I remember the first time I had ramen was the instant kind. In fact, I even recall the brand and type – Nissin’s chicken flavour – the one with the little boy on the front. As a kid, I thought this was one of the best things in the world. It was salty, it was filling and it was so comforting to eat in the winter.
Then as an adult, I went to Korea and discovered the famous Nongjim spicy instant shin ramyun. Unlike the Nissin version, the Nongjim version has a fatter noodle and spicy broth. And I can’t emphasize enough how good these noodles are!
Then, I eventually came across what I would consider “authentic” ramen. Thanks to crazy food fads, ramen became a popular dish so a bunch of ramen shops popped up around Toronto and the GTA. Although I have yet to go to Japan (it’s on my bucketlist), this is currently what I consider “true” ramen. There are three types of basic ramen that you can commonly find in many ramen shops:
- Shoyu ramen – The broth base is made with soy sauce
- Shio ramen – This is a lighter broth seasoned with salt
- Miso ramen – This is a Japanese soy bean paste broth.
The first ramen I ordered was a shoyu ramen, which is what my Japanese friend recommended as a “first time” experience. When it arrived, let’s just say I was a little disappointed. I felt it was lacking in noodles and flavours and it tasted too basic to provide me with the “wow” factor that I was looking for.
Fast forward several years later, I tried another ramen dish called netsu ramen and was again disappointed. It just had too many vegetables and the broth didn’t really impress me. It was a spicy dish that made my nose run for days, but it was missing something. Plus the overload of stir-fried vegetables just killed the experience for me. I like bean sprouts, but not that many bean sprouts!
Yesterday, I actually found a broth to my liking! They say the third time’s the charm, right? It was spicy, it was salty and it was filled with sweet corn kernels, half of a soft boiled egg, cabbage, marinated ground pork and baby bok choi. It was called “tantanmen” and according to the waiter, this broth is special because it contains peanut oil and sesame oil. No wonder it smelled and tasted so aromatic! I devoured it and enjoyed the complex flavours of this thicker-styled broth. Plus the toppings were to my liking. The only thing I thought was missing was the pieces of noori (dries seaweed).
Although it seems kind of random, I have a point to this posting! Our taste buds change over time and sometimes it just takes several tries to find the right dish. I really dislike lamb dishes, but I still try little pieces here and there hoping I’ll find one I like. I also used to hate eating asparagus but I can at least tolerate it now. Either way, there is one thing that has remained consistent throughout the years for me – whether it be instant noodles or “authentic” ramen, no matter how big the bowl is, there are never enough noodles!