Is Ramen Considered Chinese Cuisine? 6 Facts You Should Know


No - ramen is a Japanese food.
But the root of ramen is from Chinese noodles called “lamian".

Let me explain:

1. What is the definition of ramen?

Did you know that Chinese people don’t consider the Chinese food in Japan authentic?
When the Chinese see the menu of a Chinese restaurant in Japan, they think “What is this?!"

Localized Chinese food in Japan is adjusted for the taste preference of Japanese customers.

So many Chinese people may think this altered cuisine is strange!
However, Chinese people like to eat ramen.

Do you know why?

Because they think ramen is considered Japanese food.
All over the world, the word “ramen" is always used to refer to Japanese-style ramen noodles.

 

2. Ramen vs Lamian

Ramen and lamian are very different types of food, even though lamian was the basis for the creation of ramen.

In Chinese, "la" means "to pull" and "mian" is a food product made from wheat dough including noodles.
So, what this means is lamian is literally translated into hand-pulled noodles.

For ramen, you don't hand-pull the dough. You make the dough flat, and cut it into long, thin noodle-like strands.

Do you know Japanese people mix up the “L” and the “R” sound? (Sometimes I still have trouble with that!)
And that is why ramen is spelled with an “R” instead of “L".

Let’s recap: Japanese ramen noodles is used to refer to the generic noodles made of wheat, while lamian refers specifically to hand- pulled Chinese noodles.

3. How Ramen Noodles and Lamian Noodles are Made

As I mentioned, Japanese ramen is not made by hand-pulling, but by slicing or cutting strands from rolled dough.

Usually, you will use a machine to aid in the process of making ramen noodles:
Mixing flour, making dough, flattening dough, combining two flat pieces of dough into one by pressing, cutting into strand shape etc..

Doing this process will help ramen noodles achieve a tougher and chewier texture.

Do you think Chinese lamian has the same texture?
Nope!

Lamian noodles are a lot softer than ramen noodles. 
Do you know why?

Because you use oil while you hand pull lamian.
Oil makes expanding and pulling noodles easier.


4. Kansui

What are ramen noodles? 
It is actually quite simple.

Ramen noodles are a mixture of wheat flour, water, and kansui.
Kansui is an alkaline solution (usually sodium carbonate or potassium carbonate).

Kansui makes noodles...

1. Yellow,
2. Chewy, Smooth, and
3. Gives it its distinct ramen noodle flavor.

The biggest difference between ramen and lamian is...
You use kansui in order to make ramen, but you don't use kansui for lamian.

Because you don't use kansui into lamian, lamian is always straight unlike some wavy ramen noodles.
And lamian is thinner than regular ramen noodle.
It looks like soba noodle.

But lamian noodles taste like udon and somen.

If you have only ever eaten ramen, and try laimian for the first time, you may think...
"Is the texture supposed to be like this?"

The noodle texture of these two noodles are actually very different!


5. Significance of the Soup

In Japan, usually, the priority of elements of a ramen dish goes like this...
Soup > Noodles > Toppings

For example:
When you choose a ramen shop for meal time, you start thinking of soup of ramen.

Shoyu, shio, tonkotsu, miso,
or...
Fish base, clam base, chicken base, pork bone base etc..

However, for Chinese noodles, priority goes like this...
Toppings > Noodles > Soup

Take a look at the 5 biggest Chinese noodle types:

Hui mian, dandan noodles, hot dry noodles, zhajiangmian, and knife-cut noodles.
Only hui mian and knife-cut noodles come with soup.

I know many types of Chinese noodles with a delicious soup base, but the taste of the soup usually comes from their toppings.
I can say culture of dashi (soup stock) is more developed in Japan.

So, the priority of the soup differs ramen and lamian. 


6. History

Fact:
The origin of ramen is from Chinese noodles.

The oldest record of Chinese noodles in Japan is...

In 1697, Zhu Zhiyu treated his home town noodles to Tokugawa Mitsukuni.
Zhu Zhiyu was a scholar of Confucianism from the Ming dynasty and Edo Japan.
And Tokugawa Mitsukuni was the feudal lord of Mito, Japan.

Or...

In 1488, a Japanese monk made noodles using Chinese recipe and treated his visitor.
However, ramen couldn't be popular in Japan until the 19th century.

The important moment of ramen was the opening of Rairaiken in Asakusa, Tokyo.

Since then, ramen has become a popular food in Japan.

And over 100 years of adaptation and improvement, ramen noodles have evolved to the point that they have become completely distinct dishes from the original Chinese noodles.

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