Midwest Ramen

Time to ditch the seasoning packet. The dorm room essential is graduating to more sophisticated dishes—especially in the Midwest.

Ramen is a regional cuisine, so recipes vary depending on where the order is placed. It’s not about staying authentic to the traditional Japanese dish, but rather infusing the basics with local style and flavor.

The Midwest’s ramen scene has grown rapidly in the last year, with new shops opening in Chicago, Des Moines, and the Twin Cities. Nebraska even hosts the annual Omaha Ramen Fest. No matter the location, though, two ingredients remain constant.

“Ramen—in its simplest form—is broth and noodles,” says Abbey-Jo Eans, co-owner of Columbus Park Ramen Shop in Kansas City, Missouri. “Then it has different garnishes based on where you’re from or what you have in your region.”

Columbus Park Ramen Shop is Kansas City’s first ramen restaurant and relies on local farmers to define their Midwest-inspired recipes. Pork jowel marinates for hours to create a smoky, bacon-flavored broth. Fresh eggs, Amish chicken, and seasonal veggies add color and zest to each bowl of whole-wheat noodles.

Each concoction reflects its regional roots. For most chefs, ramen has become a creative outlet.

“Sometimes we’re too stuck on, ‘Oh, this isn’t the way it should be,’” Eans says. “But food is an expression of the person who is making it, so I don’t see any limits to ramen.”

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