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Feb 9, 2007 09:53 PM

What's the difference between chinese and japanese rahmen?

In Japan, rahmen is basically noodles, a chicken stock, green onions, and maybe chashu (smoked pork slices). Of course there are many variations but that is the basic. Is it the same in China? Or elsewhere?

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  1. I'm not absolutely certain, but I don't think that there is such a thing as "Chinese ramen" in the sense that you could go to a Chinese restaurant and find a dish called ramen on the menu. Ramen (not the packaged stuff) is a Japanese food that has sort of evolved from Chinese noodles but I don't think there is one particular noodle dish that it descended from.

    1. Ramen is the Japanese name for Chinese style noodles.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ML8000

        This has always been my impression as well. Ramen is the Japanese take on Chinese wheat noodles, which of course has taken a life of its own and is now very Japanese.

        In Chinese, it's pronounced "la mien" which literally means "pulled noodles." This indicates the style of noodle making, where one piece of dough is stretched out between the two hands at arms' length, doubled over, floured so it won't stick, pulled out again, etc. until the original ball of dough becomes hundreds of strands of noodles.

        Of course, most Americans would say "ramen" to talk about the Japanese version and "Chinese ramen" or "Chinese noodles" to indidate the Chinese version. The Chinese say "la mien" and "Japanese la mien." :)

      2. We've had some pretty involved discussions on Japanese ramen (where did the "h" come from?) in the last year. By the way, most good ramen shops these days in Japan use a mix of chicken, pork, and fish stock. Also, chashu is usually marinated, not smoked.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Silverjay

          Several of the most famous brands of chashu/yakibuta sold in Japan are marinated and then cooked over charcoal - the effect being that of smoking. A lot of chashu has a smoke ring that is even more evident when placed in the soup. Obviously, there are hundreds of ways of doing yakibuta - the ones I've had made by the chefs at Izakaya's are marinated and pan-fried then put in the oven, and can be very good. But I've always thought that this was a limitation on their part (not having ready access to a charcoal smoking tool) and that the commercial product is almost always cooked over charcoal and thus smoked. Most ramen shops buy a commercial product, and these are mainly going to be cooked over charcoal.

          Here's an example - if you search for commericial yakibuta, almost all of them will be grilled and smoked to some degree:

          1. re: applehome

            You're right. I had visions of a sausage/ham analogy by the original post. Though, the "sumi" smoking at ramen shops seems more of a finishing technique, with the bulk of flavor coming from the marinade...BTW, Koumen (光麺), a chain of shops close to my heart, does actually finish by smoking right in the shop when you place your order.

            1. re: applehome

              It's fairly standard to find non-smoked or non-roasted yakibuta at ramen shops in Japan. And it seems for the most part that the standard cooking method of most of the chashu you find at ramen shops will probably be marinating and braising in a shoyu-dare or the ramen broth itself. It seems that at most of the top ramen shops, the chashu is used as a flavor enhancing component in the cooking process (in the shoyu-dare, or the broth, etc.), rather than as simply a topping. Also as a more practical reason, roasting or smoking the chashu requires another set of cookware or appliances, where there may be little space in a kitchen besides burners and stockpots. In my few ramen cookbooks and on a few recipe websites I've seen, the chashu or yakibuta are cooked this way, while it seems that the yakibuta site in your link is more about yakibuta as a stand-alone dish. There are no hard and fast rules where ramen is involved, and I'm sure there are many smoked and roasted chashu versions out there, but it seems from my observations to be a minority. Here are a few recipe websites.

     (click down to the recipes in the yellow boxes

              1. re: E Eto

                Nicely put. But don't you mean "chahshu"?

                1. re: Silverjay

                  Char sui, chashu, char shu, chahshu - spelling depends on where you've seen it. It's all phoenetical for the same thing - bbq pork.

                  1. re: SanseiDesigns

                    You point is exactly wrong for the Japenese iteration. In Japan the pork in ramen is not bbq, whatever it's Chinese/English transliteration may be. It's marinated/ braised and only occasionally finished for flavor over fire, but usually just grilled. Chinese "char shu", or whatever, is a different thing, nearly all together. It's often smoked/BBQued.

