Champon: Discover the rich history and delicious flavor
You may have seen it and thought: isn’t this ramen? NO, it’s completely it’s own thing and I’ll tell you why.
Champon, also known as Chanpon, is a noodle dish from Nagasaki consisting of pork, seafood, and vegetables, fried with lard, served on noodles in a chicken and pig bones broth. Special ramen noodles are added and then boiled, unlike other ramen dishes where noodles are boiled separately.
It’s a very easy way to make a noodle soup dish but it also has a rich history. Let’s take a look at all that.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What is Nagasaki Champon?
- 2 What’s the Taste of Champon?
- 3 The Fascinating Etymology of Champon
- 4 A Delicious Mix of Ingredients: Nagasaki Champon
- 5 Make Nagasaki Champon at Home – A Step-by-Step Guide
- 6 Exploring the Different Flavors of Japan’s Champon
- 7 Celebrating Champon Noodle Day on November 3rd
- 8 What’s the Difference Between Champon and Traditional Ramen?
- 9 The Origin of Tonkotsu Ramen: A Tale of Two Soups
- 10 FAQ
- 11 Conclusion
What is Nagasaki Champon?
A Brief History
It all started in the Meiji Period, when a Chinese restaurant owner in Nagasaki decided to create a quick, cheap, and fulfilling dish for the Chinese international students. This dish, which was based on a Chinese dish called tonniishiimen (湯肉絲麵), was called Champon (ちゃんぽん).
Since then, Champon has become a beloved regional dish in Nagasaki, and you can find Nagasaki Champon specialty restaurants like Linger Hut (リンガーハット) all over Japan and even in the US!
The origin of the word Champon is still a mystery, but some say it comes from the Hokkien word chia̍h-pn̄g (食飯), which means “to eat a meal”, or from the Malay or Indonesian word champur, which means “mixed”.
To make Nagasaki Champon, you’ll need:
- Champon Noodles: You can find a special noodle package for Nagasaki Champon at Japanese or Asian grocery stores. If you can’t access this, you can use other types of fresh ramen noodles, dried ramen noodles, or Chinese noodles that have similar thickness to spaghetti noodles.
- Soup Base: The soup base for champon is usually made of the combination of pork and chicken broth/stock. If you don’t have pork bone/stock handy, you can use a combination of chicken broth and dashi, which yields a bit lighter broth.
- Toppings: Pork belly slices, seafood such as shrimp, squid, clams, and all kinds of vegetables, typically cabbage, onion, carrots, snow peas, bean sprouts, etc.
- Milk: This might surprise you, but it’s what gives the creamy color and a light sweetness of the Nagasaki Champon soup.
Making it Delicious
Making Nagasaki Champon is a fun and tasty way to get creative in the kitchen! You don’t have to follow the recipe to a T – consider the ingredients as suggestions and aim to create a bowl of noodles with colors, body, depth and contrast.
Root vegetables, if you use any, need to be thinly sliced or pre-cooked ahead of time, since all the ingredients must be stir fried in a quick manner.
So why not get cooking and make your own delicious bowl of Champon? Bon Appétit!
What’s the Taste of Champon?
Champon’s broth is known for its creamy white color and flavor. It’s like a blend of two different soups – a rich and creamy pork bone-based soup and a light chicken bone-based soup. Sometimes, the chefs get creative and adjust the balance of the two flavors to give it a unique taste.
The noodles in Champon are special too! Instead of the usual kansui, they use something called “Tōaku (唐灰汁, a kind of lye)”. This gives the noodles a thick and chewy texture that you won’t find anywhere else.
The Final Verdict
So, what’s the verdict? Champon is like a creamy, dreamy soup with thick and chewy noodles. It’s like a hug in a bowl – warm, comforting, and full of flavor. Plus, the chefs get creative and mix up the flavors to give you a unique experience every time. So, if you’re looking for something new and exciting, give Champon a try!
The Fascinating Etymology of Champon
Theories of Origin
There’s no definitive answer to the question of where the name “Champon” comes from, but there are some popular theories floating around. Let’s take a look at some of the most intriguing ones:
- The “吃飯” Theory: It’s possible that the locals of Nagasaki heard Chinese students saying “吃过飯了嗎?” (Did you eat a meal?) which contains “吃飯” and started using the word to describe the dish. This theory makes sense considering that Chan Ping Shun, the creator of Champon, is from Fujian Province, and Nagasaki is known as the Fujian Overseas Chinese Town.
