Easy Vegetarian Ramen with Rich, Savory Broth
“Easy ramen” is a funny term for a from-scratch recipe, since there may literally be nothing easier than boiling water in an electric kettle and stirring it into a styrofoam cup to make instant ramen. The problem there, of course, is that the result sucks.
I’ll say right away that this recipe is not as easy as that. But as you can probably tell from the photo, the extra effort is well worth the result. Even compared to other easy vegetarian ramen recipes that you might find on the web, this one takes a little more waiting time and a couple of extra ingredients. But the resulting depth of flavor makes it all unquestionably worthwhile. And in the end, it’s still easy. Promise.
Shiitake mushrooms lay a savory foundation for this dish, which is built upon many layers of umami.
Our vegetarian ramen inspiration
In August, at the tail end of our trip to Alberta and British Columbia, we spent a few terrific days in Vancouver. I have a whole Vancouver post coming up soon, but from a food-lover’s perspective it can be boiled down to just a few words, one of which is RAMEN. Pun totally intended, by the way. Hooray for a big city that situates some of its best cheap food within easy walking distance of a giant seaside park. We ate some wonderful ramen with rich, deeply savory (and totally pork-based) broth at Santouka on Robson Street. Even as we were slurping thousands of miles away, I knew immediately that I wanted to come home and create a vegetarian version that retained as much of the heft and depth of that magic brew as possible. This easy vegetarian ramen recipe is the result of more obsession than you might like to know, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.
How to choose ramen noodles
A word about the noodles: The recipe calls for fresh or dry ramen noodles because I know not everyone has access to incredible fresh noodles. That said, if you can get your hands on them, I hiiiiiiighly recommend the fresh noodles from Sun Noodle, a NJ company that supplies to many of the best ramen shops in NYC and NJ. I get their noodles in the refrigerator section at Whole Foods. (They sell packs with instant broth, too, but I just buy the plain noodles.) I don’t know how widely distributed they are outside this area, but they’re worth asking for. Whole Foods has been known to expand their distribution of local products to additional stores based on customer request. (My sister and I are lookin’ at you, Key Ingredient Market spreads to die for, now available in the greater Boston area.)
Obsession? Yup, I hear it and I don’t care. But I’ll stop now. Enjoy your ramen. See you soon.
- 8 cups good low-sodium vegetable broth (this is my favorite by far)
- 1 ounce dried shiitakes (15-20 mushrooms)
- 1/4 cup low-sodium tamari or other good soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon good butter
- 1 tablespoon white miso paste
- 1 tablespoon mirin (rice wine)
- 10 ounces baby spinach
- 4 eggs
- 10 ounces sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 4 servings fresh or dry ramen noodles*
- One 6-ounce package baked tofu, at room temperature
- 2 to 3 scallions, white and green parts sliced
- Gomasio (sesame salt)
- Toasted sesame oil with hot chili
- Combine the vegetable broth and dried shiitakes in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and remove from heat. Let mushrooms steep for at least 30 minutes, up to 24 hours.
- Remove mushrooms from pot and roughly chop, removing and discarding stems. Add mushrooms to a blender with one cup of the broth and puree until perfectly smooth. Add this mixture back to the stock pot along with the tamari. The broth can sit at this stage until shortly before serving, up to a few days in the fridge if you like.
- In a large frying pan, heat one tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, two minutes more. Add this mixture to the stock pot.
- Bring a large pot of unsalted water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook for about a minute, until just wilted. Remove from pot and set aside.
- Add eggs to pot, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 7 minutes. Remove eggs to an ice bath and carefully peel when cool enough to touch.
- Return water to boil, then add noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain and divide noodles among four large bowls.
- While noodles cook, add the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil to the same frying pan used for the onion and heat over medium-high. Add the sliced shiitakes along with a couple of good pinches of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced in volume and nicely browned in spots, about 10 minutes.
- To assemble the ramen, bring the broth back up to a simmer and then remove from heat. Off the heat, whisk in the butter, miso paste and mirin. Ladle some broth over the noodles in each bowl, just shy of the level of the noodles. Arrange a little pile of spinach and of shiitakes in each bowl. Slice the tofu and arrange a few slices in each bowl. Cut each egg in half and place two halves in each bowl. Sprinkle with scallions, gomasio and a little toasted sesame chili oil, with extra garnishes to pass at the table. Serve with chopsticks and large spoons.