Ramen cuisine has been around only a little over 100 years, born in Japan as a noodle cuisine that has been evolved by combining Chinese noodle dishes and Japanese soba noodles dishes. Ramen has evolved fast over the past 100 years, spawning many different types of soups and noodles. The way we make noodles has evolved. And the quality of noodles has dramatically improved over time as we developed better production methods with better understanding of ingredients, science, and what makes ramen noodles good.
At Yamato, over the past 47 years, we have done extensive research and experiments on noodle making techniques, ingredients, and methods for our customers to serve better noodles. In this article, we want to share the best way to make ramen noodles from scratch for you to start in the right direction when developing new noodles.
Basically, there are 3 steps you can take to start making better noodles than the ones you are currently making. Please check each step to see how you can create your own noodles.
Honing in on Your Ideal Noodle: Matching Noodle Type with Soup or Sauce Pairing
First step is to envision your ideal noodles. Because the best noodles are ones that best match with soup or sauce the noodles are paired with. Without considering what kind of soup or sauce your noodles are matched with, it is very difficult to make noodles that best match them. For example, if your soup is very thick, heavy tonkotsu or pork-bone broth,
noodles that are thick and soft may not go well with this soup.
For this kind of soup, a convention is noodles that are hard and thin. We may be able to develop thick noodles that are good with this kind of soup, but it is hard. Also, with the kind of soup your noodles are going to be paired with in mind, we want to think about the kind of texture we want our customers to experience with the soup. Usually, we want our customers to have the good balance between noodles and soup. Thin and dry noodles do not pick up much soup, so they are usually paired with thick soup like tonkotsu, which is very strong in taste and flavor. So, even thin noodles can carry enough soup for our customers taste a great balance between the noodles and soup.
So, it is important first for us to imagine slurping noodles dipped in a particular type of soup or sauce. The soup or sauce could be hot or cold, which also affects the noodle texture. We start with an end in mind. It is critical to imagine the kind of eating experience we want to have and work towards creating it with our noodles.
Crafting Your Perfect Noodle: Controlling Variables for Texture and Shape
Once we know the kind of eating experience we want to create with our noodles, we want to decide on noodle specifications by deciding on the variables we have control over. There are certain variables we can work on to develop our noodles. Noodle size (i.e. thickness x width). Noodle shape. Hydration. Ingredients, especially wheat flour for protein content and other values. Especially deciding on the noodle size triggers other variables to settle. It plays a big role in affecting the noodle texture. For example, if we decide on the noodle size and shape to be square (i.e. shape of the cutter used) and 2.5mm in thickness and 3.0mm in width, we want to have a high hydration for the dough.
For this thick noodle size, we want to make it soft because thick noodles that are hard is tough to eat. Not a good combination for noodle texture. Noodles of this size are usually paired with dipping sauce that is thick and strong in flavor. In ramen, it is called tsukemen dish or dipping noodles. This type of dipping noodles calls for relatively thick noodles that are soft and chewy. And when dipping the noodles in the sauce, we want the noodles to carry a good amount of sauce. So, we want the noodles to be cut into certain shape so that noodle surfaces are dented inwards after boiling. The cross section of noodles should be a little rectangular. And boiling these noodles turn them into squared noodles with the four surfaces dented. These dents help carry more soup or sauce. At the same time, this shape gives great biting sensations.
So, deciding just on the noodle first forces us to decide on other variables as well. The first step is to imagine the eating experiences we want our customers to have. And given the kind of soup we are pairing the noodles with; we decide on the noodle specs. And starting with the noodle size makes it easier to decide on other variables. Hydration. Ingredients.
With the step 1, clear vision of the kind of eating experiences we want our customers to have and the step 2 deciding on the noodle specs, what is left is to pick the right production methods. There are basically 4 methods we can pick to make the best ramen noodles. Each production method corresponds to different types of noodles. And they are categorized by hydration ratios. They can be sorted by low, medium, high, and very high or handmade. The low hydration ratio ramen noodles range from 25% to 30%. What does it mean by 30%? It means that the percentage of liquid weight divided by the total weight is 25%. For example, if the weight of liquid which includes water, kansui, and maybe salt weighs 2.5kg, the total weight (the weight of liquid and the weight of solids (e.g. flours and other dry ingredients) is 10kg. 25% hydration is very dry. And the mixing time is the longest, around 15 minutes. Basically, the lower the hydration ratio, the longer the mixing time needed to make proper dough. This type of ramen noodles is almost impossible to make by hand as the dough is too hard. It may be possible to make them on a pasta machine, but hard dough tends to wear a pasta machine and break it in a short time. This type of noodles is paired with Hakata-style or tonkotsu soup.
Medium hydration noodles range from 31% to 39%. The mixing is 10 minutes. This type of noodles can be paired with a variety of ramen soups, depending on the noodle sizes. They can be paired with Tokyo shoyu ramen soup if the noodle size is around 1.5mm. If the noodle size is around 1.8mm, they can be paired with Sapporo miso ramen. If the noodle size is as thick as 2.5mm, they can be paired with tsukemen or dipping noodle dish. And the hydration ratio goes up as the noodle size gets bigger. Because the bigger the noodle size, the tougher or harder the noodle texture, we want to make them softer by increasing the hydration ratio or increase the amount of water to be mixed with flours.
High hydration ramen noodles are over 40% in hydration, but usually the hydration ratio ranges around 40% up to 45%. The mixing time is around 5 minutes. And the noodle size varies, depending on the type of soup the noodles are paired with. For example, we can definitely make good dipping noodles that are thick. Or if the type of soup is light shoyu but with strong umami flavors, we may cut noodles into medium size like 1.5mm. To make this type of noodles very good, we want to rest dough after mixing. Resting dough optimizes the conditions of noodle dough for several reasons. Please check this article for more details. We usually rest dough after mixing for all types of ramen noodles, but it gets more important as the dough hydration goes up.
Very high hydration or handmade-style ramen noodles are over 40% probably up to 55% in hydration. These noodles are like fresh noodles made by hand. Like Sano ramen noodles, a regional ramen noodles dish that is famous for noodle dough worked with a large bamboo bar. These types of noodles have distinctive noodle textures. Udon noodles, many types of which are very thick, soft, and chewy fall within this hydration range (e.g. 45-55%). We want to have very good resting process on the doughs. We usually take 2-phase-resting process. 1st-phase resting is after mixing. And we want to set the temperature to 28 degrees Celsius and rest the dough for 2 hours. Then we work the dough by pressing or stepping on it. After that, we do the 2nd-phase resting, which calls for 18 degrees Celsius in temperature and 18-24 hours of resting. The resting process makes a night-and-day difference in noodle texture.
Having chosen a production method, we want to select proper ingredients for our noodles. And, picking the right wheat flours for protein content, which determines the hardness of noodles and viscosity, which affects elasticity of noodles, etc. Please read this article for more information on ingredients and how to pick them. And this one.
So, the best way to make ramen noodles is taking these 3 steps.
- Step 1: Have a clear vision of the experience we want our customers to have when having noodles and soups
- Step 2: Decide on the noodle specifications based on step 1
- Step 3: Pick the right production method, based on step 2 and make your noodles
What kind of ramen noodles are you interested in making?
We teach and train those who are interested in making and serving ramen noodles commercially. If interested in taking a course or getting more information about our training, please check our Youtube channels for tons videos we have on making of different types of ramen noodles or talk with our noodle experts.