If you have ever bought a package of instant ramen noodles, you already know that this popular Japanese soup is one of the world’s tastiest and most inexpensive staples.
Dried ramen noodles cost one dollar or less at most stores, with the only dilemma being which flavor to choose!
You have probably also noticed that the word Ramen is spelled differently on instant noodle packages from Asia. The Japanese instant noodles are known as ramen, and Korean-style instant noodles are known as both Ramyun and Ramyeon.
There is also a traditional Japanese meal called Ramen that has led to the concept of instant ramen noodles. Its original recipe gives us clues about how to dress up an ordinary package of instant noodles to make a nutritious, delicious meal topped with meat, vegetables, and, if you want to go Korean style – a boiled egg.
However, in this article, we will describe and discuss the best Japanese instant noodles, known worldwide as Ramen.
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What is Ramen?
The term Ramen does not refer to the dried instant noodles we see in stores worldwide. It refers to Japanese ramen noodle soup made with raw fresh noodles.
Hand-made fresh noodles are boiled in a delicious broth until they are firm. The dominant flavor in Japanese ramen is umami, which has a meaty, yeasty, and slightly fermented taste that is tasty and addictive.
Traditional Ramen noodles are served in a chicken, seafood, or pork stock and then topped with vegetables.
Popular Japanese Broth Types
There are many types of authentic Japanese broths on the market, but mostly the market is dominated by 4 main traditional flavors: Shio ramen, Miso ramen, Shoyu ramen, and Tonkotsu ramen.
- Shio ramen is the plainest broth, having a salt-water base.
- Miso ramen is soybean paste mixed with hot water.
- Shoyu ramen is a soy sauce broth.
- Tonkotsu ramen is created from pork bone broth.
The above broths are also available as an instant ramen noodle soup mix.
Traditional Ramen Soup Vegetables
Several ingredients are found in the traditional version of ramen, giving the Japanese version its particular salty taste.
- Fermented bamboo shoots, also known as Menma, give Japanese ramen its characteristic umami flavor. Menma is aged in the sun in Japan and quite hard to find in other countries.
- Wakame seaweed is also commonly added to Japanese Ramen to give the dish a creaminess and a salty taste. It comes as a flat sheet that can be crumbled and sprinkled into soup.
- Shredded green onions, known as Shiraga Negi, are added to noodle broth to give it flavor. It is traditional to only use the white bulbous end of the onion in Japanese soup.
- Pickled mustard leaves, also known as Takana, are a spicy traditional addition to the broth.
More familiar items such as bean sprouts, cabbage, leeks, carrots, and enoki mushrooms are also components in Japanese soups.
Any of the above vegetables can be added to the instant version of ramen to give it a more authentic taste. Vegetables from your refrigerator that go well in a homemade instant ramen soup are baby carrots, bell peppers, red onion, and radish.
The key to making non-traditional vegetables seem traditional in a soup made from packaged instant ramen is to slice them very thinly and float them raw on top of the broth.
Top 20 Best Japanese Instant Ramen
Here is our review of Japan’s top 20 instant ramen noodle mixes, from the ones most revered as exotic Asian cuisine to those that are the popular go-to’s for ramen lovers globally.
This is the only instant Japanese noodle soup ever to be awarded a Michelin Star. Dan Dan Men is sold out of a popular store in Japan. Its recipe is based on the spicy pork bone broth known as tonkotsu.
Dan Dan Men comes with both powdered seasonings and a special pack of sesame seed oil to give it a unique, full-bodied flavor.
The result is a very creamy, warming soup with an aroma of sesame, strands of long buckwheat noodles, and tiny chunks of dehydrated pork broth. It is said to be one of the best Japanese instant ramen mixes globally.
Ichiran Ramen is one of the most well-known Japanese instant noodle brands worldwide.
Its popularity as a global number one seller is due to the authentic taste of its tonkotsu broth and the firm springiness of its noodles.
The broth is made from dehydrated pork bones, and it comes with a packet of spicy red sauce made from red chilis and paprika. It is praised for having an authentic taste close to restaurant-style soup, even though it is essentially just the Asian version of Cup o’ Soup.