          2. in korea, ramen is pronouced: rahm myun (or somewhat close to it). how is it pronounced in china and japan? also why is it spelled "ramen" when It isn't even pronounced that way?

            my boyfriend thinks I'm crazy everytime I say "rahm myun" or "rah myun"

            4 Replies
            1. re: bitsubeats

              In Japanese it's pronounced "ramen" with a rolled R. In Cantonese it's pronounced "lai meen".

              1. re: bitsubeats

                There is actually no "R" in the Japanese language. The equivalent is somewhere between an "R" and an "L". (There is actually a restaurant, in NYC on University Place, that emphasizes the "L": Tokyo La Men) Having studied Japanese for a few years, my teachers taught that the correct pronunciation is achieved by putting the tongue on top of the pallete when pronouncing the first letter. There is also a longer accent on the first syllable, the "ra" being slightly more drawn out than the "men".

                The "Ramen" spelling is for the benefit of Westerners, I believe.

                1. re: Polecat

                  awesome, thanks.

                  sounds like the letter r and l is pronounced very similarly in the korean language.

                  so polecat, how do you pronounce it? r/lahhhhhh men?

                  1. re: bitsubeats

                    A little bit less time on the r/lahhhh, but, yeah, basically.

                    As I've been taught, not only at the Japan Society, but by my wife, who grew up in Japan, the r/l is a quick click of tongue to pallette, so it actually comes off sometimes like a very soft "d", but who am I to confuse the issue.

                    I believe a wise, wise sage once said, "It's one thing to pronounce it, and a whole other thing to eat it".

                    Slurp away.

              2. I posted the question with the "h" in rahmen do to the pronunciation being different if I were to right ramen. "ah" in romanji is easier to ensure the "a" sound as in the "o" of top.

                I never even thought whether the chashu was smoked or marinated, I just assumed it was smoked due to the flavor. I wish I could find liquid smoke in Japan.

                I wonder if there is a similar dish n China such as Rahmen (ラーメン)in Japan.

                12 Replies
                1. re: kansai_mike

                  Living in the Bahston area, I can certainly sympahsize with the desire to put in your own phonetic sounding extensions. But there are established pronunciations and spellings - even within Romaji (not Romanji). I would recommend a good J-E/E-J dictionary, perhaps one of the Kenkyusha Learner's versions. You won't find rahmen, but you will find ramen.

                  I always defer to Eto and others who have had a lot more and a lot more recent in-country eating experience than I do - I left Japan in 1962 and have only been back on a few special occasions and a couple of business trips. I have had very little opportunity, as an adult, to eat in different places - especially off the beaten path, although I have certainly never objected to the places my foodie relatives take me. Most certainly the majority of Ramen shops themselves do cook their own as he says - because as I said, I've seen my Izakaya chef friend do it - no sumi/charcoal. But I've seen the commercial wood-grilled products at the Japanese food stores, and I've seen some good ramen shops use the same type of product in ramen, not just as a separate dish, so clearly it's not that unusual.

                  I've spent a lot of time trying to perfect my own yakibuta, and have a good replicable recipe that has received accolades from Japanese friends and chefs alike. I even tried to turn it into a niche business - the stuff on the store shelves sells of $12.99/lb and more - and I figured that for a cheap piece of pork, it ought to be able to be done a lot cheaper. Unfortunately, I found the commercialization requirements to be far more expensive than a niche product by itself would support - that $12.99/lb looked cheap by the time I was done. So now I send it out (along with my pastrami) to my friends and relatives who keep asking for more, and make all that I want. It is good by itself, but it's great in ramen.

                  1. re: applehome

                    Hi applehome. No offense intended, but you might want to take a look at my cunfusion on Google for rahmen and romanji. In Japan, these words are both used (definitely romaji is correct though). I've been living here in Japan the last seven years and yes, I can say that I screw up my spelling VERY often because I don't know if I am American, British or Japanese. haha. I think I wrote romanji because I beleive it should be so. "Roman - letter" not "Rome - letter". The confusion comes when you ask a Japanese and they (my wife) says "ji" means word when our dictionary says it means letter. Anyway, interesting...back to the food.

