With tasty noodles, a flavorful broth, and yummy seasonings, how could you not love ramen?
Most people think of those instant noodle packets and cup-o-noodles when they hear of ramen.
However, this Asian dish is more complex and varied than you’d think and the Japanese version definitely differs from the Korean one.
But here’s actually only one true ramen: fresh noodles in a savory meat-flavored broth.
The other noodles that are most often mistaken for ramen are called instant noodles or instant ramen.
Keep in mind that ramen and instant ramen are different; the first is fresh, whereas the second is processed and dried.
Korean ramen is quite different from Japanese, but if you see the word ‘ramen’ in Korea, it refers to the Japanese fresh noodles dish. However, ramyeon is much more popular in Korea and refers to packaged instant ramen noodles, usually a lot spicier than it’s Japanese counterpart.
In this post, I’ll explain what you need to know about Japanese and Korean ramen, including the differences, varieties, nutritional value, and more.
You’ll want to hear all about the different ramyeon you can find in Korea and the best fresh ramen in Japan. I’ll also tell you how to cook instant noodles so you can bring a bit of Asian flavor into your home!
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What’s the difference between Korean and Japanese Ramen?
- 2 What is Korean Ramen?
- 3 What is Japanese Ramen?
- 4 Korean Ramen vs. Japanese Ramen: History
- 5 Korean Ramen vs. Japanese Ramen: Nutrition
What’s the difference between Korean and Japanese Ramen?
In Japan, ramen is a dish with fresh, raw noodles boiled in a savory broth made from chicken or pork stock. It has a mild, umami flavor.
They also have instant noodles in Japan, but they are not traditional ramen. Instead, instant ramen refers to those packaged dry wavy noodles.
In Korea, the instant noodles are sold under the name ‘ramyeon,’ a regional variation on the Japanese word ‘ramen.’
Ramen takes on a different meaning in Korea than in Japan. There, ramyeon is a dish made from packaged instant noodles boiled in a chicken broth made from powdered seasoning.
The most common variety has a spicy chicken or Kimchi flavor.
A probable source of confusion for many is the use of the word ‘ramen.’
In Japan, ramen is a type of cuisine that involves boiling fresh noodles.
If you come across the word ramen in Korea, it refers to the same Japanese fresh noodle dish.
However, ramyeon is much more popular in Korea and refers to packaged instant noodles.
The most popular brand of Korean ramyeon is NongShim, whereas the most famous Japanese ramen noodle brand is Nissin Foods.
What is Korean Ramen?
There are two main types of Korean ramen.
The first is called ramen and refers to the fresh noodle soup dish you find in Japanese restaurants. The dish is borrowed from Japan, but it’s usually spicier.
The second is the more popular dish, and it’s called ramyeon, which refers to dried instant noodles and cup noodles. The dish consists of a spicy chicken stock made from instant powder and fried pre-packaged wavy noodles.
Ramyeon is a convenient dish to make, and it only takes a few minutes to cook. Thus it’s very popular in Korean households. The soup base is made with processed seasoning packets.
Different Varieties of Korean Ramyeon
Most ramyeon tastes spicy and salty. The most common varieties of ramyeon include:
- Kimchi: a spicy flavored broth with small pieces of dried, pickled vegetables.
- Shin-Ramyeon brand spicy noodles
- Kkokkomyeon chicken broth flavor
- Jjapaghetti black bean noodles flavor
Kimchi is a very typical Korean hot and fermented dish which you would never find in Japanese ramen, and mostly, Japanese ramen isn’t spicy at all.
How to Cook Ramyeon
One of the reasons ramen noodles are so popular is because preparing them requires no cooking skills. Anyone can do it in minutes.
The packet variety is ready to eat and requires the user to boil the noodles in water and flavor with a packet of seasoning.
You can also find the noodles in styrofoam cups. These require no preparation; simply add hot water, drop the seasoning inside, and it’s ready to eat.
What is Japanese Ramen?
The traditional Japanese ramen is a hot soup made with raw, fresh noodles that are boiled until firm, with toppings such as meat and vegetables in a flavorful broth.
In terms of flavor, Japanese ramen is more subtle with an umami taste. Therefore, it’s not as spicy as its Korean counterpart.
Most ramen is made with chicken, seafood, or pork stock. The stock is the base ingredient for the soup.
Different Varieties of Japanese Ramen
There are many types of ramen, but these are the most popular varieties:
- Shio ramen: a salty broth with noodles
- Miso ramen: noodles in a savory (umami) soybean paste or “miso” soup
- Shoyu ramen: made with a soy sauce base
- Tonkotsu ramen: a soup with noodles and a pork bone broth as a base
When you visit a Japanese ramen restaurant, you’re getting fresh noodles.
But you can also find packets of dried noodles in supermarkets to make your own instant soup at home.
Want to know more about the world Japanese Ramen? Read: Different types of Japanese Ramen explained like Shoyu & Shio.
How to Cook Japanese Ramen
If you’re making instant noodles, all you need to do is boil the noodles or add hot water and the seasoning packets.
If you cook fresh ramen, you need to cook the noodles for approximately 2 or 3 minutes until firm.
To make the broth, add your seasonings and bring to a boil.
Next, boil or cook your meats and vegetables on a hot pan for a couple of minutes.
Then combine all the ingredients in a bowl to make the soup.
Korean Ramen vs. Japanese Ramen: History
In 1958, Japanese national Momofuku Ando invented the world’s first instant noodles.
His dish quickly gained massive popularity. The first flavor was a classic chicken broth ramen.
The first Korean instant noodles were invented by a man named Samyang Ramyun in 1963.
The Korean War caused mass poverty and food shortages, so he borrowed the Japanese ramen and made it an affordable meal option.
The rest of the world became acquainted with ramen in the early seventies, and this dish has been a favorite ever since.
Korean Ramen vs. Japanese Ramen: Nutrition
In general, ramen and ramyeon are not considered healthy food.
Instant noodles are low in calories, so they don’t make you gain a lot of weight. However, they lack the key nutrients the body requires.
And, ramen is very high in sodium as well, which is concerning for many.
Now more than ever, consumers are demanding healthier foods.
Therefore, manufacturers are constantly creating new low-sodium, gluten-free, and even vegan varieties. Check out this Gluten-Free Millet & Brown Rice Ramen With Miso Soup for example.
Japanese ramen soup is still healthier in comparison to Korean ramyeon because it’s made with fresh noodles and ingredients.
The seasoning packets and dried noodles in ramyeon are full of sodium, sugars, and preservatives.
Next time you’re out for a quick and easy meal, don’t forget to try spicy Korean ramyeon. You can find it in most Asian food shops and cook it at home.
If you want a more savory taste, fresh Japanese ramen soup is sure to delight you.
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Wondering what’s the difference between Ramen and Pho? Read Ramen vs. Pho | Both Noodles with Broth, But a World of Difference.