ramen sans niku

A vegetarian version of the classic Japanese dish, described above using multiple languages.

Core ingredients:

2 cups of vegetable broth or water + 1 bouillon cube

3 cups water

16 oz sliced shitake or assorted mushrooms

2 tsp chili-garlic paste

2 tsp minced garlic

2 tsp minced ginger

2 packets ramen noodles

1 tsp miso paste or 1 packet miso soup mix

1 bunch bok choy or 3 – 4 bunches baby bok choy

2 cups spinach

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

16 oz firm or extra firm tofu

2 eggs

Optional ingredients:

Shredded or julienned carrots

Bean sprouts

Green onions, sliced

Directions:

  1. Slice mushrooms, if not already sliced. Heat 1 tbsp sesame oil for 2 minutes over medium high heat in a large pot. Add mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes.
  2. Add minced garlic and minced ginger, then continue to sauté for 1 minute.
  3. Add chili-garlic paste and coat mixture with it.
  4. Add water and broth, bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a medium-low simmer and cover. Keep covering whenever you are simmering throughout the rest of the directions.
  5. Add butter, spinach, soy sauce, and vinegar. Continue to simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. While broth is simmering, start boiling water for eggs.
  7. While simmering, unpack tofu and cut into 1/2″ cubes. Pad dry with a paper towel. Remove 1 ramen seasoning packet and sprinkle 1/2 or the entire packet over the tofu.
  8. Heat remaining sesame oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add tofu and let fry for 2 – 3 minutes. Gently shake the pan to cause tofu to rotate, or carefully flip tofu with a wooden or plastic utensil. Heat for an additional 2 – 3 minutes, then add to simmering broth.
  9. Allow broth to simmer for an additional 1 – 2 minutes with tofu added.
  10. Taste the mixture. If you want overall more flavor, add the additional ramen packet. If you need salt or umami, add soy sauce. If you need acidity, add vinegar. If you want a more succulent broth, add more butter.
  11. Continue to simmer for 1 – 2 minutes with any modifications made to the flavor.
  12. Add eggs to boiling water that you started earlier by placing them on a slotted spoon and slowly lowering into the water. Do not plop into the water, as the eggs can hit the bottom of the pan and crack. Set a timer for exactly six and a half minutes. Prepare a bowl of ice water and leave to the side.
  13. With the noodles still in the packet, gently crush the noodles into 1/2″ pieces. Add the noodles to the broth and allow to cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. The noodles will cook fast if the broth is hot.
  14. Remove ramen from heat and let sit to cool slightly, if desired.
  15. Once the timer has gone off for your eggs, remove them using the slotted spoon and place into the ice water bath. Let sit for 2 minutes, then tap the bottom of the eggs against a hard surface to crack. Carefully peel the boiled eggs. Remember, the centers will be gooey.
  16. Serve ramen in a bowl, then carefully slice an egg in half and place one or both halves into the bowl. Top with any of the optional ingredients.

The good stuff:

Tonkatsu Ramen broth is possibly the most perfect balance of flavor and texture in a soup. It’s thickness, creaminess, and depth of flavor makes it the perfect candidate to throw basically anything you desire into it and have a beautifully composed dish.

Making a vegetarian version of it is often a challenge, so the recipe above focuses primarily on getting the broth right and nailing the flavor and texture.

This isn’t a presentation forward dish, so as much as you may want to lay your ingredients in little compartments on top of your noodles for your own instagram money shot, you’re going to end up mixing it together anyways.

That probably tastes terrible.

In this recipe, we mix everything up front so you can balance the flavor and texture before you serve the dish.

Most of the flavor ingredients are probably familiar to you if you’ve delved in Asian cooking before: garlic, ginger, soy (sauce and miso), sesame, vinegar, and of course, ramen seasoning packets. Avoid the latter if you can, except for the sprinkle on the tofu for a little reminiscent flavor.

A perfect broth should be savory, filled with umami, and have a touch of sour acidity from the vinegar. To complement the flavor, adding butter will deliver the thick, creamy textural component that tonkatsu broths have and most vegetarian broths lack. The guidelines above try to optimize between creaminess and healthiness, but if you want to up the ante, pour some more butter in. You won’t regret it.

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