Online class on mazemen (vol.1)
In this series, we are sharing the contents we have done on our special noodle classes online. If you’d like to see a recording of this class, please contact us for a link to the recording or check out our YouTube Channel to see if it is available in video. Please visit our YouTube channel by clicking here.
Evolution of ramen
In this class, we are talking about mazemen, which is a great noodle dish that’s suitable for takeout and delivery business because noodles are served in a small amount of soup/sauce, which does not affect noodle texture as much as if noodles are served in hot soup as in standard ramen noodle soup dish.
When we talk about mazemen, which is a new category/type of ramen, we have to understand the evolution of ramen.
The evolution of ramen is how the way of eating a bowl of ramen evolved, and it got easier and easier for consumers.
The 1st ramen we had in Japan is soup noodle dish with stock made of pork/chicken that’s seasoned with motodare or base sauce (shoyu, shio, or miso) and flavored oil. Then, came tsukemen or dipping noodle dish. Cooked noodles are served with a bowl of dense soup that’s strong in flavor. And, we had mazemen or ae-men, which is basically cooked noodles stirred with special sauce and toppings. So, mazemen is the newest type of ramen. It’s been booming as there are many ways it is attractive to both consumers and restaurants. It is so addictive that there are many hardcore fans.
Click here to read an article on “essence and history of ramen”
Mix all up for the balanced tastes and flavors
“Maze” basically means “mix” or “stir” in Japanese, and “men” means noodles. So, it is stirred/mixed noodles dish. Because cooked noodles are served with a small amount of sauce/oil and toppings, it is a very simple noodle dish. People enjoy the noodles for its texture and flavors, and it is very filling.
There are several major types of “mazemen”, such as Taiwan-style mazesoba, abura-soba, soup-less tantan men, and others like Chinese Lo Mein, Korean Ja-ja-men, and etc.
What they have in common is that the noodles have to have a good texture, which people enjoy. So, the noodle texture is the life of mazemen.
Abura-soba may be the oldest type of mazemen, which was probably started by some shops near universities in Kanto area around 1955. (“abura” means oil and “soba” means noodles in general in Japanese) The sauce (typically sesame oil and shoyu-based sauce) is placed at the bottom of a bowl with cooked noodles. People add vinegar and/or chili oil and stir everything and munch the noodles. Because it was initially served to college students, the amount of noodles was big, making a lot of fans among students.
Mazesoba: the most famous one is called “Taiwan mazesoba”, which was developed in Nagoya city around 2008. It’s like abura-soba, but noodles are thicker and already covered in sauce with toppings (seasoned ground meat, chopped Chinese chive, green onions, fish powder, ground garlic, fresh egg yolk and others. Everything is stirred well when eating it. This mazesoba quickly became popular throughout Japan.
The difference between abura-soba and mazesoba: abura-soba is simpler with an aim to let the customers enjoy the noodles. Toppings are usually limited to a few types, charshiu, menma, chopped green onions, nori, and others. Mazesoba usually offers many types of toppings that are seasoned or not and different tastes and flavors from sauces that are made other than shoyu-base and flavored-oils that are found in abura-soba. Mazesoba offers changes in taste and flavors by allowing customers to add different condiments, toppings, and seasonings. (fish roe, cheese, kimchi, etc.) Some dishes call for a separate bowl of stock that’s added to the bowl to change the taste after going halfway through.
Shirunashi (soup-less) Tantan Men
Tantan men that’s originally from China and polished in Japan
Another major type of mazemen is soup-less tantan-men that may be categorized into 3 types, according to a famous food magazine in Japan. Tokyo-style that features Chinese sesame paste with dry shrimp flavors, Chengdu-style (the name of a Chinese city where the original tantan men was born) that features a mix of Chinese spices, such as Sichuan pepper, chili, and others that bring hotness and tingling sensations to the tongue. The third is Hiroshima style that features chopped up green onions, warm sauce, and seasoned ground meat, and a soft-boiled egg with noodles that are relatively thin.
Of course, the noodle texture is the life of mazemen, but because noodles are covered/drenched in sauce and toppings and eaten as a whole, it’s the balance or integrated tastes/flavors of noodles, sauce, and toppings
(when these 3 are stirred well).
Noodles – firm and filling (relatively thick, firm, and chewy)
Sauce – soy-sauce base with some oil like sesame oil
Toppings – stir-fried ground meat with seasonings
Option: vinegar, chili oils
Best part of mazemen is easy customization
What is great about offering mazemen is that it is very easy to customize it. Noodles can be different in sizes, textures, ingredients/flavors, etc. You can even serve different noodles than ramen, such as soba, udon, and other types. And, you can have a gluten free option. For the sauces, there’s different types of tare and oils, spices (Asian, Indian, etc.), stocks made from animal/seafood types of ingredients, refreshing sauces made from citrus and other ingredients, vinegar, chili oils, etc. as additional sauces. Toppings, protein (meat, seafood, beans, cheese, etc.), which can be pre-seasoned/cooked, vegetables (leafy, onions, avocados, etc.), fruits (oranges, kiwis, apples, tomatoes, etc.), potherbs like cilantro, basil, mint, etc., and garlic and ginger. As an option, customers can order a portion of steamed rice, which can be various types or quinoa, etc. (customers can add it to the remaining sauce (after the noodles are gone) to finish the dish. It’s carbohydrate after carbohydrate, but it happens a lot in Japan.
Mazemen gives customers a lot more freedom than other types of ramen dishes by offering many options to change the tastes and flavors.
Mazemen is the newest type of ramen dishes, and it’s been gaining popularity among not only ramen fans but also those who don’t normally eat noodles. Because it is naturally casual, simple, and easy to make it to takeout and delivery items, with the ongoing situations with COVID-19, we believe mazemen will be even more popular.
From restaurants’ stand points, it is also easy to develop and serve mazemen dishes. To develop mazemen dishes that appeal to your customers, there are certain points that you should consider, such as noodle texture and the balance of tastes and flavors of all the components.
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