It is clear that Japanese ramen is an import from China to Japan, and a very late one too. However, it is not true that prior to the popularisation of ramen in Japan, the Japanese did not have noodles. In fact, the udon and soba are native Japanese inventions. The first specialised ramen shop opened in Yokohama in 1910. Even today, ramen restaurants are often labelled as ‘Chinese’ restaurants, serving at the same time another Chinese import, the gyōza dumplings.
Today, there are so many varieties of ramen soup all over Japan.
You can very easily make it at home.
A vital ingredient however is kansui (lye water). It is an alkaline water that helps to preserve and strengthen the noodles. The use of kansui to replace eggs for this function in very common in Northern China. But kansui does prick, so be careful to wear gloves while making your ramen. You can normally find kansui in any Asian supermarkets.
Make sure you are using high-gluten flour, so that your ramen doesn’t break easily. If you prefer to use low-gluten or gluten-free flour, add one more teaspoonful of kansui or an egg yolk to firm up the noodles.
- 600g high-gluten wheat flour
- 3tsp kansui (かん水, 鹹水)
- 230ml water
- 2tsp fine salt
Serving: 10 portions of noodles
- Mix kansui and water well in a bowl.
- In an electric mixer, add your flour and kansui mixture together, and mix until the dough is dry and lumpy evenly.
- Wrap your dough tightly in a plastic wrap and let it settle for at least 4 hours in the fridge. You will see that the noodles will take on a yellow hue.
- Cut your dough into 10 equal portions on your kitchen table.
- Spread a bit of flour to prevent sticking and roll each portion out flat with a rolling pin, until each layer is only about 4mm thick.
- If you have a pasta machine, this will ensure an evenly flat dough before you cut it into strips.
- If you do not have a paste machine, very gently roll your dough into a tube and cut it into 4mm thick noodles using a very sharp knife.
You can either use the noodles immediately or store each portion in a plastic bag in the freezer.