Shio and Shoyu ramen are probably two of the most identifiable ramen styles in the world. Both are incredibly delicious, but they are definitely different dining experiences.
Packed with flavor, Shio and Shoyu ramen broth are some of the most popular styles available in both ramen shops and instant noodle packages today.
This article is meant to explain the overall differences between the two styles and help you better understand which you might like better!
Shio vs. Shoyu Ramen: A tale of two delicious noodle bowls!
Ramen has a long and storied history; it also has about as many flavor combinations as there are stars in the sky, with new ones being created every day.
Everyone agrees that a variety of ramen flavors is a fantastic thing. There seem always to be 2 to 3 flavors that dominate in any good ramen joint, and Shio or Shoyu ramen are usually on that list.
While Shio and Shoyu style ramen soup might not appear that different to the casual ramen fan, for a true noodle addict, the differences are very evident. Both are delicious, filling bowls of noodles and broth, but the flavor profile where these two styles diverge.
How is Ramen even made?
Outside of the noodle itself, restaurant ramen is made from a fortified broth usually flavored with bonito or dried fish flakes that can be flavored in any number of different ways.
There are certainly ramen styles that deviate from this template, like tsukemen or dipping style noodles, but for the most part, ramen is a broth-based noodle dish with roasted meats and other toppings.
Because the base for ramen is so similar style to style, the flavorings, components, and garnishes become incredibly important to the flavor profile.
Additions like miso, salt, soy sauce, or kimchi seasoning can change the entire profile or your ramen experience; especially the underlying broth is made from ingredients that emphasize that flavor.
What is Shio Ramen?
Shio ramen is one of the most common and classic forms of ramen noodle soup.
At its core, Shio ramen is simply a clear broth ramen soup, heavily seasoned with salt, which is what Shio means in Japanese.
Shio Ramen broth can be made from any number of proteins or ingredients, from roasted chicken to pork tonkotsu ramen, or fish and vegetable bases, but the common denominator is always salt.
Unlike heavier or darker flavored broths, Shio ramen is usually lighter and brighter, with more delicate flavors. Perfect for a light meal or as a blank palate for your own additions, shio ramen is a classic ramen shop flavor.
If your looking for good examples of Shio instant ramen, classic styles like Sapporo noodles are probably the best example. While some may say that Shio ramen isn't interesting enough, sometimes a bright, clear broth with just a touch of salt is just what you need in your life.
What is Shoyu Ramen?
Shoyu ramen, like shio ramen, is a more classic or traditional ramen broth, and it is by far the most common ramen style you'll see in ramen shops or stands today.
Made from a rich, bonito flavored broth and spiked with a touch of dark soy sauce, this hyper addictive broth is packed with umami flavor. Shoyu means soy sauce in Japanese, and that is where this ramen style gets its name.
Because of the soy sauce addition, you'll most often find Shoyu ramen made from richer proteins and soup ingredients. Ramen Chefs from all around the world love the simplicity and classic flavor of this ramen because it's hearty while still light in flavor.
One of the most classic Shoyu styles is Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen. Made from rich roasted pork bones with bonito and topped with perfectly roasted chashu as well as a soft-boiled egg, Tonkotsu broth ramen is definitely a gold standard for many ramen enthusiasts.
The combination of the rich roasted pork broth, the natural umami from the bonito, and the heavily roasted flavors of dark soy sauce, Shoyu Tonkotsu ramen, reaches a level of umami that can leave you breathless as you dive in for your next bite.
While meat-based ramen noodles and shoyu broth are an absolutely classic combination, Shoyu also works perfectly with heartier vegetable flavors like rich mushroom broths. The natural umami qualities of mushrooms, dried and fresh, perfectly complement the deep, dark soy sauce flavor or shoyu ramen.
