Japanese cuisine is arguably one of the most popular cuisines globally right now. Tokyo is the food mecca of Asia, with an impressively condensed area of the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world.
Amongst the many Japanese dishes that are favorites amongst foodies, there is no other dish that brings about warmth, comfort, and homeliness quite like a bowl of ramen noodles.
Japanese ramen has a history that dates back more than a century ago. When Japan finally opened up trade with the world, Chinese cuisine penetrated the country and exposed it to its first iteration of ramen. Many years later, Japanese ramen is now considered one of the quintessential parts of Japanese food culture.
Of course, we’re not all lucky enough to be in the land of the rising sun every time we crave a bowl of ramen, so instant ramen from the stovetop at home often must suffice.
This needn’t be a boring dish though!
We’ve got you covered if you’re looking at sprucing up your homemade ramen. There are various ramen dishes out there that differ only by what they are topped with, so you can decide just how traditional or creative you get!
We’ll run through a list of 20 different topping ideas for your homemade noodles. Next time you decide to have a dinner party, you can impress with the following ideas!
Chashu is one of the most popular tonkotsu ramen toppings. It is a thinly sliced cut of fatty pork that has been lovingly simmered or braised over a lengthy period. Thus, the pork will almost fall right off as its being sliced through.
Most Japanese ramen bars are minimal with their toppings, so 2 or 3 of these are enough for one serving of ramen.
No bowl of ramen is complete without a light sprinkle of aonegi on top! To make this as authentic as possible, the green onion should be chopped into small pieces and it should cover the top of the noodles.
The freshness and aromatic smell of the green onion adds just that extra level of complexity to ramen bowls.
A flavored egg, or ajitama, is a type of soft-boiled egg that’s got a runny yolk and a savorier flavor to it. To make ajitama, simply boil your eggs (set the timer so that the yolk stays runny), and then soak them in the marinade overnight.
Slice it in half before placing it as a topping on your ramen.
Nori not only provides that unique bit of ocean-fresh taste to a ramen bowl, but its texture adds a layer of deliciousness to it as well. These dried seaweed sheets normally sit along the edge of a bowl of ramen.
Some restaurants also sprinkle their nori flakes on top of the ramen bowl, adding a crunch to the first bite. Both options are suitable for homemade ramen.
Menma is the fermented bamboo shoots that are sometimes camouflaged within the broth of the ramen bowl. It gives off a briny, pickled flavor when bitten into, but this just adds to the appeal of the ramen bowl.
Bamboo shoots are commonly eaten around various parts of Asia, however, menma in particular may be difficult to find. Due to the delicate process of making menma, simple bamboo shoots alone will not provide that authenticity to the ramen bowl. Menma will likely be found in Asian supermarkets.
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This is definitely the cutest ramen toppings of the list!
Naruto, the anime character, was given the name when Jiraiya, the creator, was inspired whilst eating ramen with a naturomaki on top – true story!
A narutomaki is a piece of fishcake that often comes garnished with ramen. It is shaped in a circle with a curly edge and has a pink swirl design in the middle. Whilst it doesn’t add much to the flavor of the ramen, it does look quite aesthetic.
Shiraganegi refers to the white part of the green onion and it translates to ‘white hair’ green onion. The white onion section must be sliced into thin strips, julienne-style, and sprinkled on top of the ramen.
How the white section is shredded affects how it tastes in the ramen bowl, so you must make sure you use the right angle and slice it down vertically.
If you’re choosing to dine on miso ramen, you’re almost always going to see corn used as a topping.
Miso ramen generally has a savorier taste to it, so adding corn as a topping offsets the taste a bit because of its sweetness. Miso ramen also originates from Hokkaido, where corn is in abundance.
Beansprouts is yet another ramen topping that’s common with miso-based ramen. Usually, if there are beansprouts, there’s not just a sprinkle, there’s quite literally a mountain sitting atop the ramen bowl.
This originated in Hokkaido when the local people started adding beansprouts to their ramen for added crunchiness.
However, many people omit beansprouts, as they believe the moisture from the beansprouts changes the soup flavor.
