What is tare anyway?
In terms of ramen, tare refers to the seasoning of the soup, where you salty, miso, sweet or spicy flavours often come from. In terms of shio (salt) or shoyu (soy) ramen, it’s main ingredient and flavour is right there in the name. But surely it’s not just a load of salt or soy sauce dumped in the bowl to give it the added flavour?
Absolutely right. As it is a seasoning, and there are no rules, you can really put whatever you want into your tare. Ivan Orkin puts apple in his, making it like a sofrito. David Chang uses chicken backs, giving a meatier, umami flavour. Ours? Well… that’s a secret, at least until I write a recipe book!
But honestly, while most tare are a mix of soy sauce, mirin, and sake; the staples of Japanese sauce, anything can and will go in. Walk into any ramen shop, anywhere in the world, and each one will have their own recipe, each a closely guarded secret! Some are so secretive that only the owner knows the recipe, and personally makes it each day.
As David Chang explains in the Momofuku cookbook:
Broths are usually easy to figure out, because there’s always a big pot bubbling away in plain view, with apples or leeks or whatever secret-ish ingredients a shop adds to it, but tare recipes are more mysterious because you rarely see them being made. Some places add dried scallops, others leave out the chicken bones.”
So you see, a tare could be anything you want. In the same way chefs around the rest of the world add herbs and spices into their dishes, the tare in Japan gives the bowl its real flavour, the true essence of the bowl, in its most subtle way.