some nice tender pork slices (ie: fatty, juicy, luscious). And don’t forget the garlic dare.

      Hey! See you there at 10 tonight! OK?

      LOL: we are having some nice leftovers here tonight, could be almost as good. J. cooked…

      less than 3, less than 3. And of course the familiar X O X O—
      you always cheer may day,

  2. Hi Tess,

    Sounds like you’re looking for alkali water, it’s the ingredient that gives the noodle elasticity or QQ as the Chinese would say. Koon Chun is the brand. Chinese/Asian groceries should carry it.

    • Hi Amy C—

      Yes! That is exactly what I will be looking for.

      I feel so illiterate, no matter how many times I shop in some Asian markets around here, but at least I now know what to ask about.

      Have you made ramen noodles? or some other sort?

      Thank you for the information.


  3. Hi Tess,

    I haven’t actually tried to make ramen noodles, not brave enough. I would love to take a stab at it one of these days. I really love ramen and it would great to make it at home.

    • Hi xiaomoogle,

      Yes, I love that movie—now I want to watch it again!

      food sex and the enlightened path of the noodle…
      ♨ Ψ ♡ ♂ ♀ ⇒ Ω ∞ ♮ ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬

  4. Pingback: Homemade Ramen Noodles! « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

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