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TOPIC: History and the current situation of Ramen

Among the Japanese noodles, Ramen noodle is consumed the most in Japan.
Udon noodle is also consumed a lot as Ramen noodle, but the consumed amount of Ramen noodle has been slightly increasing more than Udon noodle in recent years.

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‘Fresh noodles’ mean the noodles which are sold as cooked, frozen or processed noodles in supermarkets and convenience stores, and also which people have daily in the noodle shops and restaurants.

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In Japan, people started eating Ramen since the early Meiji period, so Japanese Ramen has only about 100 years of history.
Ramen has also another name of ‘Chuka-soba’ in Japan and some people say that Ramen and Chuka-soba are different types of noodles, but they are actually the same.
Regarding the soup for Chuka-soba, chicken based soup with light flavor and clear color is generally used.

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In old days, all of the noodle shops have the special shop curtains (NOREN) printed each shop’s symbol or name on.
They are hung outside when the shop is opened and taken down when the shop is closed.
However, many of Ramen shops do not have this traditional style anymore, regardless that the most of Udon and Soba shops still keep it now.

Basically, Ramen noodles have harder texture with yellowish color and the size is thinner compared to Udon noodles.
In Japan, it is required that Kansui (alkaline additives) has to be used for Ramen noodles in case of using the name of ‘Ramen’.
Kansui makes the noodle texture harder, and also makes the color yellowish in a chemical reaction.
In addition, food coloring agents can be used if you want to keep the noodle color yellow after boiling.

Ramen was originally introduced from China.
It used to be made with Kanseki which is a natural resource obtained in Mongolia.
Kanseki is an alkaline solid, so the noodles made with Kanseki had harder and springy texture.
However, it is not easy to procure Kanseki in Japan, so the mixture of potassium carbonate and sodium carbonate started to be used as a substitute for Kanseki and it became a standard ingredient for making Ramen noodles now.

In China, the ‘Lan Zhou La Mian’ is popular as hand-pulled noodle.
Even in Japan, There are this kind of Ramen shops for a long time.
How to make the ‘Lan Zhou La Mian’ noodles is, kneading a dough softly and pulling it to about one’s arm length and fold it for making like a loop.
Then, pulling the loop to the arm length and fold it again.
This process is repeated several times until the noodle gets the desired size.
You might have seen this interesting noodle making process once, because it is very popular and famous for its artistic and artisanal technique.

Regardless of its short history, Ramen noodle emerged as the most consumed noodles, overtaking Udon and Soba noodles in Japan.
Furthermore, the invention of instant noodles encouraged the Ramen noodle’s popularity and consumption.

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The instant noodle was originally invented in Japan, and it’s been now selling worldwide.
It had been accepted and penetrated into people’s daily diet around the world nowadays, and the global sales reached over one hundred billion pieces in 2015.
Regarding the current production volume of instant noodles, Japan ranks No.3 following China and Indonesia, then followed by Vietnam, India, USA and Korea.
However, Korea rises to the top position when it comes to the consumption volume per person.

When you watch Korean TV drama, you will notice that the casts often eat instant noodles.
Actually, Ramen attracts people around the world in various ways, and so it has grown as the most popular noodle not only in Japan, but also worldwide.

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