If you've been pining for a vegetarian ramen that's full of heft and deep, savory flavor, look no further. This is it. The longer you steep the dried shiitakes, the deeper the flavor will be -- so if you can spare 10 minutes in the morning or the night before, it's worth starting the recipe then. If not, you can make it all at once, and it will still be delicious. The only real trick to ramen is that there are a lot of moving parts at the very end. Enlist a helper to assemble the bowls, or just shake it like a boss for five minutes before serving. It's fun and totally worth it. Nice big, wide bowls work well for ramen. I'm a fan of these and these.
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.
* I use and HIGHLY recommend (with no sponsorship of any kind) the delicious fresh ramen noodles from Sun Noodle. See post text for more info.