Bowled over the great Ramen revolution

Versatility, adaptability and the ability to harmonise diverse flavours has made ramen an Indian culinary favourite

Stirring up a slurpy storm, the humble wheat noodle is driving the great ramen revolution in India. No longer limited to its traditional Chinese roots—a dish crafted with kansui, an alkaline substance—these noodles, soaked in a simmering broth of vegetables or meat, with an array of toppings, have transcended boundaries. Its widespread availability and adaptability are clear indicators of its popularity. With frequent appearances in K-dramas, food pop-ups, literature, in addition to social media, ramen has evolved into a culinary icon. Home cooks, chefs, bloggers and food enthusiasts alike are also showcasing their ramen creativity, making the dish a cult favourite.

Chefs indigenise cuisines to woo local palates. The result is the desi curry-based ramen, which is served not just in bowls, but also in buns and tacos. Apart from simple staples such as green onions, egg whites and bean sprouts, the dish is also prepared with exotic kelp, sea urchin and matsutake mushrooms.

 Mama’s spicy ramen bow

“Anime has played a big part in making ramen a cultural icon,” says Vidushi Sharma, founder and head chef, Mensho Tokyo, Delhi.

Chinese immigrants brought ramen to Japan after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. 

Often confused with Korean ramyun, which is more fast food than gourmet, ramen’s simple beginnings have been expanded on an innovative global style like many indigenous recipes.

Take, for instance, the inventive Matcha Tori Paitan Ramen at Mensho Tokyo, where the chicken broth is infused with ceremonial grade matcha.

“This unconventional addition introduces a slightly grassy flavour to the broth. It is topped with a soufflé-like egg white,” says Sharma.

Broth is the soul of ramen. Being one of the most dynamic dishes, each component of the ramen bowl is customisable.

Its versatility lies in countless broths; versions that are rich and buttery, light and salty, classic soy sauce avatars, made with fermented miso or spicy Tiananmen.

Slow-simmered concoctions, like the one offered at Go Go Ramen in Chennai is made with slow-cooked pork, kept on the fire for 18 hours to impart a luscious, full-bodied taste.

The ramen toppings are eclectic—truffle oil, foie gras, yuzu zest, pickled plum, lobster, caviar and caramelised leeks. “Nutrition-rich miso, organic greens, bean sprouts and bamboo are popular with diners. There are plenty of ingredient options for vegans as well, such as miso-glazed tofu, shiitake ‘bacon’, charred corn, beetroot ribbons, basil-flavoured artichoke and lime-infused cauliflower.

While avant-garde seasonings such as chilli oil, mirin (a sweet rice wine), and black garlic oil have their fans, the timeless salt and soy seasoning has survived change. Low-sodium versions are easily available, too,” says Chef Saurabh Sharan of Japanese restaurant Guppy in Delhi.

The culinary exploration continues with the myriad noodle varieties—thick, thin, straight, curvy, curly, flat and wide. Artisanal hand-made noodles, the kind made by celebrated chef Yasuhito Kosugi at Harima, his restaurant in Bengaluru, has a growing gourmet clientele.

The ramen’s uneven texture helps hold and absorb the broth better and makes the noodles more chewy. “Then there are alternate noodles made with whole wheat, buckwheat, millet and rice. New, popular varieties are of sweet potato starch or vegetable-based,” says Sharan, who believes that the success of a ramen dish lies in its simplicity, made with natural and fresh ingredients. 

Cold ramen, also known as Hiyashi Chuka, is gaining popularity with experimental desi epicures. Served with chilled noodles and an assortment of raw vegetables such as cucumber, carrots and cabbage, it is a comparative novelty in the Indian culinary scene.

Ram Bahadur Budhathoki, head chef, Chowman chain of restaurants, speaks about another in-demand version—seasonal preparations, which incorporate nutritionally loaded local produce. 

“I would recommend pok choy, enoki mushroom, scallions, snow peas and Chinese cabbage for this time of the year,” he suggests.

Fusion foodies have given Indian-style ramen the thumbs up. Reminiscent of the much-loved chicken soup is the heartwarming spicy chicken ramen bowl at Mamagoto.

“It’s a soul-soothing broth topped with noodles, buttered corn, spinach, nori sheet, minced chicken, marinated eggs and a selection of spices.

Think of it as comfort food,” says Siddharth, brand chef, Mamagoto, who underlines the popularity of Indian ingredients such as turmeric, cumin and coriander. There is nothing like being in a soup sometimes.

Bowled over the great Ramen revolution

from The New Indian Express - Food - https://ift.tt/vDiInad https://ift.tt/LWtvgE5

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