Let’s Ask the Chef About Ramen! Part 2 : What is Kansui, the special ingredient that determines the noodle’s firmness?

This staff blog is the part 2 of the “Ramen Chef Explains!” series, which Keizo Shimamoto explains how noodles are made. Together with the third part, we will introduce the depth of noodle making in two sections.

Keizo Shimamoto

Inventor of Ramen Burger and founder of Ramen Shack. Influenced by a burger using chashu he encountered while training in Japan, he invented the Ramen Burger in the United States, which was a huge success. He knows ramen thoroughly and is passionate about making ramen. A self-admitted and renowned ramen freak.


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Noodle starts with two types of ingredients

A ramen noodle starts with two types of ingredients: Dry and Wet. Dry consists mainly of wheat flour and the Wet consists of water, kansui, and salt. We’ve already mentioned in a previous post that in order to choose the right flour for your noodles, one must look at the protein and ash content. So today, let’s talk about the wet ingredients, which are also known as Hydration or Kasui (加水).


Hydration is composed of three main elements: water, kansui, and salt. (Raw egg is also used in ramen noodles but it has become more common and safer to use powdered egg as part of the dry ingredients.) While one might add cooking oils, food coloring, preservatives, among other things to the wet ingredients, we will focus mainly on the three elements.


Hydration will vary depending on the regional styles

The typical ramen noodle is around 32~35% hydration but will vary depending on the regional styles. See chart below.


Hydration will factor into several key characteristics of a ramen noodle and is typically measured as a % of dry ingredients. Generally, higher hydration implies chewier noodles and longer boiling times. A Hakata Tonkotsu noodle (24~28%) can be very low in hydration, but it is also a very thin noodle compared to a Tokyo Shoyu noodle (33~36%).


What is Kansui?


Kansui, an alkaline solution (liquid or powder), might be the most important ingredient for ramen noodles. After all, a ramen noodle cannot be a ramen noodle without kansui. A combination of Sodium Carbonate and Potassium Carbonate, kansui can affect a noodle in different ways based on various combinations of these two elements. By using kansui, the one big feature you can get is the firmness of the noodles. Together with salt, kansui will contribute to the tightening of gluten within the noodle flour, giving the noodles a “springiness” unique to ramen. As a result, you get noodles that are chewy and firm in texture when slurped.


Next Blog

This time, we explained the basic mechanism of making noodles, on wet ingredients. In the next blog we will be covering the great impact water, kansui, and salt does on noodles. Our next blog will yet be another evolutionary content on noodle making!

Myojo × Keizo Shimamoto


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