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Ramen Noodles, are a pasta prepared with wheat flour and an alkaline water called Kansui and are the pasta used in the famous and beloved Japanese Ramen. Its origins are not well defined. The best known is the one that gives them as descendants of the Chinese noodles called “la-mien”. They are hand-rolled noodles, but their process is completely different, and even the ingredients are not exactly the same. To be considered “Ramen”, according to the Japanese government, they must necessarily contain wheat flour and alkaline salts.
The Ingredients Of Ramen Noodles
Ramen Noodles are prepared using four basic ingredients, flour, liquid or powdered kansui, water and salt. Let’s see the main characteristics that each of them must have. If you want a more scientific and in-depth approach, I recommend the Ramen Lord PDF book, downloadable for free from the net which is really very interesting.
The flour used for Ramen Noodles is a wheat flour. The starch of the wheat flour gives the structure to the Ramen, while the gluten contained in it gives the resistance and water-repellent properties to the Ramen.
The flour for Ramen must have a high protein percentage also defined as glutinous. In eastern countries, there are specific flours for the preparation of noodles. If you are lucky to have a well-stocked Asian shop, you may also find them, otherwise I recommend using bread flour, with a strength between W240 and W350 is perfect. Also get wheat gluten, which will make the flour stronger. Personally, the flours I use at the moment and which give me an excellent result are a W260, with this you will get more delicate noodles ramen and a bread flour (W400) with this you will have more full-bodied and robust Ramen Noodles.
This special alkaline water, in contact with the flour creates a curious reaction, visually makes the wheat flour slightly more yellow. In terms of consistency, on the other hand, it makes these noodles particularly elastic and once cooked it reinforces the impermeability, so that they don’t become soft and unpleasant while they are in the hot broth.
Liquid Kansui contains:
- sodium carbonate which gives a more rubbery consistency in the final paste;
- potassium carbonate which gives a firmer and more taut consistency;
The availability of this ingredient could be a bit complicated, so here is a practical guide with video on how to prepare it at home: Kansui: How to Prepare it at Home. With this guide you will be able to prepare sodium carbonate, while potassium carbonate is available in pharmacies and on the internet. In the recipes of the blog you will find the doses of use for both.
Water And Salt
To prepare my Ramen Noodles (and now any noodle dough) I only use bottled water, why? It does not have all mineral salts and any chlorine additions to make it heavy. Pure water is naturally drinkable, it is softer and will not negatively affect the hydration of the flour and will not alter the Ph. The salt I use instead, is Camargue salt, a pure salt in small flakes. It has a slightly higher salting power than classic table salt and dissolves easily. Alternatively, you can use Kosher salt if you don’t find Japanese salt, very rare outside of Japan and also quite expensive.
Other Ingredients And Alternative Ingredients
There are also other ingredients that are added to Ramen Noodles to vary the flavor, texture and appearance.
You can replace a part of the flour with whole wheat flour to obtain wholemeal ramen with a more pronounced grain flavor.
Whole egg can be used, but in this case the water calculations need to be reviewed so as not to alter the humidity levels. Or how do I use only dehydrated eggs white, which allows you not to vary the quantities of water. The egg gives more consistency to the noodles but slightly increases the cooking.
Vital wheat gluten to strengthen the flour.
To make Ramen Noodles a little more yellow, Riboflavin is used (available in pharmacies or on the internet). Others instead use the dried flowers of the gardenia, making a decoction with water to prepare the dough. If you want you could try it with saffron.
There are also alternative ingredients that allow you to prepare special noodles such as rice flour and tapioca flour. Not to mention that many restaurants add ingredients such as spices, green tea, rye or buckwheat to their doughs to personalize and make their Ramen Noodlesi unique.