If your experience with ramen is limited to the popular college staple available in most grocery stores, you might think that it’s all the same.
On the contrary, ramen can come in many different forms, all of which have characteristics that make them unique.
The kind of ramen you’ll find in a grocery store is worlds apart from the type of ramen you’ll find at a ramen bar, and even at ramen bars, there’s a broad selection of types based on the cooking methods employed by the experts.
From the different kinds of noodles to the different types of broth, there are noteworthy differences between certain types of ramen, and I’ve put together some critical contrasts in this guide.
Types of Ramen
From the ubiquitous instant ramen to the richly flavored Shio ramen, you’re sure to find a new favorite in this list of 7 types of ramen every Japaneseophile should try at least once in their culinary lives.
Miso ramen is one of the most popular ramen dishes, and you will find it at most ramen bars.
It gets its name from the miso sauce that the dishes include.
Miso generally comes from the fermentation of soybeans with salt and kōji, which makes for a savory seasoning that pairs well with both ramen and many other Japanese dishes.
This salty noodle soup often comes paired with some form of protein, vegetables, and egg, just like most ramen dishes. However, you can sometimes order it without any added toppings.
I’ll occasionally do this if I want to enjoy the salty-sweet flavor of the miso sauce, but there’s no shame in going the maximalist route.
Shoyu is the name given to Japanese-style soy sauces, and they often come from fermented soybeans, water, and salt.
Shoyu ramen consists of a broth made with soy sauce as one of the main ingredients, with other ingredients like kombu, bonito flakes, and sake also making an appearance.
Because of how salty soy sauce is, I assumed Shoyu ramen would have a heavy saltiness to its taste.
I was quite surprised to find that the expert combination of other elements dilutes much of the saltiness, leaving behind a scrumptious soy flavor without the mouth-puckering punch of sodium.
Shio ramen is one of the lesser-known types of ramen dishes, which I find a shame because it’s no less delicious than its competition.
You’ll often find fewer ingredients in Shio ramen, as it’s a more straightforward type of soup that lets you enjoy the noodles without many other things getting in the way.
The broth in Shio ramen also tends to have a much lighter feel to it in my experience.
This is because the broth leaves out the soy sauce and swaps in sea salt, which draws out the flavors of the sesame oil, ginger, and dashi powder quite nicely.
Tonkotsu ramen carries a much meatier flavor than most other types because pork meat and bones serve as the foundation of the soup.
The slow simmering of these pork products coaxes forth a particular richness that you just won’t find in other ramen options.
The consistency of the broth in Tonkotsu ramen is somewhat similar to Miso ramen in that they are both a bit milky, but that’s where the broth similarities end.
While it’s possible for ramen novices to mistake one for the other in that regard, you’ll know which is which based on their distinct tastes.
I don’t get Tonkotsu often because I prefer thinner broths with my ramen, but it’s still a nice change of pace when I am craving something hearty and indulgent.
With Tsukemen ramen, you serve the noodles and broth separately, giving adventurous foodies the opportunity to dip the former into the latter before eating.
Some people may question whether Tsukemen ramen deserves a spot amongst the more traditional varieties.
However, most ramen lovers and I will tell you that it indeed qualifies and is one of the most popular types, especially for those who eat their soup for the noodles rather than the broth.
The key difference between tsukemen ramen and other types is that the noodles are chilled after cooking, giving them a toothsome firmness that brings out the delicious soba flavor.
Not only does this let ramen enthusiasts create the perfect balance between noodle flavor and broth flavor, but it also prevents the noodles from absorbing too much of the liquid and developing a strange texture.
Even if you haven’t ever eaten traditional ramen or been to a ramen bar, you’ve likely come across instant ramen at least once.
You can find different kinds in practically every grocery store and most convenience stores because it’s cheap, filling, and comes in many different flavors.
Most people like it because it takes no real effort to make. Usually, you only need to boil a few cups of water in a sauce and cook the noodles in the water for 2-3 minutes at the most.
I’ve never been able to enjoy instant ramen as much since I started eating the kinds of fresh ramen on this list, but I can’t deny that it’s a good option for a quick meal on a busy weekday.
Ramyeon ramen is another kind of instant ramen that originated in Korea.
One of the key differences you’ll find between Ramyeon ramen and standard instant ramen is in the texture of the noodles.
Ramyeon ramen noodles are typically softer, whereas traditional ones have a little more bite.
I have only ever had Ramyeon a handful of times and have enjoyed it as far as instant ramen goes.
It always comes as an instant dish, which is different from regular ramen that can come either instant or fresh. So, the overall quality of Ramyeon ramen tends to outshine traditional instant ramen, in my opinion.
Types of Ramen
- Miso Ramen
- Shoyu Ramen
- Shio Ramen
- Tonkotsu ramen
- Tsukemen ramen
- Instant Ramen
- Ramyeon ramen
Hopefully, this guide has given you some degree of understanding of the differences between the many popular types of ramen.
While most of these differences apply generally, ramen is always different depending on where you get it from, so your experience with a type of ramen at one bar may prove different from your experience at another bar.
If you’re interested in learning about some other aspects of ramen that can change your experience with eating the dish, check out our guide on 30 Different Ramen Topping Ideas!