The Anatomy of Ramen: An Illustrated Guide to the 4 Main Types

By Alex Mamo (courtesy of Wanderlust-Japan)

Ramen is one of the most delicious things you will ever eat in Japan. I have lived here four years, tried many things and am pretty certain this statement will not be contested.

Like most other Japanese foods, it’s not a completely Japanese concoction and the exact origin is a subject of debate. What we do know is that, by the mid-1900s, ramen had become a solid staple in the Japanese restaurant scene.

Though the dish has flourished throughout the world the main types are often confused. Here’s an illustrated guide to help you tell the difference between the four main varieties:


Miso ramen is made with miso paste and has a richer, savory broth. It was first developed in Hokkaido (if you go there, you’ll most likely see it in every ramen shop). In Hokkaido the typical extra toppings are corn and butter, two of its most famed products.


Shio ramen is salty and light and sometimes includes seafood. Out of all the varieties, shio is most likely to have kamaboko.

This kamaboko may be famous with fans of the anime “Naruto,” because of the uzumaki (spiral pattern). Kamaboko with a spiral are called narutomaki.


In Japanese shoyu means soy sauce. The broth is usually seasoned with black pepper and Chinese spices, but is clear and lighter than other varieties. The noodles are also slightly curly.


I wouldn’t recommend this ramen for anyone trying to go on a diet as the broth is made by boiling down fatty pork, but for those that aren’t watching their waistline, tonkotsu ramen is usually the thickest, most flavorful of the four varieties.

Kyushu, and particularly Fukuoka, is famous for its tonkotsu ramen.

This post appears courtesy of Wanderlust-Japan. Their other  illustrated guides to Japanese food include sushi, fried dishes, bluefin tuna and azuki desserts.

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