What Is Shoyu Ramen? Ingredients, History, & An Easy Recipe

bowl of shoyu ramen and Nona Lim noodle pack

Shoyu ramen is a ramen dish with a broth made of soy sauce. Shoyu means soy sauce in Japanese. It has high umami flavors along with a tangy strong taste too. Shoyu ramen is also known for its sprint noodles and array of toppings. 

Shoyu is good for the soul. As one of the mainstay styles of ramen, Shoyu takes its name from the tare (seasoning) that gives it that base layer of flavor. As mentioned, the word Shoyu means soy sauce in Japanese and soy sauce is one of the stars of the show in this dish. Soy is used to flavor the ramen broth and this gives the broth a deep, complex, and highly umami flavor. Shoyu broth is beautifully comforting. It’s often a clear brown color and isn’t as heavy as tonkatsu or as dark as miso, but does have more depth to it than Shio ramen. 

Shoyu ramen is often seen in Tokyo. It tends to be made from boiling down chicken or pork bones into a broth. Dried sardines, kelp, and dashi are also added to give the broth a little more depth along with the soy sauce tare seasoning of course. Because Shoyu is such a versatile base, it also serves as the foundation for a whole host of other kinds of ramen dishes too. 

Different types of ramen

There are four main different types of ramen; Miso, Tonkotsu, Shio, and Shoyu. This mainly refers to the tare that has been used to season and bring flavor to the ramen broth. While all ramen will have a broth that is usually made from chicken or pork bones, dashi or seafood, the addition of the tare will be what sets the ramen apart and which kind of flavors will be more predominant in the dish. While foundationally there are four different kinds of ramen, these are just the building blocks and there can be a ton of regional varieties under each of these banners. Here are the four main types of ramen you can find…

Miso ramen - Miso ramen is made from fermented soybean paste. This kind of ramen has a thick, deep and complex flavor profile and because of its bold taste is a cold-weather favorite. It kickstarted life in Hokkaido where the harsh winters created the need for cozying up with a bowl of hearty ramen. 

Tonkotsu ramen - The creamiest and richest variety of ramen. Tonkotsu broth is made from boiling pork bones for hours and hours until all the meat and gelatin and goodness simply melts right off. The bones dissolve into a pale colored cloudy broth that is often further enriched with pork fat and chicken broth. 

Shio ramen - Shio ramen comes from Chinese-style noodle soups. This is the oldest kind of ramen and is popular in Hakodate, a southern city in the Hokkaido prefecture. Shio means salt and it's one of the mainstay seasonings of this dish. Shio ramen tends to be lighter and clearer than the other kinds of ramen and is made from chicken broth. It can also be enriched with other kinds of meat like pork.

Shoyu ramen - Then we come to Shoyu ramen. As we’ve been talking about, Shoyu means soy sauce and this kind of ramen celebrates the salty, dark, and umami-rich tang of soy sauce. 

If you want to know more about the different kinds of ramen out there, you can check out our guide to the main kinds of ramen and their regional varieties right here. 

The ramen noodles for Shoyu

bowl of nona lim tokyo ramen noodles

Check out our Tokyo Ramen Noodles

The key to any incredible bowl of ramen is getting the right noodles. Ramen noodles can be an absolute game-changer between feeling like you are slurping down the real deal and having a sub-par experience. We always say go for fresh ramen noodles over the dried kind. Traditional ramen noodles are long and springy, but they can also be straight or wavy, thin or thick. The kind of ramen noodles used in the Shoyu version is usually the curly kind. You want to serve these up al dente rather than overcooking them as mushy noodles are no fun. 

Shoyu Broth

Shoyu broth is a beautiful thing. The tare (seasoning) of the soy sauce is what truly defines a bowl of Shoyu but there are other moving parts that go into the broth and make it what it is. Usually, a Shoyu broth will be crafted from boiling down pork bones and chicken bones for hours. Of course, most people don’t have time to linger over a boiling pan of bones for hours so there are some shortcuts. Chicken broth, dashi, and other seasonings like ginger and garlic along with dried sardines and kombu (seaweed) can all bring that much-needed layering and complex flavoring to your Shoyu dish.


bowl of ramen and beer

The fun part of any ramen building dish is always the colorful condiments, the gorgeous garnish, and the wild array of textures and tastes you can weave in. Each kind of ramen has its own signature toppings, but of course, you can always go off-piste and pick whatever toppings suit your appetite. Some of the most popular toppings for Shoyu ramen are etched out below…

Soft-boiled eggs: Boiled eggs marinated in soy sauce, sliced in half and placed on top will give your ramen dish a golden glow.

Chili oil: For those who love to turn up the heat on their ramen dishes, a drizzle of chili oil will simmer some heat into your Shoyu.

Bean sprouts: Crunchy and extremely satisfying, stir-fry some bean sprouts and add them to your ramen broth for extra texture. 

Sesame seeds: The sweet, nutty and almost almond-like flavor of sesame seeds can lift your Shoyu right up. They also deliver a slight crunch and crackle too which is highly satisfying. If you don’t want to scatter fresh sesame seeds, then a light glug of sesame oil will give your dish a dreamy sheen.

Shiitake mushrooms: Shiitake mushrooms are awesome when added in dry form for any soup base and are often used in dashi stock. Shoyu is no exception. Layers of savory umami and a meaty buttery texture make these shrooms an excellent protein-rich addition to your bowl.

Bok choy: Beautiful bok choy is one of our favorite toppings for any kind of ramen broth. Bok choy can be quartered and the leafy cabbage-like plant flash-fried or stir-fried and served on top.

Nori/kelp: Nori refers to sheets of dried seaweed which can be crumbled, stripped, or placed whole onto your bowl of ramen. Nori brings a saltwater tang like taste to your Shoyu and adds to the umami flavor notes. 

Bamboo shoots: Bamboo shoots are another popular topping for Shoyu ramen.

Fish cake: Narutomaki is a style of Japanese fish cake that can be cut into slices and added to your Shoyu ramen. It’s made from a white fish paste that is rolled into a log and then steamed and sliced. Narutomaki has a pink swirl in it that comes from red food dye for aesthetic appeal.

Chashu: Chashu refers to the pork belly or loin that is simmered in mirin and soy sauce until totally tender. Chashu is usually added to Shoyu ramen in slices and the fatty hot pork taste matches the salty soy sauce beautifully. 

Menma: Menma refers to bamboo shoots that have been fermented. They have a sweet, sour, and satisfying crunch when it comes to flavor and texture.  

Green onions: Scallions are a go-to for any kind of ramen and definitely make for a good addition to Shoyu ramen. The earthiness and the sweeter side of the onion taste add another layer to the dish. 

Bonito flakes: Smoky and savory with just a hint of salty brined fish simmering beneath the surface, a handful of bonito flakes goes a long way when it comes to Shoyu ramen. 

Shoyu Ramen Recipe

If you want to make Shoyu ramen at home we have a couple of awesome recipes for you to try out. For those who want a simple fuss-free Shoyu recipe, you can check this video out.