Is Ramen Chinese or Japanese?

Ramen, a dish that has taken the world by storm, is often the subject of a culinary debate: Is it Chinese or Japanese? This question arises due to the dish’s complex history and its variations across different cultures.

Originating in China, ramen made its way over to Japan after the country opened its ports in 1859. As Japanese people began to patronize Chinese restaurants they developed a taste for the wheat noodles that made the jump over the East China Sea.

From there, the Japanese ran with the wheat noodles, but made a salty, savory broth all their own. Made with up to forty different ingredients, the Japanese broth, or dashi, is what sends waves of warmth and satisfaction through your bones.

The answer might seem straightforward, but it requires a deep dive into the history and evolution of ramen.

To fully understand it, we need to trace back the origins of ramen and how it has evolved in both China and Japan.

But don’t worry, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll explore the origins of ramen, its evolution in both China and Japan, and provide a comprehensive answer to the question, “Is ramen Chinese or Japanese?”

So, if you’re a food enthusiast, a history buff, or just someone who loves a good bowl of ramen, stay tuned. We’ve got the answers you’re looking for.

The Origins of Ramen

Yatai selling ramen beside Naka-gawa, Fukuoka, Japan
Yatai selling ramen beside Naka-gawa, Fukuoka, Japan-Jacklee

Ramen in China

Ramen, known as “lamian” in China, has a long history that dates back to the Han dynasty.

The Chinese version of ramen is typically hand-pulled and served in a beef or mutton broth with various toppings.

The art of noodle pulling is a centuries-old tradition that requires skill and precision.

The noodles are made from a simple dough of wheat flour and water, which is then stretched and folded into strands of noodles.

These noodles are then cooked in a flavorful broth and served with a variety of toppings, such as sliced beef, green onions, and chili oil.

Ramen in Japan

Ramen was introduced to Japan by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century.

It was originally called “shina soba” but was later renamed to “ramen” after World War II.

Unlike the Chinese version, Japanese ramen uses a variety of broths and has many regional variations.

The noodles are typically egg noodles, which are slightly yellow in color and have a firm texture.

The broth can be soy-based (shoyu), salt-based (shio), miso-based, or pork bone-based (tonkotsu), and the toppings can include sliced pork (chashu), green onions, bamboo shoots (menma), and seaweed (nori).

Is Ramen Chinese or Japanese?

The roots of ramen can be traced back to Yokohama’s Chinatown in the early 1900s.

It’s widely accepted among historians that ramen is a dish of Chinese origin, and was introduced to Japan by Chinese immigrants residing in Yokohama during the late 19th century.

Over time, this Chinese import has evolved and has been wholeheartedly embraced by Japan, becoming one of the country's most cherished dishes in recent decades.

This adoption has sparked an intense competition among ramen shops across the nation, each vying to serve the best bowl of this beloved noodle dish.

In the next section, we’ll dive into how ramen has evolved in both China and Japan over the years.

The Evolution of Ramen

How Ramen Changed in China?

Over the centuries, Chinese ramen has evolved with the times.

While hand-pulled noodles remain popular, many variations of ramen have been developed in different regions of China.

For instance, in the northern regions, you’ll find “lamian” served in a hearty beef or mutton broth, while in Sichuan, “dandan noodles” are served with a spicy, numbing sauce.

In Shanghai, “scallion oil noodles” are a local favorite, featuring noodles tossed in a fragrant scallion and soy sauce mixture.

These regional variations showcase the diversity and adaptability of ramen in Chinese cuisine.

How Ramen Evolved in Japan?

In Japan, ramen has undergone significant changes over the years. From the simple “shina soba” of the Meiji era to the diverse types of ramen found in Japan today, ramen has become a staple of Japanese cuisine.

Each region in Japan has its own unique style of ramen, from the rich, creamy tonkotsu ramen of Kyushu to the soy-based ramen of Tokyo and the miso ramen of Hokkaido.

The evolution of ramen in Japan reflects the country’s culinary creativity and regional diversity.

In the next section, we’ll explore the state of ramen in modern China and contemporary Japan.

Ramen Today

Ramen in Modern China:

Today, ramen continues to be a popular dish in China. From the Lanzhou-style ramen of the northwest to the spicy dandan noodles of Sichuan, ramen remains an integral part of China’s culinary landscape.

Modern innovations have also led to new variations of ramen.

For instance, some restaurants now offer “crossing the bridge noodles,” a Yunnan specialty where hot broth is served with separate ingredients that you add to the soup yourself.

Despite these changes, the essence of Chinese ramen remains the same: a comforting bowl of noodles served in a flavorful broth.

Ramen in Contemporary Japan:

In Japan, ramen is more than just a dish—it’s a culture.

With thousands of ramen shops and various regional styles, ramen has truly become a symbol of Japanese food culture.

Today, you can find everything from traditional ramen shops that have been around for decades to modern ramen restaurants experimenting with new flavors and ingredients.

There are even ramen museums where you can learn about the history of ramen and try different styles of ramen from all over Japan.

Final Thoughts: Is Ramen Chinese or Japanese?

The answer is both, Ramen has its roots in China but has been fully embraced and reinvented by the Japanese according to Japan Quarterly.

Today, it continues to be loved by people in both countries and around the world.

In China, ramen, or “lamian,” remains a staple food, with regional variations reflecting the country’s diverse culinary traditions.

From the hearty beef noodles of the north to the spicy dandan noodles of Sichuan, Chinese ramen offers a rich tapestry of flavors and textures.

In Japan, ramen has evolved into a cultural phenomenon. From the tonkotsu ramen of Kyushu to the miso ramen of Hokkaido, Japanese ramen showcases the country’s culinary creativity and regional diversity.

Today, ramen is not just a dish in Japan—it’s a way of life.

In the end, whether you're slurping down a bowl of lamian in a bustling Chinese night market or enjoying a bowl of tonkotsu ramen in a cozy Japanese ramen shop, one thing is clear: ramen, in all its forms, is a delicious testament to the power of culinary exchange and evolution.


I am Jennifer, a fervent animal lover, and a dedicated vegan. Am the person behind the I offer insights, advice, and personal stories that have inspired many in their journey towards a plant-based lifestyle. My journey into veganism has also been coupled with a love for writing. I used this passion to share my vegan experiences, to educate others about the benefits of plant-based living, and to advocate for animal rights. Find out more about me on the about page.