- The Portuguese Theory: This theory suggests that the name “Champon” comes from the Portuguese word meaning “to mix”, which sounds like Champon. This is believable given that Portugal was trading with Japan through Nagasaki at the time of isolation. Fun fact: in Japan, drinking different types of sake in order is called “Champon”.
- The Musical Theory: This theory suggests that Champon is an onomatopoeia of sorts, combining the sound of the Chinese zhēng (percussion instrument), which is “chan”, with the sound of a Japanese Tsuzumin (drum), which is “pon”. This could be the origin of the word as Champon was born from the combination of two food cultures.
Which one of these theories do you think is the most convincing?
A Delicious Mix of Ingredients: Nagasaki Champon
A Meal Fit for a King
If you’re looking for a meal that’s fit for a king, look no further than Nagasaki champon! This delicious noodle dish is a mix of a variety of ingredients, making it a unique and flavorful experience.
What’s in it?
Nagasaki champon served at Ringer Hut includes:
- Kamaboko (Japanese fish cakes)
- Dashi stock (either made from scratch or with shortcut dashi bags)
- Chinese chicken bouillon granules
- Garlic paste (or grated garlic cloves)
- Ginger paste (or grated fresh ginger)
I don’t think there’s any other noodle dish that contains this many toppings! Of course, you can customize it to your liking by omitting or replacing some of the ingredients.
Nagasaki champon is a true taste sensation! The combination of the dashi stock, chicken bouillon granules, garlic paste, and ginger paste creates a flavor that’s out of this world.
So if you’re looking for a meal that’s sure to satisfy your tastebuds, look no further than Nagasaki champon!
Make Nagasaki Champon at Home – A Step-by-Step Guide
Prepare the Toppings
Making Nagasaki Champon at home is a breeze, especially when it comes to the toppings. All you need to do is slice, dice, and julienne the ingredients and you’re good to go! Here’s a list of the ingredients you’ll need:
- Onion – thinly sliced
- Cabbage – roughly cut
- Kamaboko (pink and white fish cake) – thinly sliced
- Spring onion (naganegi) – thin, diagonal slices
- Sweetcorn – pre-cooked from can
- Carrot – julienned
Fry the Proteins
Start by heating up a wok or large frying pan on medium heat and adding some lard or cooking oil. Once it’s hot, add your meat of choice (I used thinly sliced pork belly) and seal it on both sides. Once the meat is sealed, add the shrimp (or seafood of your choice) and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Fry everything until cooked through.
Add the Vegetables
Once the proteins are cooked, it’s time to add the vegetables and kamaboko. If you want certain vegetables to be a bit softer (such as onion or carrot), you can add those first to fry them for a bit longer. However, one of the appeals of this dish is the crunchy and refreshing toppings so be careful not to overcook! Stir fry everything for a few minutes until it’s cooked through.
Make the Broth
To make the broth, add the dashi, soy sauce, grated garlic, grated ginger and oyster sauce to a saucepan. Heat on medium and once warm, add the Chinese chicken bouillon granules and stir. When the chicken bouillon has dissolved into the liquid, turn off the heat and add the whole milk. To prevent the milk from curdling in the broth, heat just before serving and be careful not to let it boil. Alternatively, heat it on low while the noodles are cooking and turn off the heat if you start to see small bubbles appear around the edges.
Cook the Noodles and Heat the Broth
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and add your ramen noodles. Boil according to the instructions on the packaging. When the noodles only have a few minutes left, heat up the broth. Don’t overheat the broth as it’s prone to curdling. Heat it on low to medium-low and don’t let it get any hotter than 75°C (167°F). If bubbles start appearing around the edges or you start to hear bubbling, turn off the heat.
Once everything is cooked, it’s time to assemble! Divide the cooked ramen noodles into serving bowls. Add about 250ml of broth per person and place the meat, seafood and vegetables on top. Sprinkle with white pepper and enjoy!
Exploring the Different Flavors of Japan’s Champon
If you’re looking for a unique take on the classic Champon, then you have to try Obama Champon! This dish is served at the traditional Obama Onsen hot spring resort in Nagasaki, and it’s a real treat. The soup is made with pork and chicken bones, and it’s seasoned with Japanese anchovy for a mellow flavor. Plus, it’s topped off with a raw egg for an extra kick!
