Instant ramen requires little-to-no skill to make: boil hot water, pour it in the styrofoam cup and wait three to five minutes to enjoy your food. However, authentic ramen, when served correctly, can provide the homestyle cooking college students crave.
Story by Sunny Kim
On Oct. 9, Japanese food distributors, manufacturers and businesses came to the Travis County Exposition Center for the Ramen Expo USA to showcase their noodles, seasonings and soups. It was an event made for local businesses and the general public to taste various types of ramen. ORANGE Magazine decided to check out the event.
Fuji Foods USA
There were three types of ramen to choose from: tonkotsu, shoyu and miso. Tonkotsu is a popular type of ramen made by boiling pork leg bones, trotters, garlic and ginger. The caramelized ginger, garlic and onions add flavor to the soup base, which is white and creamy. The taste was nothing out of the ordinary, but a good one to recommend to beginners interested in exploring the world of ramen.
The shoyu ramen, on the other hand, is made from a soy sauce base. The taste was slightly salty but savory. When asked, the person distributing the ramen said Americans prefer the tonkotsu ramen, while the Japanese seemed to enjoy the shoyu ramen a little bit more. It was interesting to see this difference among Americans and Japanese and their preference of the two popular ramen in Japan.
OtaJoy by Otafuku
OtaJoy had a wide range of soy sauce flavors such as black pepper sauce, teriyaki sauce, garlic pepper sauce, sushi sauce, okonomi sauce and yakisoba sauce. These soy sauce flavors were displayed on their table along with pictures of Okonomiyaki, which is a savory Japanese vegetable pancake. On the side table, there were cooked noodles with spinach, carrots and bean sprouts as the main vegetables. It was self-serve and while it tasted a bit salty, it was also savory.
Wakou USA Inc.
Originally from Hokkaido, Japan, the company had five different types of broth to choose from: original tonkotsu, miso tonkotsu, gyoka (seafood) tonkotsu, creamy veggie and tomato veggie. The people serving free samples of ramen said creamy veggie and tomato veggie broth were made to serve vegetarians and foreigners.
The tomato veggie broth tasted similar to a hot and watered-down spaghetti soup. Ingredients in the tomato veggie broth were displayed on its posters as the following: 12 oz hot water, 2.5 oz tomato soup base, 2 tsp light garlic oil. Oils in the broth made the texture of the noodles more slippery.
The Yamachan Ramen station six different types of ramen noodles: straight, wave, crispy, champon, tsukemen and gluten free. ORANGE decided to sample the tonktosu ramen. Unlike Fuji Foods USA, Yamachan Ramen’s tonktosu had meat and green onions. It had a more in-depth flavor which was filling.
The main person at the table offered free ramen noodles as well as its soup base to take home to try making the ramen noodles at home. With their recommendations, ORANGE received miso soup base and tonkotsu soup base and also a shoyu soup base and tonkotsu soup base to create two different types of ramen: tonkotsu and miso.
Ramen is fast food for most, but this experience showed that it is more about the authentic attitude toward the noodles and soup that make it a delicious and fulfilling meal.