Ever wonder what separates brightly packaged instant ramen from a steaming bowl of real deal homemade ramen? Let me introduce you to your secret fast pass to a truly excellent ramen recipe - easy homemade miso ramen tare.
Ramen, a Japanese dish that took the culinary world by storm a decade ago, is much more than a simple bowl of noodles and broth. As anyone raised on plastic squares of ramen soup noodles from the bottom shelf of the Jewel grocery store can attest, truly great ramen holds an allure built on complex flavors that create an unforgettable culinary experience.
One of the key components responsible for this flavor symphony is the tare (pronounced "tah-reh")- a concentrated seasoning sauce or paste that adds depth and complexity to the broth.
After my first trip to Japan, I became low-key obsessed with ramen. The love, care and passion poured into each bowl of richly-flavored soup was a wonder to witness. Ramen chefs take their job seriously, and the flavor and texture extravaganza in each bowl shows their passion.
My deep dive into all things Japanese ramen resulted in this perfected home-chef version of miso ramen tare.
This flavorful paste is my go-to flavor component for a ramen dish, but I've found other great uses for the miso tare, as well (keep reading in the FAQ section for more details!)
What is Tare: A Flavorful Foundation
Tare is the soul of a ramen broth, bestowing it with a unique character and taste. It is typically a concentrated sauce that is added to the base broth, consisting of four essential components: salt, soy sauce, sugar, and a flavor-rich element like vegetables, seafood, or meat.
Each of the major tare recipes and styles are different, defining regional ramen variations across Japan. Here are the three different types of ramen tare that I've found to be most popular in restaurants, ramen shops and home kitchens.
This is the most prevalent type of tare and it derives its name from its key ingredient - soy sauce. This soy sauce tare boasts a deep umami flavor with a balance of saltiness and sweetness. Its amber color complements ramen broth, and it is often paired with chicken or seafood-based broths to create a balance of flavors. Shoyu tare can be enhanced with aromatic spices and herbs, such as ginger, garlic, and scallions, to heighten the flavor experience of your shoyu ramen recipe.
In contrast to the soy sauce-based shoyu tare, shio tare relies on salt as its primary seasoning agent. Shio tare embodies a lighter, more delicate flavor profile that allows the nuances of the broth to shine through. It's an excellent choice for lighter, seafood or vegetable-based broths. This tare is often accompanied by Japanese sea salt, providing a touch of brininess to a bowl of delicious shio ramen.
Miso tare, which is my favorite variation, is a velvety, fermented soybean paste that infuses the ramen broth with a rich, savory taste. This style of tare complements most meat and veggie broths really well, and offers a perfect balance of umami and sweetness. The intensity of miso tare can be adjusted by selecting lighter or darker miso paste varieties.
More about Miso:
Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a specific type of fungus. The fermentation process can vary in length, which creates different kinds of miso. Here are some of the most common types:
White Miso (Shiro Miso): This is the mildest and sweetest type of miso, with a shorter fermentation period. It is made from soybeans, rice koji, and a small amount of barley or other grain. White miso has a pale yellow color and a delicate, slightly sweet flavor. It's ideal for lighter dishes, dressings, and marinades.
Red Miso (Aka Miso): Red miso is fermented longer than white miso, resulting in a stronger, more pronounced flavor. It has a dark reddish-brown color and a deeper umami taste with a more robust flavor profile, so it works well in hearty stews and bold-flavored dishes.
Mixed Miso (Awase Miso): This type of miso is a blend of varieties, often combining white and red miso. The resulting flavor is balanced, providing both mild and rich elements. Awase miso is versatile and can be used in many applications.
Hatcho Miso: This type of miso is made exclusively from soybeans, and it is fermented for around two years or more. So hatcho miso has a very concentrated flavor, with a dark reddish-brown color. Use it to enhance the taste of hearty soups and stews.
For our miso tare recipe, I tried different types of miso and combinations. I prefer the mixed miso, which is a combination of red and white. You can buy the awase style miso, or if you use it often enough, buy a separate batch of white and red miso and use equal parts of each in this tare. Hatcho miso is easy to find in Portugal and has become my default red miso for this tare recipe.
Ingredients for Miso Ramen Tare Recipe:
Miso paste: a mix of red and white miso is my preference in this recipe. If using only white miso, the tare will have a less concentrated flavor. Still delicious! But you may want to add a little soy sauce or tamari to the mix to increase umami.