The Amakusa Islands in Kumamoto Prefecture are home to a unique Champon variation. This version features a light soup made with chicken and pork bones, dashi stock, and a mix of soy sauce and salt. But be warned, the soup is piping hot, so take it slow!
Japan’s Three Great Champons
Nagasaki Champon, Obama Champon, and Amakusa Champon are known as the “Three Great Champons of Japan.” But that’s not all – there’s been a surge of new Champon recipes popping up around the country. Check out Omi Champon from Shiga (made with bonito and kelp soup) and Tottori Curry Champon from Tottori. Yum!
Celebrating Champon Noodle Day on November 3rd
A Brief History
Back in 1988, the Nagasaki Prefecture Raw Noodle Association decided to spread the word about Champon noodles. So, they declared November 3rd as “Champon Noodle Day”. Coincidentally, November 3rd is also “Culture Day” in Japan, a national holiday that celebrates “love, freedom, peace, and culture”. The Nagasaki Prefecture Raw Noodle Association thought this was the perfect opportunity to honor the origin of Nagasaki’s food culture, and thus, “Champon Noodle Day” was born!
What to Do on Champon Noodle Day
On November 3rd, why not celebrate Champon Noodle Day in style? Here are some ideas:
- Make your own Champon noodles! It’s surprisingly easy and you can customize it however you like.
- Visit a Champon noodle restaurant and enjoy a bowl of deliciousness.
- Get together with friends and family and share stories about your favorite Champon noodle dishes.
- Have a Champon noodle eating contest! Who can eat the most noodles?
- Take a trip to Nagasaki and explore the birthplace of Champon noodles.
What’s the Difference Between Champon and Traditional Ramen?
When it comes to noodles, Champon is the clear winner. It’s made with Toaku, a special type of noodle that’s much more delicious than the Kansui used in traditional ramen. So if you’re looking for a noodle that’s sure to satisfy, Champon is the way to go!
The Cooking Process
Traditional ramen is made by cooking the noodles, soup, and toppings separately and then combining them in a bowl. But Champon takes it to the next level with its unique cooking process. Instead of boiling the noodles, you stir-fry seafood and vegetables in a wok, pour in the creamy soup, and simmer it all together with the noodles. This Chinese cooking technique creates a flavor that’s totally different from traditional ramen.
So if you’re looking for a delicious bowl of noodles that’s sure to tantalize your taste buds, Champon is the way to go! Its special noodles and unique cooking process make it a must-try for any noodle lover.
The Origin of Tonkotsu Ramen: A Tale of Two Soups
The Birthplace of Tonkotsu Ramen
Tonkotsu ramen has become a staple of the American diet, but did you know that it has its roots in a much older soup? It all started in 1937 (Showa 12) at a restaurant called Nankin Senryo in Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture. The mastermind behind this delicious ramen was Tokio Miyamoto, a chef who had learned how to cook shina soba in the Kanto area.
The Fusion of Two Flavors
Miyamoto was from Shimabara City, Nagasaki Prefecture, so he was already familiar with the rich pork bone soup of Nagasaki Champon. He set out to combine the two flavors, and after much trial and error, he finally created a ramen that had a hint of the pork bone base of “Nagasaki Champon”. And that’s how tonkotsu ramen was born!
The Perfect Bowl of Ramen
So, what makes tonkotsu ramen so special? Well, it’s all about the perfect balance between the pork bone base and the shina soba. The pork bone base gives the soup a rich and creamy flavor, while the shina soba adds a subtle hint of sweetness. Combined, they make a bowl of ramen that’s truly out of this world!
What Is Mio Champon?
Mio champon is a Japanese noodle dish that’s sure to tantalize your taste buds! It’s made with fresh noodles, a special Mio champon sauce, and a variety of delicious toppings like broiled chicken, shrimp, green mussel, scallop, cabbage, carrot, onion, green onion, and black pepper. All these ingredients come together to create a savory and flavorful dish that’s sure to satisfy your cravings. So if you’re looking for something new and exciting to try, Mio champon is the perfect choice!
Champon is a delicious Chinese noodle soup that’s popular in Japan. It’s a combination of ramen and chow mein with a broth made from pork bones and vegetables.
Now that you know a little more about it, cook some up to WARM yourself on a cold day, perfect for lunch or dinner.
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.