Difference between ramen and saimin – learn how to identify the two

If you love noodles, you’ve most likely eaten ramen and saimin – and with gusto at that! 

But when you’ve seen these two for the first time, before you took your first slurp, you’ve most likely wondered if they are one and the same.

Disclosure : Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Don’t worry, so you don’t mistake ramen for saimin or vice versa, we will help you distinguish one from the other and discuss their differences in terms of ingredients, preparation, texture, and taste.

Difference between ramen and saimin - learn how to identify the two 1

Ramen and Saimin – where are they from?

All things noodles are from China, with the oldest evidence found from about 4,000 years ago. It spread from China to the rest of the world when bartering and trade routes were opened up.

Chinese immigrants brought the knowledge of making noodles in soupy broth with them and started selling this in Chinatowns in Japan in the late 19th and early 20th century. 

In 1910 Japan opened its first authentic-Japanese ramen shop that served noodles similar to what was popularized by the Chinese. 

It was only in 1947 that the Hakata tonkotsu Ramen was created – and a mistake at that – as chefs accidentally over boiling the broth which resulted in it turning into an awesome milky and white soup. From there, regional variations started turning up, like the miso ramen in Sapporo, Hokkaido. 

Meanwhile, saimin originated in Hawaii and was created in the late 1900s in Hawaii. 

According to local stories, saimin was created in a sugar plantation and drew influence from various Asian cuisine, including Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese, and Chinese. 

As the story goes, saimin came about when workers came together to eat lunch and shared some of the food they brought for lunch. From one of these luncheons, saimin was born. 

Though this story is somewhat questionable to some since these groups are not as friendly towards each other to eat lunch together.  

Difference between ramen and saimin - learn how to identify the two 2

Main differences

Though ramen and saimin are both noodles dishes served in hot broth with toppings, they are entirely different. Besides their places of origin, ramen and saimin have distinct differences. Let’s check them out.


Saimin noodles are made with wheat flour, water, potassium carbonate, and salt, and oftentimes incorporated with eggs. The noodles are somewhat thick, a tad curly, and slightly chewy. The noodles are also notably lighter in color.

Ramen noodles, on the other hand, are made with wheat flour, water, salt, and kansui, which gives the noodles their yellowish color, elasticity, and chewiness. Eggs are not used in the making of ramen noodles. 

The type of ramen determines the size of the noodles; Miso ramen uses thick noodles, while Tonkotsu uses thin ones. 


Saimin is a simple dish that uses shrimp and bonito-base broth that is clear and transparent. Because of the base used, the broth doesn’t have any floating oil, leaving it with a clean and refreshing taste.

Compared to ramen, saimin has a milder flavor.

Meanwhile, ramen uses fish, chicken, or pork for the soup stock, and is flavored with aromatic spices. This gives the ramen broth its thick, milky appearance and umami flavor. It is also the reason why the soup is oily. 

Ramen broth tastes richer and more flavorful. It is also saltier than regular saimin.

Difference between ramen and saimin - learn how to identify the two 3


It’s not just the soup and noodles that look the same – but also the toppings used. But if you look closely, even the toppings are distinct in ramen and saimin.

Both ramen and saimen are served with chashu (roast meat), narutomaki (fish cake), and green onions.

Chasu for saimin is cut in strings or cubes. There are also times when cooks replace chasu with spam. On the other hand, ramen uses thinly sliced chasu while retaining its circular shape.

As for the narutomaki in saimin, it is outlined with a red swirling pattern that goes from the center and extends toward the edges. For ramen, the narutomaki has a pink swirly design that is contained mostly in the mid portion, with the outer edges stark white. 

What’s notable is the missing menma (seasoned bamboo shoots) and ajitama (boiled eggs marinaded in a sauce) from saimin, but are important toppings for ramen. Although you may find some saimin served with egg, it is mostly plainly boiled and does not give additional flavor to the dish. 

You may also notice that Nori (dried edible seaweed) is always present when eating ramen but is only an add-on that you can put in saimin depending on your personal preference.