Everybody is crazy about ramen these days. From the packaged freeze-dried version to the real deal, people cannot get enough of it. Authentic ramen noodle shops are popping up all over the country, some gaining so much popularity that they often have lines stretching out the door and around the block. But what is it about this dish that’s so enticing and exciting?
Fad or foodie find?
You may be wondering why ramen has suddenly become the new “it” food. Many believe the inexpensive and readily available fast food that is not burgers or pizza draws in broke college students and late night revelers, but some think there's more to it than that.
Traditional ramen combines the comforting flavors of sweet, salt and fat, essentially hitting all of our primal cravings at once. The freeze-dried ramen in plastic pouches even replicates those flavors, which, combined with its diminutive price is a big seller.
The not so great
Noodle shops opening across the country are not all cut from the same cloth, though. Some do use freeze-dried noodles, pre-made broth and cheap meat. These places are not offering anything much different from the packaged ramen noodles on every supermarket shelf. They are decidedly not healthy for you and on par with most other low-quality fast foods. It is best to steer clear of these kinds of noodle shops. Remember, you get what you pay for.
The much better for you
Yet many noodle shops are bringing authentic, quality ramen, udon and soba noodles to the table. Their soups require an entirely different approach to cooking and result in a very different type of noodle soup. First, the noodles are prepared fresh and then air dried. The meat goes through a long and slow cooking process before it is added to the soup. Additionally the soup itself must be cooked in large pots for a very long time, which must be constantly watched and adjusted. With these traditional noodle shops, you get a much more expansive list of ingredients like meat, egg, vegetables, specialty oils and more; yet they're often still able to provide soup at a very reasonable price.
Healthy at home
Ramen is extremely easy to make at home. The best part is, you are able to control the quality of ingredients and know that you are having a healthy and tasty version of the most exciting new food to hit the trendy food scene. From organic broth to air-dried noodles of forbidden rice or pear rice, non-gmo vegetables and pasture-raised eggs, you can create a healthy meal as decadent as you like, full of flavor and satisfyingly savory without additives like MSG lurking in prepackaged versions.
The best and the worst
It's no secret that the incredibly inexpensive packs of freeze-dried ramen with those silver flavor-packet companions have little to no nutritional value and a large amount of sodium, preservatives and other less-appealing additives. This version of ramen is the kind you want to avoid at all costs. If you are going to make ramen at home, do not resort to those prepackaged versions. Take the time and effort to prepare a healthy ramen soup recipe with the best ingredients available.
And while yes, there are many shops out there serving quick and easy ramen that amounts to nothing more than this same low quality ramen sold from a truck stop side window, there are many shops serving authentic noodles soups mad with high quality ingredients that will give you a more enjoyable and bona fide experience.