For the most part, the pork bone-based Tonkotsu seems to be the favorite flavor of instant ramen in Japan., with the second-best being soy.
Raoh, which means Ramen King in Japan, has brought the best of both worlds by combining both pork bone and soy flavors in the same mix.
This particular noodle mix is also famous for the chewy texture of its whole wheat noodles. Most instant ramen contains fried noodles, but the raw ones in Raoh give the instant broth a fresh, authentic taste.
Sapporo Ichiban Miso is so popular everywhere that the Sapporo company had to open a factory in America to sell to its Western market!
Although the packet of thicker buckwheat noodles and powder seems simple enough, the blend is made from 7 different types of miso. This miso mix is so complex in its composition that it is practically a gourmet item.
Toyama Black Ramen is the dehydrated version of a gourmet soy-based soup made with aged black garlic oil.
Black ramen broth is trending as a favorite flavor of Shoyu worldwide, but it is a recipe native to the Japanese city of Toyama that is centuries old.
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The “black” refers to the color of the delicious broth, which is made from 9 different soy sauces and a great deal of pepper and garlic. The noodles are white, raw, and have a thick, chewy texture.
Lovers of the classic salt taste enjoy Maruchan Seimen Instant Japanese noodles. The noodles are raw, so they have a very fresh taste, close to the homemade version of noodle soup with salt broth.
These medium buckwheat noodles come in a large gold packet or bowl. The salt broth is extremely versatile and can accommodate a variety of toppings, both traditional (such as pork slices) and non-traditional (such as shrimp).
Sapporo Ichiban Shio Ramen is a classic fast-food soup in Japan. It is as popular as Sapporo Ichiban’s Miso ramen, but it is more neutral and soothing in taste.
Shio means salt in Japanese.
This instant soup serves as a great base for homemade Japanese dishes if you feel like being inventive. A recent global trend is to add chunks of back bacon and poached eggs to it.
The Peyoung instant noodle company is known for its line of unusual curried flavored noodles, but it also is quite famous for its classic salty noodle broth.
Unlike most Japanese pork broth, this one has a sugary flair to it, giving it a unique sweet and salty taste. This clear yellow instant soup also contains dehydrated carrots, onions, and a hint of cilantro.
These nourishing instant noodles come in a very distinctive large gold plastic bowl. The taste of the broth is a pleasant mix of pork bone stock and soy sauce.
This rich, comforting soup does not have an overwhelming spicy taste. The noodles have a chewy, crispy texture reminiscent of the fresh bowls of Tonkotsu ramen that you would get in a restaurant.
Nissin Mouko Tanmen Nakamoto is the ubiquitous spicy soup sold in 7-Eleven stores everywhere in Japan. It is loved for its low price and very spicy taste, reminiscent of a Korean-style soup.
This soup comes with an instant powdered broth created from a trio of ingredients: miso, pork bones, and vegetable stocks. It gets its sinus-clearing abilities from powdered chilies and paprika in the spice packet.
Sapporo’s Shoyu flavor strays a bit from the classic Japanese Shoyu. It features the expected soy and chicken broth combination, but it is also heavily spiced with dehydrated ginger and garlic.
One of the innovative qualities of this noodle brand is that the raw noodles are kneaded with soy sauce during the manufacturing process, giving them a very fortifying, hearty flavor.
Acecook is one of those Japanese companies that prides itself on its chewy noodles made of short-grain japonica glutinous rice. These noodles are also sweeter and very high in protein.
The broth of Mochi Mochi Yakisoba is also highly unusual, as it is a combination of pork, chicken, and mackerel. This gives it a very meaty, salty flavor.
13. Myojo Charumera
This ramen is unusual because it has a broth made from scallops and a secret spice. Even though this is not a traditional Japanese instant noodle flavor, it is a national favorite.
The soba noodles in this broth are very old-school, long, and straight. It is the perfect noodle base for adding seafood or a poached egg (which the Japanese sometimes do, even though it is a Korean tradition).
The name of this ramen translates from the Japanese to mean “old-fashioned ramen,” even though the chicken broth was never a traditional Japanese Ramen flavor.
