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These noodles can be found on every corner all over the country, and the number of regional varieties seems endless. In the north, in Sapporo, miso ramen, with a slice of butter added on top, is popular. In the south, in Kagoshima, thin-kotsu pork ramen with chicken and sardine broths is popular. Japanese ramen has its origins in the humble food of Chinese immigrants. Now it's an international culinary phenomenon, with chefs creating their masterpieces from the finest ingredients. Ramen is one of the cornerstones of the familiar Japanese diet. Any foodie visiting Japan should become familiar with this dish.
The history of ramen noodles began in China. There is still much debate on how it made its way from China to Japan. It is believed that in 1910 a Chinese restaurant in Yokohama began to serve a dish called "ramen". It was Chinese wheat noodles in meat or fish broth and quickly became very popular. By that time soba and udon had long since become an integral part of Japanese cuisine, so a cup of noodle soup was not a novelty for the Japanese. The situation changed with the addition of an ingredient called kansui, an alkaline solution that gave the noodles their characteristic elastic texture. Soon the streets of Yokohama were filled with mobile ramen and gyoza stalls.
Japanese ramen continued to grow in popularity throughout World War II. In December 1945, American-occupied Japan had its worst rice harvest in decades. In response, the U.S. flooded the market with cheap wheat flour. Despite a temporary ban on street food outlets, some flour from commercial mills seeped into the black market and was used to make ramen. By 1950, restrictions on the distribution of wheat flour had been lifted. This coincided with the return home of many Japanese who had served in Chinese garrisons and were addicted to ramen. Thanks to this coincidence, the popularity of ramen in the country increased dramatically, and the streets of cities were flooded with stores with innumerable new varieties of noodles.