By: Yukiko Sato
With grey skies and freezing temperatures, winter is a season when we all seek comfort foods. As someone originally from Hokkaido in the northern part of Japan, ramen is one of the foods I enjoyed very much as a kid. I haven’t had it for over 10 years, ever since I made the choice not to eat meat.
With ramen’s deep ﬂavors mainly coming from bones and meat of animals, is vegan ramen possible? I have experimented and came up with something that I’m pleased with. I hope you will like it too.
The chewy texture of the eggy ramen noodles is emulated by using spaghetti with baking soda added to the cooking water. (If you’re interested in the science behind how this works, check out this post by Serious Eats.)
The key to good ramen is to prepare good-quality umami-rich broth. I make my own stock using vegetable scraps but you can certainly use the ready-made version from the store. Just watch out for the sodium content and adjust the amount of soy sauce you add when preparing the soup. Also, don’t leave out the white pepper! Just a few pinches gives the soup a pleasantly spicy note.
Miso is a fermented soybean paste that contains beneﬁcial bacteria. Along with soy sauce, it adds umami ﬂavor to the soup.
2 tsp minced ginger
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBS toasted sesame oil
4 cups vegetable broth
2 TBS ground sesame seeds
1-2 TBS soy sauce
1 TBS dark miso (barley or brown rice miso) pinches of ground white pepper
1/2 lb spaghetti (or angel hair pasta)
2 TBS baking soda
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced in half-moons
2 cups mung bean sprouts
1/2 carrot, sliced into matchsticks
2-4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
Salt and pepper
1. To prepare the soup, sauté ginger and garlic in toasted sesame oil in a soup pot. Cook until fragrant, and then add vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, add ground sesame seeds and season with soy sauce, dark miso (mixed with some of the broth from the pot to ensure no lumps remain) and white pepper. Keep it simmering (do not boil!) so the soup stays warm until ready to serve.
2. To prepare the noodles, bring a big pot of water to boil. Make sure the pot is big enough as adding baking soda can make the boiling water ﬁzz up. Add baking soda and salt, then add the spaghetti. Cook as directed on the package, stirring often and keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t bubble over. Drain but do not rinse.
3. To prepare the topping, sauté onion in oil until translucent. Add bean sprouts, carrots and shiitake mushrooms, and cook for a few minutes. Stir in scallions and season with salt and pepper.
4. Place the cooked noodles into two bowls and pour the soup over them. Add the toppings. Optional pan fried tofu slices make a good complement that replaces chashu pork. Enjoy while hot!
Yukiko Sato is a foodie specializing in vegan and macrobiotic foods. Interested in the relationship between health and food, she created the Berkshire Vegan blog in which she shares her many delicious creations. She is also the author of The Peaceful Dessert Book.