This particular noodles brand is a very popular combination of both soy sauce and chicken broth flavors. The noodles are raw and more traditional; they are not fried.
This Japanese chicken and soy ramen is recommended for people who want to taste a bland blast from the past.
Anything with fried soy tempura in Japan amounts to being a kind of classy junk food. The Donbei Tempura Soba presents deep-fried battered tofu sitting on a bed of buckwheat noodles.
Interestingly, these noodles are supposed to be even better microwaved. As they are raw, microwaving gives them a pleasing chewy texture.
The Nissin company is just as famous for its familiar styrofoam cups as it is for its signature flavors that include an unusual seafood flavor.
The noodle cup is surprisingly hearty, containing real pieces of dehydrated crab and octopus as well as cabbage and peas.
The broth, however, is not made of seafood but based on a light dashi seasoning, which has a salty, seaweed, and sesame seed type of flavor.
Afuri Shio ramen is about as close to healthy food as a carton of instant noodles can get.
The brand is named after Mount Afuri, a known agricultural district. This soup is manufactured using water from the local waterfall.
The salt-based broth in Afuri is less salty than most packaged noodles and is a lighter, fresher experience for the taste buds. It is also healthier than most Japanese soups because of its low sodium content.
Peyoung is a company known for its super-spicy noodles.
Their ultra spicy Yakisoba stands apart from the rest because, technically, there is no such thing as Japanese curry ramen. Yet, here is an example of it.
Even though spicy ramen noodles are more associated with Korean instant noodles, this one is renowned for being one of the hottest in the world. It is unusual as it contains turmeric, paprika, and other spices associated with India.
If you like extremely hot instant noodles that are a bit of a novelty, you will enjoy this Peyoung product. However, many lovers of spicy Japanese soups have described it as being too hot to eat.
This unique mix is highly unusual because the broth is based on soy, and the packet flavoring is based on highly spiced cod roe. The long noodles are soaked in soy sauce, giving them a burnished dark brown color.
This Yakisoba also comes with a packet of mustard-infused mayo. Once added to the soup, it helps give it an authentic street food flavor.
This is the ultimate Japanese comfort food and a popular pantry staple in Japan. It has an appearance and flavor that can be described as Americanized.
The ramen, which comes in a styrofoam bowl, is bright yellow – thanks to artificial colorings and flavorings. Its simulated chicken taste is accented with a few sprinkles of dehydrated green onions.
Chicken is not a traditional Japanese flavor, so this is one of the few instant noodle soups from that country not made from pork, salt, or soy broth. Yet, it is a top seller among instant ramen soups.
Cooking Japanese Instant Ramen
It is quite easy to cook Japanese Instant Ramen noodles.
If you bought the dried noodles in a bowl, all you have to do is add boiling water to the noodles, add the package of spice it comes with, and let it sit for 5 minutes.
You can do the same if you have bought them in a package, except put them in a ceramic bowl.
Note that some instant noodle soups come with more than one packet. This packet could contain a spicy paste, sesame oil, or dehydrated vegetables.
Simply add the packet of spices to the bowl as directed on the package, and then add your vegetables, meats, and condiments as desired.
Best Japanese Instant Ramen – Our Verdict
There are hundreds of brands of instant noodles from Japan, so the ideal way to select the best is to choose one brand from each broth type on the market: soy, miso, salt, and tonkotsu (pork).
- Our favorite soy sauce-based soup is Sugakiya Toyama Black Ramen, which has a salty, garlicky flavor and a broth made from 9 different soy sauces.
- Our top pick for a miso-based soup is Sapporo Ichiban Miso Paste Flavor, created from 7 types of miso paste. It is a top choice in both America and Japan.
- The best salt noodles are Maruchan Seiman Instant Raman Salt Sauce Taste, which comes in a big gold bowl. It has chewy raw noodles that rival homemade or restaurant versions of ramen.
- Our top overall choice for Best Instant Ramen is also our number one choice for the best tonkotsu ramen. It has an authentic tasting broth and chewy raw noodles. We feel that one Michelin Star that the Nakiryu Dan Dan Men has earned is well-deserved.