Wonderful Ramen

Photo: A man holding chopsticks with ramen noodles over a steaming bowl

Are you having a rough day? Eat ramen.

It’s quite possible that ramen is the most perfect meal. In just one simple bowl you get filling noodles, comforting soup, a medley of spices, sauces, and veggies, plus other toppings of your choice. Ramen is versatile and totally personalize-able.

Although ramen is believed by many to come from Japan, the very first dish was inspired by China. A Confucianist, Zhu Zhiyu, was invited to Mito for a meal of homemade udon. In appreciation, Zhu made and shared what many people claim was the first bowl of ramen in Japan.

The popularity of ramen gradually grew, especially among Chinese university students living in Japan. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 destroyed parts of Tokyo, causing many businesses including restaurants to close. Ramen chefs moved to other regions of Japan and began to diversify their ingredients and preparation styles, as well as spreading the popularity of the dish throughout the country. 

In the late 1940’s the first ramen yokocho (ramen street) popped up in Sapporo City, where almost every building on the street was a ramen shop. In 1954, miso was first added to the dish and in 1958 the first instant ramen was created. Instant noodles quickly became a worldwide sensation.

Picture: Bowl of Hawaiian Saimin

Locally, ramen is sometimes known as saimin, although traditional saimin is actually different—and completely unique to Hawaii. Saimin is thought to have originated in the plantations of the late 1800’s with workers from mixed ethnicities who would gather and together create noodle dishes with whatever ingredients they could contribute.

There are many varieties of ramen made with different soup bases, spices, and toppings. Unfortunately, ramen can be an unhealthy dish loaded with sodium, fat, and calories, and some of the instant types offer almost no nutritional value.

Picture: Plate of nori sheets
Picture: Fresh asparagus

But the good news for ramen or saimin lovers is that you can make a bowl that's not only good for you but more ono. Traditionally ramen is made with meat or fish toppings and soup base, plus the typical soft-boiled egg. You can easily swap out the meat and egg ingredients with a veggie or miso base, and load it up with:

  • seaweed
  • mushrooms
  • ginger
  • bamboo shoots
  • bok choi
  • corn
  • asparagus
  • bean sprouts
  • broccoli
  • daikon
  • greens
  • tofu
  • mock meats, like plant-based bacon, ham, seafood, or even an egg replacement product
Picture: Pan of Began Bacon Slices

Check out Down to Earth’s many healthier versions of instant ramen on our grocery shelves and try a few of our recipes. And never stop pursuing the perfect (and perfectly healthy) ramen bowl for you!