                    I've never seen chashu being smoked in a "ramen" shop here. I would think that would be done elsewhere. Yesterday I went to Musashi (a big home center) and found a cardboard smoker for $5. I didn't buy it due to it looking so dangerous.

                    applehome, do you add liquid smoke to your meat?

                    1. re: kansai_mike

                      I've never seen it written as "rahmen" - ever. Why confuse people with that? Maybe it's a Kansai thing. Though it's true that according to Hepburn Romanization rules, "ラー" usually would be transliterated as "rah". By those rules, it would also be "roma-ji", but "roman-ji" is often used as well- probably because its an adjective. Interestingly enough, I've seen it many times as "raomen" - usually at older chuka-ryouri-ya (Chinese restaurants). And I think, also on some instant varieties....Importantly, in Japanese, even at Japanese shops, it's sometimes not even called ラーメン but 中華そば (chu-ka soba) such as this tasty place--> . The word "ラーメン" doesn't even appear on the menu of these shops and I'm always interested in why the master has dubbed his creation one term rather than the other...

                      1. re: Silverjay

                        don't forget ramen from the "raumen" museum and stadiums!

                        1. re: Silverjay

                          i don't know if it applies across the board, but i've heard that one reason some shops go by "chukasoba" instead of "ramen" is because they don't use a wafu dashi in the soup base (bonito, konbu, etc.), which is what effectively makes ramen "japanese" in the minds of many. in wakayama people simply refer to ramen as "chukasoba," but that appears to just be local diction.

                          1. re: rameniac

                            Hmm, well, to be honest, I actually think it's rather arbitrary. Bonito, konbu, etc. aren't in a lot of recipes that I've seen called "ramen". I'll have to ask some ramen chefs when I'm in Japan later in the year...Geez, reminds me, I'll have to start researching my chowing itinerary pretty soon...

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              you know i thought that at first as well, but was surprised to learn that a lot of places do use some sort of konbu or something, especially in tokyo-style shoyu ramen, even if the overall wafu flavor isn't very pronounced.

                              i've come across places that actually emphasize this "wafu"-ness, but sometimes they overdo it and the result is a bit too close to hot udon or soba broth, at least for me.

                              one thing i've also heard is that when it comes to instant ramen at least, and again i don't know if this is across the board, is that "chukasoba" noodle cakes are non-fried, whereas the standard dry stuff is. i can't see how that would come into play with fresh ramen, so it might just be a marketing tactic for certain instant noodle brands.

                              where are you going this time out? i wish i could be in japan right now, despite the ridiculous weather...

                              1. re: rameniac

                                Tokyo, as usual. And pondering Hakodate, among a few other places. They sometimes use ika there instead of pork as a ramen topping!

                                1. re: rameniac

                                  BTW rameniac, did you hear? Ichiran is coming to Brooklyn! --->

                                  1. re: Silverjay

                                    ooh hakodate. be sure to post your thoughts on hakodate shio ramen!

                                    geez what's so great about new york?! haha. seriously tho, that's awesome. between ippudo, ichiran and setagaya, i'ma have to make their trip out there soon. that is, after they're all open of course.

                          2. re: kansai_mike

                            I've never used liquid smoke, and hope to never have to. I have a couple of smokers, and have stepped through everything from electric to gas to charcoal. But I realize that I have a couple of acres to play around in, and that's not always possible. I've seen Boulud use liquid smoke - although what do those French know... I would never expect a real BBQ cook to use the stuff, but I would guess that it's possible to use it well.

                            Rather than a smoker, how about a more traditional Japanese grill with sumi or bincho charcoal? Bincho is known to burn super hot, so even a little piece is supposed to be enough to do steaks, but maybe with a taller cooker like the shichirin, you could control the heat and do something like yakibuta. Remember that this isn't bbq - it's not really necessary to do a true low and slow smoking over embers. Enough time over the wood embers and your meat is going to be well smoked.

                            Here's a shichirin page:

                            The Bincho site and the page with their stove:

                            1. re: applehome

                              may we impose on you to post your recipes for yakibuta and pastrami on the home cooking board?