If you want to know what the best Japanese Instant Noodles are, then ask the Japanese right? Luckily, ranking ramen is something of a national sport in Japan, so we consulted the sources (should that be soup?) and found data that combined ramen sales data from the major Japanese online retailers: Amazon Japan, Yahoo and Rakuten.
We’ll go ahead and spill the beans on what instant ramen the Japanese are eating, and where you can purchase them outside of Japan. But first let me give you own personal fav (introduced to me by my Japanese partner…)
My personal ramen favourite instant ramen "Chukazanmai" fro Myojo
These ones have been loved in Japan for a long time as the ramen noodle that is a “cut above” the standard. They aren’t the cheapest noodle, so they don’t make it on to the best seller list. But they are a great luxury instant noodle.
The main thing that sets this apart is the noodles, which have a wonderful, soft but springy texture. They are made by Myojo, which has been a subsidiary of Nissin since 2007.
10 Best Selling Japanese Instant Noodles In Japan
These are actually a Korean instant noodle. But the spiciness of chili peppers and the umami of the original blended spices are a perfect match, making it the number one selling noodle in Japan. The noodles are made using high-grade wheat flour, and are characterized by their smoothness and chewy texture. The spicy nature of Korean noodles is fairly faithfully replicated in this pack.
The noodles are made of wheat flour, water, salt and kansui (a type of alkaline mineral water).
The noodles have a distinctive flavor that comes from the kansui. In order to be considered authentic, the noodles must contain three ingredients: wheat flour, water and salt. Traditionally, after these three ingredients are kneaded together into dough and then formed into long rectangles called “noodles” they are boiled in hot water until they’re cooked. The flavor comes from the broth which usually consists of beef or pork bone, dried anchovies and vegetables like green onions and garlic.
The Nongshim Shin Ramyun is a beef based broth, with some vegetables, and noodles. The noodles are thin and soft. It has a very light taste that does not overwhelm the other flavors in the dish.
The Karagara-gyo-ramen karagara max is a limited edition release of the popular instant noodles. The original Karagara-gyo-ramen karagara was released in 2010 and is still being sold to this day.
Karagara-gyo-ramen karagara max 2 is modeled after the original, but with new flavours that were not available before. This noodles pack includes three different spices: curry, chili, and tomato for those who enjoy spicier flavours.
It is one of the most popular instant ramen in Japan. It comes with a light and salty soup base that has been made from from chicken paste, salt, soy sauce, and other seasonings like ginger and garlic.
Some of the ingredients are imported from Japan and the noodles are made in China but the soup powder is manufactured in Thailand.
The soup tastes salty with a hint of sweetness. It’s not too salty or too sweet and the flavor is balanced well with noodles that are hard but still have some bounce to them.
The noodles are made from pure wheat flour, which is cooked in boiling water and then added to the soup. The pack includes two servings of soup base (one for each package), two serving packages of noodles, and a packet of dried vegetables.
This ramen will set you back about $1.00 per serving, making it an affordable food option for those of us who are still busy trying to make ends meet. The Shin Noodle ramen has a slightly sweet flavor that tastes like it was made with soy sauce as well as some other ingredients such as sesame oil, salts, and spices.
The noodles themselves have a nice texture that is not too hard or too soft and they are not undercooked or overcooked like we sometimes see in ramen noodles. If you are looking for a great tasting ramen noodle without spending much money on it, then this is the one.
Nissin Foods is one of the most well known Japanese companies specialising in instant noodles. The company was founded in 1958 and is now one of the leading producers of instant noodles worldwide – so they must be doing something right.Their biggest sales point is just how quick and easy they are to prepare. Pour over hot water, wait three minutes and they are done. This one has a unique chicken-stock based broth that gives you a flavour you can’t really get any other way. They recommend putting an egg in with this one to make it even more chickeny.
This one comes with six packs. One pack is 85g, which is on the smaller side of the scale, making them a good “snack-size” option.
This one is really for the lovers of sesame. Sesame is a flavour well loved in anything from soup to icecream in Japan, so it is no surprise that this one takes up 5th position on Japan’s top 10 list.
Other ingredients include soy sauce, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder.
The texture of the noodles is not like the typical ramen noodle. They are a little bit stiffer but not hard or crunchy like many other instant noodles out there. They hold up well when added to soup or tossed with sauce (i.e., fried rice or pasta).
The noodles are thick and come in two different shapes: curly, for soups and dishes that call for a bite-sized noodle; and straight, for dishes that call for long noodles.
Miyazaki Shinmen own a chain of noodle stores that have become popular across Japan for dishing up a unique, spicey China-meets Japan ramen.
Yojo Foods Charmera Miyazaki Spicy Insntant Noodles are a new brand of noodles by yojo foods that aims to deliver something like the popular store experience in a cup noodle. They have a strong, spicy taste and are made with all-natural ingredients.
The Yojo company has been around for over thirty years in the food industry and is well known for their sauces, soups, and other products that make up the staple foods in many households across Japan. They recently branched out into the world of instant noodles due to the success of similar products overseas.
Sunaoshi Sapporo Instant Ramen – Soy Sauce Flavor is a great meal for a cold winter. It is meant to be eaten quickly and on the go. This is one of the most simple noodle offerings on the list and has just three key ingredients: soy sauce, salt, and water.
