New York City, NY — by Kaisei Arai
This story was originally published on New York University’s Washington Square News.
As a Japanese person, ramen holds a special place in my heart. While ramen is often consumed in the United States in the form of instant packets, it has a far richer, deeper history than what many might assume. Ramen has been a staple in Japanese cuisine since the early 20th century, and has countless regional variations which reflect the culinary diversity of Japan. The dish, for me, is a comfort food that not only evokes a sense of personal nostalgia for me, but is also a reminder of my own heritage.
Ramen has three main components that create a culinary experience that is unmatched. The rich broth, chewy noodles and perfectly cooked toppings produce a layered aroma that reminds me of home. There are several different ways to add more flavor to your ramen — some of the most common flavorings come from tonkotsu — or pork-bone broth — miso, salt, and soy sauce. As for the noodles, one can choose from a variety of types, with their own thickness, texture, and base ingredients.
My personal favorite is Hakata-style ramen, which is characterized by its rich and milky pork-bone broth full of umami flavor. The noodles used in Hakata-style ramen are thin and straight, with a firm and chewy texture. I like to cover the entire surface of the ramen bowl with chashu pork slices and top it off with an ungodly amount of red pickled ginger.
Growing up, I have fond memories of enjoying a warm bowl of ramen with my family and friends. Some of my favorite moments involved sharing a steamy bowl of ramen with my mother and having a friendly argument over which ramen noodle stiffness is best. Eating ramen with anyone can make the most mundane day so much better, because it encourages conversation and connection.
Now, as a college student, ramen is a dish that I continue to cherish. Whether it’s the midst of summer or a frigid winter day, I am always down to inhale a steaming hot bowl of ramen. For me, ramen is more than just a comfort food — it’s a connection to my roots, and the perfect cure for my hunger.
Read the rest of the story at Washington Square News.