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9. Diced Onions
Diced onions are one of the easiest ramen toppings you can add to homemade ramen. You simply dice up your onion and sprinkle it raw on top of the dish.
Some people like to lightly caramelize it first before sprinkling it on. The onion adds the right touch of sweetness and slight heat to the ramen.
10. Bok Choy
Bok choy is a fantastic addition to a bowl of ramen if you’re looking to add more vegetables or make ramen for a vegetarian. The leaves of this Chinese spinach become soft and tender whilst their thick stem stays crunchy, adding texture to the ramen bowl.
You will notice that Japanese people like to add cabbage to their dishes, and ramen is no exception!
Adding cabbage, or kyabetsu, will add some extra crunch and texture to the ramen, not unlike bok choy. It is also another great topping for a vegetarian.
12. Radish Sprouts
Similar to the shape of bean sprouts, radish sprouts come as long thin shoots. However, they do not offer the crunch that beansprouts do. Rather, they’ve got a softer texture.
They do, however, offer a mild, almost peppery taste once bitten into, which adds a layer of complexity to the ramen bowl.
13. Woodear Mushrooms
Wood ear mushrooms are one of the most popular ramen dish toppings for their earthy flavor and chewy texture.
If you’ve never had it before, it’s the black shredded topping that comes on top of many ramen dishes. To serve, they’re simply soaked until they’re nice and soft and then sliced into thin strips.
14. Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are often left behind in favor of the more textural wood ear mushrooms when it comes to ramen, but that doesn’t mean it’s never used.
This mushroom is a fantastic alternative if you’re making vegetarian ramen at home. It brings a strong earthy essence to the ramen bowl, and also offers a chewy, soft texture quite unlike any other common ramen topping.
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15. Beni Shoga
Beni Shoga, or pickled ginger, is a staple in Japanese cooking, and it’s one of the many pickled-style ramen toppings to choose from.
The ginger is sliced into small strips and pickled in a special brine solution called umezu, which is colored red with red perilla leaves. The result? Pickled ginger comes with a sour punch!
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Takanazuke is pickled mustard greens, and this is a fantastic ramen topping if you like to have a bit of tartness in your ramen. The Japanese method of pickling these is to use spicy Takana mustard and chili and pickle it quickly.
Adding takanazuke to your ramen gives it a bit of a crunch and also adds a bit of spice and slight sourness to the bites.
17. Kakuni Pork
Kakuni pork differs from cha-shu pork in that it is cut into thick slices or cubes. It is generally braised in a mix of soy sauce, sugar, green onion, and sake. It is cooked for hours before it is ready to be served. This method allows for the pork to absorb a rich, morish taste.
Kakuni pork is from the pork belly, whilst cha shu pork can be cooked from any part of the pig.
18. Minced Meat
If you’re a fan of tantan-men, chances are, you would have eaten minced meat in your ramen.
Minced meat is one of the easiest toppings you can add to your instant ramen. Cooking this up before adding it to your ramen bowl adds an awesome savory taste. Whilst it’s recommended that it be added to creamy miso ramen noodles, it can be a great addition to any ramen bowl.
Adding butter to any dish will make it smooth, creamier, and richer – and that’s the same with ramen.
When you melt a small slab of butter into a steaming bowl of ramen, it adds an umami taste that’s unlike any other. The comforting mellow savory addition to the ramen turns it from a homemade instant noodle dish to a premium dish reminiscent of restaurant-quality ramen.
Similar to butter, melting a slice of cheese over your instant ramen will add a delectable creaminess to it.
Simply place the cheese over the bowl once it’s done cooking. When it’s completely melted, stir it into the broth, and then voila! A velvety, creamy, rich bowl of ramen that will have you craving for more when you’ve had your last slurp.
The next time you decide to have instant noodles at home, give some of these interesting Ramen toppings a chance!
Whether you want to go traditional and use only the common toppings, such as chashu, nori, aonegi, and egg, or you want to get creative and combine cheese with boy choy, it’s up to you!
Let us know in the comments if you’ve tried any of these toppings at home with your ramen, and if so, what was your favourite?
If you want to know more about Japanese noodles, check out this blog post about the differences between Ramen vs Udon vs Soba.