Spelt Ramen Noodle Recipe

Japanese people often complain of indigestion after eating ramen noodles. I’ll explain why in a bit, but in this post you will discover an original homemade ramen noodles, which are kind to your stomach and the environment. In the next post you can also find a climate-smart vegan ramen noodle broth recipe.

Whenever I travel back to Japan my sisters and I go to a particular tonkotsu ramen noodle restaurant in Yokohama. The restaurant used to rate their own soup from 1 to 6 each day (6 being the best soup ever). It was such a thrill to eat there on days when they rated themselves 6!

However those days are in the past as my son is now severely allergic to sesame seeds. Japanese ramen almost always includes sesame oil and/or sesame seeds.

While trying to come up with a recipe for home-made ramen noodles and after much trial and error I have finally created a perfect ramen noodle recipe! On trick is to use bicarbonate of soda instead of kansui (lye water) and I explain why below. Before doing that, it’s important to know what to expect in regular ramen noodles.

Kansui (Lye) water

Japanese ramen noodles are a descendant of Chinese noodles and are made of wheat flour (often a combination of plain and strong flour) with strong alkaline water called kansui (or lye water). 

Kansui is an aqueous solution of sodium carbonate and often in combination with potassium carbonate. It is a strong alkaline solution that is not only used for cooking but also for soap making and cleaning agents.

Undiluted solution is highly corrosive and in noodle-making only a small amount is used and diluted. It is colourless and even though it clearly states not to be ingested it is definitely something you don’t want to be within reach of young hands.

When you use a small quantity of kansui in the noodle-making it provides the noodle it’s unique texture, colour (yellow) and flavour.

Reason for not using kansui for ramen noodle making

In Japan, you can easily buy kansui with varying levels of strength for ramen noodle making. Here in the UK you can buy pharmaceutical-grade sodium and potassium carbonate powders that you could potentially dissolve in water to make your own kansui. However, as they are a strong alkali it is not something that you want to keep at home especially if you have children or pets.

Sodium carbonate can be produced from sodium bicarbonate (or bicarbonate of soda) by applying heat (usually baking it in the oven) to make sodium carbonate. During this process, water and carbon dioxide is released. Although this is a small amount, the CO2 released through this process is environmentally unnecessary especially if there is a good alternative.

Even though only a small quantity is used, the noodle contains a strong alkaline. This means that when you eat the ramen noodle, your stomach needs to work harder than usual to produce more acid to neutralise the alkali and this can result in indigestion for some people.

Sodium bicarbonate as kansui alternative

Sodium bicarbonate is readily available and frequently used for baking and weak alkaline (pH 8.4) than sodium carbonate (pH 11.6) and is hence safer to use. I have made ramen noodles using both sodium bicarbonate as well as stronger sodium carbonate.

The differences in flavour and texture are very marginal and I actually prefer the taste of using milder sodium bicarbonate. Many Japanese home-cooking recipes just use sodium bicarbonate (bicarbonate of soda) and given such a small difference I agree that for the health and safety reasons outlined above, using kansui is unnecessary to make homemade ramen noodles.

Spelt to diversify calorie and protein in your diet

I have been mixing spelt for most of my cooking and I absolutely love it. Spelt is an ancient grain that has not been hybridised (grain is bred to another grain variety) or chemically altered. With its strong outer shells, it is much more resistant to pests and diseases hence less need of fertilisers and pesticides which is a major cause of transgressing one of the nine planetary boundaries (nitrogen and phosphorus flows to the biosphere and oceans). As explained in my Purple Potato Loaf post, I love using spelt flour as a way to diversify calorie and protein intake in our diet to help agrodiversity and reduce monoculture (growing just a single type of crop over a vast area).

I hope you enjoy this home-made ramen noodle recipe – minus the indigestion!

Ingredients (for 5-6 people)

Requires pasta making machine (I use Marcato Atlas 500)

500g organic white slept flour (from Sharpham Park)

200g water (you would probably need to only use 200g but see method below)

5g bicarbonate of soda

5g salt

Potato  starch to dust


Making the dough

Mix water, bicarbonate of soda and salt and make sure they are all dissolved.

Make a small well in the middle of the spelt flour and pour about 80% of the liquid (about 200g). This is because the softness of the dough changes due to the weather and temperature so you can adjust the dough firmness easily by adding less water first.

Mix well as if you are making a pastry dough using your fingers to rub and mix. It will be very dry and crumbly.

When you squeeze the dough with your palm, it should stick but you should still see dry flour around it. If not, add more liquid.

Gather the dough around as much as possible and place it in a strong plastic bag.

Knead with your feet! (squash the dough with your feet/heel as much as possible to flatten). When the dough is flattened, fold in two and keep on kneading until the dough is nice and smooth. It will take a while probably 5-10 rounds of kneading).

Rest the dough for at least 1 hour.

Cut the dough in 5-6 equal portions. Leave one of them and put the rest in the plastic bag to prevent from drying.

Roll out the dough

Because the dough is very hard, it is important to flatten the dough with your hands or rolling pin for it to go through the pasta machine without damaging it.spelt_ramen_3The dough will be put through the machine several times between dial 0 to 3 back and forth to make the dough neat and smooth first:

  1. Set the pasta machine to zero. Put the dough through the machine.
  2. Set the pasta machine to 1. Put the dough through the machine.
  3. Fold the dough in three like a letter. spelt_ramen_4
  4. Repeat 1 & 2.
  5. Set the pasta machine to 2. Put the dough through the machine.
  6. Fold the dough in three like a letter.
  7. Repeat 4 & 5.
  8. Set the pasta machine to 3. Put the dough through the machine.
  9. Fold the dough in three like a letter.
  10. Cut both edges (the rough side) of the dough, and put the trimming inside of the folded dough. Using a rolling pin flatten the dough a bit.spelt_ramen_7spelt_ramen_8spelt_ramen_9
  11. Set the pasta machine back to zero. Put the dough through the machine.

Keep putting the dough through the machine gradually up to dial 7. The dough is ready to be cut.

Cut the dough

Dust with potato starch (if you don’t have it, just use spelt flour).

Cut the dough sheet through the tagliolini cutter.

Scoop up the cut noodle before cutting all the sheet then dust with potato starch.

Twist the noodles and place in a tray (or even better a container with a lid) dusted with potato starch.

Cover and leave the noodle in the fridge. Best eaten on day 2-4, and eat within 4 days.

I usually freeze my noodles on day 2.

Boiling the noodle

The fresh noodle really doesn’t need to be cooked too long. Boil the water in the pan like you boil pasta. If fresh noodle then it only needs to be cooked for no more than 30 seconds especially as these noodles are thin. If frozen, put the noodle straight into boiling water and cook no more than 60 seconds.

Drain the noodle, run under cold water and thoroughly cool to prevent further cooking. Shake the excess water. In order to avoid soup being diluted, I usually make sure there is absolutely no excess water by placing the noodle on a clean tea towel.

Place the noodle in a bowl and pour boiling hot noodle broth. Add any topping of your choice. Do please check out my vegan ramen noodle broth recipe. They go so well together.

Slurp away!