It’s the lightest of all ramen varieties. Light in color and light in flavor. It’s not as popular as tonkotsu ramen but once you try it, you’ll wonder why you never really appreciated the purity of salt.
Shio means salt. And the broth of shio ramen is seasoned with salt. No soy sauce, no miso and, unlike tonkotsu, it is clear rather than creamy.
The oldest form of ramen
Just how old is shio ramen and why is it not as well-known as tonkotsu ramen? NHK World-Japan recently broadcast a series of videos called Ramen Japan. I haven’t watched all the episodes but I have watched enough to learn that shio ramen is the oldest form of noodle soup in Japan and that it may have been around way before the introduction of Shina soba in Tokyo’s Rairaken.
In HOKKAIDO Part 2, the birth of ramen is traced to the 19th century when trading ports were established in Nagasaki, Yokohama and Hakodate. “Nanking noodles”, introduced by Chinese merchants and migrants, and the predecessor of what came to be known as Japanese ramen, was mentioned in a newspaper in 1884. The recipe was unknown but believed to have been a salt-flavored noodle dish. In short, shio ramen.
Making broth for shio ramen
To make shio ramen at home, I start by dropping meat and bones into a pot and covering them with water. I turn on the stove and let the water boil. The heat stays on HIGH, the pot remains uncovered, and the meat and bones are left to tumble in the highly agitated water until scum covers the surface of the liquid.
The scum is carefully removed but the boiling goes on for another ten minutes. Then, the liquid is discarded, the meat and bones are drained and rinsed under the tap until all impurities are removed. The clean meat and bones, and a few pieces of kombu, go into the slow cooker, sprinkled very lightly with salt, covered with water and cooked on HIGH for two hours then on LOW for another four hours.
At the end of the cooking time, the meat is tender and the water has turned into a clear and tasty broth. But because very little salt went into the slow cooker, the broth is underseasoned at this point.
I place a teaspoon of rock salt in a bowl and pour hot broth directly over it. The intense heat immediately dissolves the salt.
The noodles are dropped into the hot broth, and meat (chashu if you want the full experience) and scallions are arranged on top. And that is my homecooked shio ramen.
For more about ramen, see Ramen is a fusion dish and Guide to ramen broth: shio, shoyu, miso and tonkotsu.