Question: Where is Taiwan Ramen originated from?
If you answered “Taiwan”, then you probably didn’t read the title of this article.
If you answered Japan, you’re right, and more specifically, Taiwan Ramen is a cuisine from Nagoya.
Walking around Nagoya, you can often see shops advertising “Nagoya Local Cuisine: Taiwan Ramen”. I was just as confused the first time I saw it, and as a fan of both ramen and spicy food, I jumped onto the first opportunity I got for a taste test.
First, let’s talk the origin story. Taiwan ramen was created by a Taiwanese Chef who had a shop in the Chikusa district of Nagoya (Aichi Prefecture) in the 1970s. As a Chinese cuisine chef, he took the concept of the Tantanmen, a type of Chinese spicy noodles, and added his own spin to the formula. The soup turned into a simple shoyu chicken broth, the focus of the toppings was a mixture of pork, garlic and nira. And while it was spicy, it was levelled to be suitable for the relatively low spicy tolerance in Japan. During the mid 1980s, Japan had a spicy boom where many believed that they could lose weight simply by eating spicy food with toukarashi (chilli peppers). Taiwan ramen benefited from the media spotlight during this period and its popularity grew across the entire Nagoya and the Chuubu area. Nowadays, you can commonly find Taiwan ramen all over Central Japan in ramen shops and Chinese restaurants.
The recipe for Taiwan ramen is quite simple:
- Stir-fry a mixture of minced pork, toukarashi (chilli peppers), chopped garlic, chopped green onion, chopped bean sprout and toubanjan (Chinese chilli miso).
- Slice up some nira (Chinese chives) and boil it them
- Prepare a shoyu chicken based ramen soup
- Cook ramen, typically chuuka-men (中華麺) or other types with standard thickness and firmness
- Place the noodles, nira and stir-fry mixture into the soup in that order
- Mix and enjoy!
The ingredients aren’t hard to hunt down, so this is definitely an experiment you can try at home. The most essential element is the stir-fry mixture. It brings in the spicy that signifies Taiwan ramen while adding flavours and textures into the bowl. You also won’t find a bowl of ramen without the nira (Chinese chives) as it adds another strong taste to the ramen. The pork grease and garlic bits flow across the spicy soup. The chilli oil emerges out from the mixture. The nira and meat clings onto the noodles as you slurp it up. Those who enjoy spicy food or “stamina food” would definitely love this.
This stimulating bowl of ramen doesn’t require a ton of different ingredients and numerous hours to prepare its soup base. Thanks to that, you can find Taiwan ramen for relatively cheap prices. From ¥350 at Chinese restaurants to ¥750 at ramen shops, you can easily locate and affordably fulfill your crave for spicy noodles during your stay in Aichi and its surrounding prefectures. Many shops charge an extra ¥100 to ¥200 for the “extreme spicy” version, but in return you get a lot more toppings and the next-level spiciness excitement.
Just like human beings, a delicious bowl of ramen is delicious no matter where its origin is. The name of “Taiwan ramen” might not be as Taiwanese as it implies, but there is no lie within its wonderful spicy taste. Next time you spot one at a ramen shop, please give it a try!