Chicken-based, the refreshing soy sauce-flavored simplicity of them makes them easy to eat for most taste buds, earning them number 7 on the Japanese top ten list. They have a lot in them, so they offer good value for money. Their simplicity also makes them easy to add any ingredient to without the end result coming off tasting strange.
They are delicious as is, but you can also add your own toppings like boiled eggs, nori, or shrimp. Some Japanese people even use it as a base for miso soup by adding miso paste and vegetables.
Check it out if you’re looking for something that’s easy to eat for pretty much any meal – lunch, dinner, snack etc.
No. 8 Akaryu Ramen 赤龍ラーメン
This one is unique first by the fact of the ramen being presented in sticks, similar to non-instant noodles, pasta etc. From the outset, you can tell they’re aiming at something authentic.
The other thing that sets it apart is its chilli-miso base.
The spicy soup, which is packed with the flavors of pork extract, miso, and chili peppers, is something beyond your normal instant-fare, earning the noodles a place in the heart of Japan. It is also good for those who are concerned about calories because it uses non-fried noodles. The ingredients are carefully chosen to give you a clear broth style soup in the end.
This another high end Japanese Instant Noodle, shooting for authenticity. The rich soup achieves a level of umami by combining a chicken broth matched with the rich flavor of black vinegar.
This one also wins the word for classy package design that definitely gives you the sense you are eating something beyond the normal instant noodle grade.
Strangely, the noodles are also meant to have a beauty enhancing effect as a result of 1000m of collagen – but we’re still waiting for the results to materialise…
This one is popular in Japan, partly because of the non-fried noodles made from pure Hokkaido wheat. These noodles are strong and chewy, but relatively low in calories.
“昔ながらのみそラーメン” means “Miso Ramen From The Good Old Days”, so you can get a sense of what they are going for.
The rich miso soup is well matched with the noodles and comes into it’s own with toppings of eggs and vegetables. You might also want to slip some butter and corn, into this ones, long time friends of the miso.
What types of Japanese instant ramen noodles are there?
The main two types of instant noodles are
1. Non-fried noodles
Advantages: Long expiration date and can be stored at room temperature.
Characterized by a chewy texture
Fewer calories, for if you’re watching you’re weight
Disadvantage: Well, everything tastes better fried right?
2. Fried noodles
Advantages: Not as yummy (subjective of course)!
Disadvantages: Not super healthy (eg. more calories than non-fried noodles)
Other less common noodles:
1. Half-raw noodles
Advantages: Soft, raw texture
Boil super quick.
Disadvantage: Early expiration date
Advantages: All in one package, as close as you’re going to get to like something you make from scratch!
Disadvantages: Takes up freezer space and energy to keep cold
What are Japanese Instant Ramen?
Japanese instant ramen have been around since the late 1980s. They were originally developed as a way to make noodles more convenient and affordable by using pre-cooked ingredients that were already packaged in large quantities. The first product of this type were Nissin Cup Noodles, which debuted in 1987. Since then, many other brands have come onto the market with their own versions of instant ramen. Today there are well over 100 different types of instant ramen available on store shelves throughout Japan!
What are the main types of Japanese instant ramen soup?
The three dominent flavors of Japanese ramen noodle soup include: Tonkotsu, Shoyu and Miso. All these variations offer unique tastes and textures, and each of them has their own dedicated hoards of followers!.
・Tonkotsu Ramen – Pork Bone Broth : Tonkotsu literally means “pork bone”. Tonkotsu broth is typically made by boiling pork bones for many hours. It tends to be a milkier, thicker broth than shoyu ramen
Other than the main ingredient, the broth may contain any combination of vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, wheat flour, eggs, soybeans, salt, sugar, sesame oil, sake, mirin and ginger.
Some versions even use chicken meat instead of pork (which doesn’t really make sense right?). These kinds of dishes tend to be rich and hearty, and relatively salty. They often have long ingredient lists, including items like dried mushrooms, seaweed, pickled plum, bonito flakes, nori sheets and kombu.
・Shoyu – Shoyu just means “soy sauce” so shoyu ramen is a soy based broth. It tends to be a lot “lighter”, less thick and saltier than tonkotsu.
・Miso – this type of ramen broth is based on the same miso paste that is well known for its use in miso soup. Miso paste is made from the same soy (daizu in Japanese) bean as that which makes soy sauce. Miso is by it’s nature somewhat cloudy and has a distinctive flavor that will be familiar to most Japanophiles.
2. Why are Japanese Instant Ramen so popular?
Instant ramen is very popular generally because it’s easy to eat and can be eaten anywhere at any time. You don’t need to worry about cooking your food before eating; you just heat up some water and add all the seasoning packets from the box.
Japnese instant ramen is particularly popular for the sheer wealth of different types and options to choose from. And, of course, although the word ramen literally means “Chinese noodles”, ramen as they are known in Japan and the west are a uniquely Japanese dish.
How to choose the best Japanese instant ramen?
Well, essential it is a matter of trial and error, and personal taste. But generally the main choices you have are:
Do I want a tonkotsu, shoyu or miso based soup?
Do I want something spicy with a Korean or Chinese influence?
Do I want fried, non-fried, or raw noodles?
Is Price an issue?
Do I favor flavor over convenience, or vica-versa?
Crack the code of the above questions and you are on the road to your own ramen shangri-la. Good luck and happy instant ramen travels!
I’ve also done a quick article clearing up just how “ramen” is meant to be pronounced here.
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Jennifer Spindell is a Japanese speaking Japanese food lover based in Sapporo.