These days, a growing number of Americans realize there's a lot more to ramen than the dried bricks you can buy with loose change at the supermarket. Ramen restaurants are popping up all over the country and serving traditional styles, and thanks to Sun Noodle, you can even make instant ramen that's totally respectable.
But while people are getting used to eating great ramen, making it at home is still a stretch. Preparing a tonkotsu broth takes at least a day—add to that finding the right noodles and preparing the toppings and you've got a serious project on your hands. But it's worth the effort for a bowl of rich, creamy, hearty ramen. If you're ready to give it a try, we've rounded up our favorite recipes for classic (and not-so-classic) broths and flavorful toppings like marinated eggs and braised pork.
For my money, the king of all ramen broths is rich, creamy tonkotsu. We make it by simmering pork trotters, chicken backs, and pork fat back for hours and hours until their collagen is extracted and turns to gelatin. We chop the pork fat into tiny pieces to add to the finished soup, as if it wouldn't be porky enough anyways.
Hailing from Hokkaido, miso ramen is one of the newer varieties of the dish. Our recipe starts out with the same intense process as our tonkotsu broth, but we also add nutty red miso and salty soy sauce. To top the ramen we like to simmer pork shoulder in the broth, shred it, and crisp it up in a pan carnitas-style.
Don't be put off by this recipe's daunting ingredient list—it's a lot of work, but you'll be rewarded with a bowl of ramen so rich and satisfying that you'd never guess it was vegan. The broth is made with roasted vegetables, kombu, and both fresh and dried mushrooms and is spooned over a shiitake-soy tare.
Paitan refers to a class of ramen broths that are super thick and opaque. Pork-based tonkotsu is the most famous variety, but not your only option. This version is made with turkey bones and drumsticks, the latter of which provide tender meat to fry up to top the ramen. The turkey flavor is a little overpowering on its own, so we balance it with miso paste and sesame tahini.
"Traditional" Korean ramyun is an easy, Korean-flavored version of Japanese instant ramen. Our reverse-engineered version uses a homemade broth made with dashi, short ribs or oxtail, aromatics, gochujang, and kimchi. The Chinese chili and bean paste doubanjiang rounds out the flavors.
Making traditional ramen takes all day—if you're craving noodles and want them fast, this is your best bet. This Korean-style ramen gets plenty of flavor fast from kimchi, mushrooms, miso, and soy sauce. You don't even need to go to the trouble of tracking down ramen noodles—cook spaghetti with baking soda and it'll mimic the taste and texture of ramen surprisingly well.
This jet-black seafood ramen is made with squid-ink spaghetti cooked in baking soda and topped with lots of treats straight from the ocean: squid, mussels, and salmon roe. The broth is dead simple—just chicken stock and miso paste. If you're using store-bought chicken stock then add a few packages of unflavored gelatin to make it richer.
Ramen doesn't have to be a hot dish—in hiyaski chuka the noodles are served cold in a vinegary dressing made with soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar, and grated ginger. Potential topping combinations are limitless, but for something traditional try poached shrimp, sliced ham, and fresh veggies.
The most important parts of ramen are the noodles and the broth, but that doesn't mean you should forget about toppings. One of the most classic options is ajitsuke tamago, a runny soft-boiled egg marinated for hours (at least four and up to twelve) in a mix of soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar.
Chashu is another standard ramen topping. It starts with pork belly, which gets rolled up and braised in soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar, and grated ginger. After the pork is done cooking we let it set overnight the fridge before slicing. You can reheat it in hot ramen broth, but even better is to hit the pork with a blowtorch to give it a crispy char.
This unusual ramen topping came about when we had leftover grilled eggplant after testing baba ganoush recipes. Turns out that smoky, tender eggplant works wonderfully with Japanese ingredients like bonito flakes, soy sauce, and mirin. The topping is flavorful and umami-rich, but not as heavy as a piece of chashu.
No bowl of ramen is complete without a drizzle of flavorful fat. One option is mayu, or black garlic oil. Burnt garlic sounds unappealing, but if you blacken it in oil slowly enough it gets dark and complex without turning acrid. As soon as the garlic is fully blackened, we blend it up with sesame oil.
Once you've mastered a basic mayu, you can use it as a base for other condiments. For something with more of a kick, we like to blend up the garlic oil with minced Thai bird chilies, fresh garlic, and toasted sesame seeds ground with a mortar and pestle.
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