A good bowl of ramen is a marriage of four things: broth, tare (seasoning), noodles and toppings.
In Melbourne, we’re best acquainted with the luscious tonkotsu (pork bone) broth and the lighter chicken version, which are generally boiled for half a day or more with kelp and/or bonito flakes to impart a deep umami character.
Classic seasonings such as shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt) and the pungent miso (fermented soybeans) add another layer of complexity to the soup. Tare recipes are often a ramen chef’s most precious secret.
As with pasta in Italy, there are potentially hundreds of types of noodles. One constant? They should be served firm and slightly under-done, as they'll continue cooking in the bowl. In Japan, no-one waits for their friend’s ramen to arrive. It’s most polite to dig in the second your bowl hits the table – with plenty of appreciative slurping – to prevent the noodles from turning to mush.
Toppings might be barbequed pork, a soft-boiled egg, bean sprouts, black fungus, nori (seaweed), naruto fishcakes, spring onions, corn or even butter.
Now you know what to order, here’s where to find Melbourne’s best ramen.