Mirin: a rice wine that adds sweetness and acidity, it's the perfect flavor in our ramen tare. Dry sherry or sweet marsala wine are the best subs for mirin. If using regular rice vinegar, add an extra pinch of sugar to balance the acidity.
Sugar: raw sugar is my preference, but use brown sugar or granulated white sugar, if needed.
Sesame oil: super savory and toasty, this aromatic oil is essential to this flavor bomb.
Sesame seeds: adds a lovely flavor and texture to the ramen. Omit if necessary.
Fresh ginger: a knob of ginger, finely grated, adds freshness and a touch of heat to our tare. When warmed by the hot broth, the ginger becomes fragrant.
For spicy miso: if I'm making tare for a group that all love spice, I'll add 2 tablespoons of chili crisp to the tare. If it's a mixed group, or I'm not in the mood for spicy ramen, I just use chili crisp as a topping. Other spicy add-ins for the tare include chili oil or Korean gochujang.
For Shrimp Miso Ramen
Ramen noodles: fresh noodles that are still a little chewy are ideal here. But I've made a great bowl of ramen using dried ramen noodles from one of my favorite local Asian grocery stores. And it was lovely.
Shrimp: choose your favorite protein here! Shrimp is easy to store, thaw and cook, so it's my favorite for ramen. But the sky is the limit on your protein base.
Soft-boiled egg: a 6-minute egg sprinkled with spicy and savory togarashi is my favorite add-in for ramen. If you don't car for running yolks, cook your egg through, or skip it!
Veggies: my recipe calls for corn, bok choy and scallions. But use what you like or what you have! Spinach, gai lan, kale, pea pods, shredded carrots - all good options.
Hot broth: because our tare does all the heavy lifting with flavor in this soup, use whatever light broth you love. My preference is veggie stock or mushroom stock. But chicken stock, dashi stock, tonkotsu broth or seafood stock are all good options.
Garnish: here's another chance to choose your own adventure! I love crispy shallots, lime wedges and chili crisp on my ramen. For an even spicier adventure, serve ramen with fresh sliced chili peppers.
Full ingredient list and measurements included in the printable recipe card below.
Step by step instructions for making Miso Tare for Ramen:
Combine miso paste, mirin, sesame oil, raw sugar, fresh ginger and sesame seeds in a small bowl very well. The mixture will be thick and a bit sticky. Move to an airtight container and keep in refrigerator for up to 2 months.
To turn your tare into a bowl of ramen, add 1 ½ tablespoons of the paste to the bottom of your bowl. Pour 8-12 ounces of hot broth over tare and stir to combine. (You can use vegetable, dashi or mushroom stock. For non-pescatarians, chicken, beef or pork stock are good options.)
Once tare has dissolved into the broth, add ramen ingredients, including noodles, sauteed bok choy, cooked shrimp, egg and corn.
Top with a little bit of togarashi, sliced scallions and a pile of crispy shallots. Serve with a lime wedge and chili crisp.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions for Miso Ramen Tare Recipe:
Ramen is usually a one-bowl dinner, complete with veggies, proteins and carbs all soaking in a savory broth. But if you want to serve an Asian-themed starter before your steaming ramen hits the table, whip up a batch of Steamed Shrimp Wontons, Korean Veggie Pancakes or a pile of Din Tai Fung Cucumber Salad.
In Japan, miso ramen is often served with ground pork. But I have loved every protein combination I've thrown at this flavorful stock, including fish cakes, shrimp, cod and snapper.
Kale, julienned carrots, bamboo shoots, shiitake mushrooms, corn, sugar snap peas and bok choy are all great options for dressing up your ramen bowls.
While miso ramen tare is specifically designed for miso ramen, I love experimenting with it as flavorful add-ins in stir-fries and marinades to increase the umami. I've even spread it over white fish fillets and baked them (broiling for the last minute or two) for a quick and flavorful dinner.
All of the ingredients listed in this tare mix recipe are generally vegan, but check specific brand labels before buying to ensure it is free of animal products. If making vegetarian ramen, skip the shrimp in this recipe and use tofu, instead.
The gluten-free status of miso ramen tare depends on each of the ingredients (and brands of ingredients) used to make it. Traditional miso paste is usually gluten-free, but some pre-made tare products might contain soy sauce or other ingredients with gluten. It's essential to check all product labels when making your own gluten-free version if you have dietary restrictions.
Store your miso ramen tare in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Properly stored, it can last up to a month.
Yes! Portion the paste mixture into smaller containers or an ice cube tray so you have individual portions ready to defrost and use, as needed.