I love Ramen. One of my favorite hobbies is to try all of the vegetarian ramen. San Diego’s Underbelly introduced me to the magic that is this Japanese soup. The Ramen Egg (a soft to medium-boiled egg soaked in soy and mirin) that I had there was also what introduced me to the joy of the runny egg yolk. Yes, I avoided runny eggs of any kind until I was 28 years old.
The broth is the most important part of this dish. Since it doesn’t have meat to add depth and umami, vegetarian ramen broth varies a lot from recipe to recipe and, in my opinion is often not very successful. Every time I make broth, I do it a little differently. This is what I did this time, and I it worked pretty well. (I think I put too much garlic in my broth– which I’ve lowered when writing this recipe-but have not yet tested.)
SHIITAKE AND GARLIC RAMEN BROTH:
- 8 Cups Water
- 1 Medium Onion, chopped
- 1 Large Leek, trimmed and chopped
- 2 Medium Carrots, grated
- 2″ piece of Ginger Root, trimmed and chopped
- 1 oz Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
- 5 Cloves of Garlic, skin on
- 4 Tablespoons Mirin
- 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
- 1/2 Teaspoon Sesame Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Chili Paste
- Olive Oil
In a large pot (I used my dutch oven), heat about two tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot, add the onion and sprinkle with a little salt. Allow the onion to sear without touching, until brown (about five minutes). Mix in the leek, carrots and ginger, and cook for a minute. Then deglaze the pan with the water, scraping the bottom to release any browned onion from the bottom of the pan. Add the dried mushrooms and simmer for about an hour.
Place your garlic cloves in a dry sauté pan over medium-high heat, covered, for a couple of minutes, until the cloves are soft and blackened in spots. Allow to cool, and peel. (Originally, I used a whole head of roasted garlic. I love garlic, but I still feel garlic-y more than 12 hours later….It was too much.)
Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer. Pull the dried mushrooms out, remove their stems and place the caps in a food processor or blender. Use a spoon to squeeze the broth out of the solids remaining in the strainer, and place that broth back in the pot.
Add the garlic and half a cup of the broth to your food processor with the mushroom and blend until smooth. Mix into your broth and season with a 1 teaspoons of salt, the mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil and chili paste. Simmer for five to ten minutes. Taste, and adjust.
Makes about 6 cups of broth.
The noodles are almost as important to ramen as a good broth. These noodles themselves have almost no flavor. But they bring a texture and bulk to the ramen party, as well as acting as a vessel to help hold the delicious broth. I looked to Lucky Peach for the noodles that I made: http://luckypeach.com/recipes/fresh-alkaline-noodes/
The first time I made these, I thought these noodles worked great, but I rolled them down to size 2 on my pasta roller, which I felt was a little too fine. This time, I rolled them down to size 3. I liked the size pasta I had, but I felt like the noodles felt a little slimy in the soup. My husband said he could see what I was saying, but didn’t notice until I mentioned it. I know it’s not traditional, but I might try replacing some of the liquid with an egg next time….
With this pasta, the first roll tends to look pretty janky. Your first four or so rolls are actually finishing the kneading process. Just fold it in half, and run it through the largest setting again. And when it’s holding together, fold it in thirds and run it through the largest setting. Repeat two more times before rolling down to the desired thickness.
Once your sheet of pasta is as thin as you’d like, sprinkle both sides liberally with flour so your pasta doesn’t stick together, and if the sheet is too long, cut in half. Run through the “spaghetti” roller, and voila! Lay on a floured baking sheet to rest for a couple of minutes while you roll out the next batch, and then “nest” your noodles into little batches. When cooking, I would make two of these nests per bowl of soup. They cook so quickly, I like to cook one serving at a time in boiling salted water just until they float, which I can then quickly put into a bowl with my spider. Save cooking these until you are ready to serve.
And then the ramen egg. Possibly my favorite part of ramen. A poached egg works well too, but I really like how the medium-boiled egg holds up to the broth, and doesn’t just dissolve when you break into it. I used the recipe from Just One Cookbook for my egg: http://www.justonecookbook.com/ramen-egg/
I have two notes for this recipe. 1) I always make at least four eggs. Because they are delicious. When I make ramen at home, my husband and I sometimes have two eggs each for dinner. And also, they keep for a few days, so then you have eggs ready for tomorrows lunch. I made six. Just be sure to multiply up your ingredients for the marinade. And 2) I like six minute eggs. The yolks are just a little bit more oozy.
My very favorite vegetable ingredients to put in ramen are asparagus and mushrooms. But you can put in whatever sounds appealing. Crispy marinated tofu, bok choy, carrots, onions, broccoli, roasted garlic cloves, ect. Today, I used asparagus, mushrooms and bamboo shoots.
Prepare a pot of blanching water, and a bowl of ice water. Salt the boiling water liberally. Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the tough bottom, and chopping them to the size you’d like them. I usually go for pieces that are about two inches long. Throw the asparagus into the boiling water for three minutes. Remove and shock in ice water. Once cool, remove and set aside. They will warm up again when they are placed in hot broth.
You can use whatever mushrooms you like. I like to make the trek to Mariano’s so that I can have shiitake, oyster and/or hen of the woods mushrooms. But I often just use crimini and portobello. If you get shiitake, remove the fibrous stems. For all mushrooms, wipe with a damp cloth, and chop. Heat butter in a skillet, and cook mushrooms until browned. The mushrooms will release liquid, and after the liquid evaporates, they will start to brown, and become meaty and golden. Once browned, season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
I just opened the can and threw them in there. But, I never knew just how bland they are on their own. So, I did season them for my leftover bowls of ramen. I sprinkled them with a little sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar (more than I expected) and a pinch or two of chili peppers. I’m not exactly sure on the measurements, I kind of just tasted and adjusted.
At Underbelly, one of the condiments they had on the table was a ghost pepper chili sauce. I never tasted it on it’s own, but I would always put two to four spoons (they were very small spoons) of the stuff in my soup. Waiters would warn new customers that it was very hot, so start with only one spoon and go from there if you wanted. I loved the way it jazzed up the broth. And that I had control over it.
I can’t find ghost peppers in my local super market, so I decided to try making a habanero sauce to serve with my ramen. Since Rick Bayless has a Habanero Hot Sauce recipe, that’s where I turned. The only difference from his recipe is that I let some of the liquid boil off a bit longer, and then I food processed it, so it was more of a chunky condiment than a thin sauce. I’d say it worked pretty well. But also, it made kind of a huge amount, I should have only made a half recipe.
If you don’t want to cook your own, Garlic Chili Sauce makes a fine spicy condiment to serve with ramen.
TO ASSEMBLE SOUP:
- Ramen Noodles
- Veggie Broth
- Vegetables of Choice
- Ramen Egg
- Scallions, chopped
- Sesame Seeds
- Spicy Condiment
Place cooked noodles in bowl. Spoon broth over. Top with vegetables, and ramen egg (whole or sliced in half). Garnish with sliced scallion, and sesame seeds. Serve with Habanero Sauce in case you’d like to add spice to individual bowls.
Sometimes I also use Nori as a garnish. I forgot to this time, but here is a picture of the last time I made ramen. You can also see how different the broth is: this broth didn’t have the blended mushrooms and garlic, and I did use two cups of store bought vegetable broth to replace two cups of water and the salt in this recipe here–which added a little MSG. For me, this is usually a good thing, but today I wanted to see if I could get good flavor without it.