With all due respect, the way to make "really good" Japanese ramen is to stay the hell away from instant ramen and make your own from scratch. Instant ramen bears about as much resemblance to real ramen as macaroni and cheese resembles lasagna.

First of all, raamen (ラーメン) in their current form are essentially a Japanese invention, although egg noodles in soup are certainly known throughout Asia. The word comes from Chinese 撈麺 (Mandarin lao1mian4), literally just "handmade noodles", and has been known in Japan since at least 1665. Things didn't change much until instant ramen was invented by Momofuku Ando of Nissin in 1958. While the original soup hasn't made too many inroads beyond Korea, the instant variety propagated throughout Asia in the blink of an eye, and to the college dorms of America and Europe only a moment later.

Enough lecturing, on with the show... the following recipe serves 4 and should be consumed immediately.

Simple Shoyu Raamen (醤油ラーメン)


  • 4 packs Chinese egg noodles
    • fresh if possible, but outside Japan you'll usually have to stick with dried and that's OK
  • 8 slices roast pork (aka yakibuta, chaashuu, char siu)
  • 1/2 long onion (Jp. naganegi, the closest thing in the English-speaking world is a leek)
  • 1/4 bunch spinach (optional, see below for possible substitutes)
  • Broth:
    • 6 cups water
    • 2 bouillon cubes (beef, pork, or chicken)
      • This is the easy way out, so if you have time and energy by all means prepare a real stock, preferably from pork. Without one, your results may be edible, but they will never be great.
    • 2 tbsp sake
    • 1 cm piece fresh ginger
    • the green (inedible) part of two long onions or one leek
  • Spice (per serving!):

  1. Slice ginger. Cut green part of long onion into halves. Bring water, stock cubes, sake, ginger and green onion to boil in large pot. Keep on a rolling boil for about 5 minutes, then strain. Discard everything but the broth.
  2. Blanch spinach and drain. Squeeze out excess water and cut into 5-cm lengths. Slice white part of long onion thinly.
  3. Add spice to each individual serving bowl.
  4. Boil noodles for 3 minutes, then drain.
  5. Pour broth into bowls on top of the spice. Add noodles to soup, top with roast pork, spinach and thinly sliced long onion (the previously unused white part, that is).
Other options

The "Big Three" Japanese styles are:

  1. salty or shio ramen (塩ラーメン), which leaves out the soy
  2. soy or shoyu ramen (醤油ラーメン), as demonstrated here
  3. miso ramen (味噌ラーメン), a specialty of Sapporo
Clamoring for the number 4 spot are tonkotsu ramen, based on a strong dark pork stock and Nagasaki-style chanpon, with oodles of seafood. There are countless variations and every town and hamlet in Japan touts its own specialty. On top of the basic broth you can add mung bean sprouts (moyashi), bamboo shoot (menma), snow peas, shiitake, cabbage, sweet corn, nori, wakame... almost anything goes, including moderately weird ingredients like squid ink and butter.

Etiquette notes

Ramen should be consumed with much slurping gusto, preferably while reading a shounen manga so that you do not spray everybody in the vicinity with noodle juice. Almost-obligatory side orders are a half portion of gyoza (餃子) and a beer. In Japan, most ramen places (ramenya) worth their salt will offer you a free bowl of rice on the side if you ask, although then again, at a ramenya worth its salt the soup portion will be so humongous that you won't need to bother...