Romen is a type of local noodles which is from Ina city, Nagano prefecture. The ingredients usually used are meat such as mutton, vegetables such as cabbage, and cloud ear mushroom. Sometimes ramen soup are added to the noodles, but romen is a unique noodles which is not similar to simply boiled ramen or yakisoba fried noodles.
Romen uses thick Chinese noodles with low water content, made from flour, lye water, and vitamin B2 used as food coloring. The noodles used are mostly made by Ina city’s local company called Hattori noodle-making factory. Noodles steamed at the factory has darker brown color compared to noodles generally sold for making yakisoba, and is more tough.
Romen was created around 1955, by a restaurant called Manri in Ina city, and there is a monument that commemorates the birthplace of romen near that place. Back in 1955, refrigerators were rarely used at home or even at restaurants, and it was hard to keep foodstuff fresh.
The first owner of the restaurant Manri, who was Waichi Ito, consulted the owner of the Hattori noodle-making factory, Yukio Hattori, about keeping noodles to last fresh for a longer time. They decided to steam and dry the noodles, and as a result, the texture of noodles became stiff, and gave a unique flavour.
Waichi created a dish using this noodles, mutton meat, and cabbage, simmered with soy sauce based soup, which became romen. The reason why he used mutton was because the Ina area raised sheep to shear them, and mutton was cheap to get. Cabbage was also easy to get because it was a noted product in the area. Romen was first called charomen, but the word “cha” was abbreviated, and started to be called romen.