Shoyu Instant Ramen Noodles aren't quite as common as the Shio style, but they are definitely available. The Vegetarian Soy Sauce Ramen from Mike's Mighty Good Craft Ramen is truly one of the best examples of a quality vegan version of Shoyu ramen in an instant cup style ramen package.
Salt vs. Soy Sauce and the effect on flavor.
Salt and Soy Sauce both add a ton of flavor to ramen broth, but they do so in different ways.
Salt is a much purer flavor and is actually one of the 5 (or 6 depending on who you talk to) primary taste senses. Table salt is a very simple molecule that adds salinity to food, improving and increasing flavor.
For many Chefs, Salt isn't a spice but a seasoning that improves or increases flavor rather than adding additional flavor to a dish.
When you add salt to Shio broth, you increase the already intense flavors of the flavor-packed bonito stock. Shio ramen is excellent for broths with delicate flavors that you want to improve or increase because the salt sets the flavor rather than masking it.
Shoyu ramen is definitely intended to build to a new flavor level rather than solely improving upon the already incredible flavor of the ramen broth.
Soy sauce adds salt to any ramen broth, but it also introduces the deep, unique flavors that come from long, long soybean fermentation. Like miso ramen, Shoyu ramen broth is packed with a unique flavor all its own beyond the base flavors of the stock's ingredients.
Other types of delicious ramen noodles
Beyond these two incredible styles of ramen broth, there is a world of different types, both instant and fresh, to choose from. Whether you're looking for something spicy, packed with roasted garlic flavor, or a unique blend of miso paste and traditional ramen flavors, there is absolutely a new flavor out there for you.
Made from a unique fermented soybean paste called miso, there are so many variations on this flavor it's hard to keep track of them all.
While miso isn't a super familiar flavor in most everyday dishes, there are as many different styles of miso as there are types of cheese in the world, and this means you can find a perfect blend for you.
Whether you're adding miso to your own ramen noodles or starting with an incredible miso instant ramen noodles like the Savory Miso Ramen from Mike's Mighty Good Craft Ramen, you're in for a treat.
Kimchi is a traditional Korean spicy cabbage pickle beloved worldwide, but when you combine that flavor with ramen noodles, you create an absolutely insane combination.
Kimchi seasoning can be added to the broth as a finishing ingredient to add just a touch of kimchi flavor to your broth. Alternatively, you can drop a few spoonfuls of fresh kimchi into your noodle soup to add more texture and body.
If you're looking for a great pack of instant ramen with a ton of kimchi flavor, the Vegetarian Kimchi Ramen from Mike's Mighty Good is a great place to start. Packed with kimchi flavor and a ton of spice, you'll enjoy sweating through every bite.
Chicken and Roasted Garlic.
Chicken and garlic ramen is a pretty stark departure from some of the more classic flavor combinations, but it makes a ton of sense from a flavor standpoint.
Garlic and chicken make an incredible combination. When you add the umami from ramen broth to the mixture and punch it into the stratosphere with a bowlful of perfectly cooked noodles, you get a chicken noodle soup that's close to a religious experience.
Unique chicken-flavored instant ramen noodles are becoming far more popular, but one of the tastiest styles options around is the Fried Garlic Chicken Ramen from Mike's Mighty Good Craft Ramen.
Which Ramen Reigns Supreme?
At the end of the day, whichever ramen you prefer is the right ramen for you.
While you can spend days debating the different qualities of the two, what it boils down to is really, which style do you like best.
Shio ramen is perfect for a light, flavorful bowl of ramen noodles. The salt improves upon the already incredible flavors in the broth without masking or obscuring the flavor.
Shoyu ramen is the perfect example of the synergy between flavors. By adding shoyu to the ramen broth, the deep, rich flavor of the soy sauce combines with the base flavors of the ramen stock to create something wholly new and incredible.
Both of these styles of ramen have a time and a place, and that is whenever you are hungry and ready for a delicious bowl of ramen noodle soup. Whichever type you choose, both Shoyu and Shio Ramen are sure to please.