Japanese cuisine has taken the western world by storm for a number of years.
From sushi to Katsu curry, there are so many delicious dishes found in local Japanese restaurants and if you have been lucky enough to visit Japan, you’ve probably tried these first hand.
When it’s cold and wet or we’re attempting to save money by making food at home, it can be easy to make the same old thing. But who is stopping you from making your restaurant favorites at home?!
It might be daunting at first, but making a dish such as a ramen is actually really straightforward.
The great thing about ramen is that it can be completely tailored to your own tastes and you can use whatever you have in the refrigerator.
In this article, learn how to make a quick and delicious vegan ramen in the comfort of your own home.
What Is Ramen?
Ramen is a simple noodle soup that originates from Japan, the iconic richly flavored broth is one of the main characteristics of the dish.
The broth contains noodles, meats, or vegetables and is often topped with a soft-boiled egg.
Traditionally, ramen varies depending on the region of Japan you are in so there is no one particular ramen recipe. Each variation sticks to the main concept of a flavorful broth and noodles.
The roots of the ramen bowl actually come from China, the imported dish came to Japan and has since become one of their most popular dishes.
Ramen is considered to be fast food in Japan, where you’ll find it sold amongst street vendors.
Different Types Of Ramen
There are four main types of ramen that are categorized by their base flavor. These are shio, shoyu, miso, and tonkotsu.
Shio (Salt-Based Ramen)
This clear salt-based ramen takes its name from the Japanese word for salt.
The broth is usually made from a number of proteins such as roasted chicken or pork, vegetables, and fish. Regardless of the ingredients, salt is the common denominator.
The flavors of the soup are much simpler than the other variations as it does not rely on miso paste or soy sauce to bring in the unique flavors. Only the freshest ingredients should be used to make shio ramen.
Typical toppings include chicken, thin noodles, green onions, and bamboo shoots.
Shoyu (Soy-Based Ramen)
As the name suggests, soy sauce is the main flavor in the ramen broth. ‘Shoyu’ means soy sauce in Japanese.
The soy sauce provides a strong and tangy flavor and is known for using thin noodles. High in umami flavors from the soy sauce and dashi stock, the soup is very popular.
Common toppings include chashu, a pork shoulder cooked in soy sauce and mirin, soft-boiled eggs, green onions, ramen noodles, and sesame seeds. However, these vary depending on regional differences.
The soup itself is light and salty, it’s what you add to it that deepens the flavors.
Looking specifically at the broth, this is usually made from chicken or pork broth so it’s not vegan-friendly. Shoyu is the most common type of ramen found in western restaurants.
Miso (Soybean Paste-Flavored Ramen)
Miso is a popular type of ramen with locals. Although newer to the ramen scene than some of the other dishes, it has a distinct savory taste that makes it taste so good.
The main way to spot a miso broth is to look out for the color. it has a distinctly darker broth.
Soybeans are a common cooking ingredient in East Asia. The paste is made of fermented soybeans and brine, which is then used to flavor the soup adding complexity.
Miso paste creates a heartier soup that is ideal on a winter’s day.
Did you know that miso paste is often used as a reference point for the flavor sensation we know as umami?
With its rich and deep flavors that have the perfect balance of sweet and salty, it is the perfect way to flavor the broth.
Tonkotsu (Pork Bone Broth Ramen)
Tonkotsu ramen is made with pork bones, which are boiled down until they are dissolved and transformed into gelatin.
All the minerals are released from the marrow and fats of the bone which creates a super healthy broth.
This type of ramen is also easy to spot as it’s known for its thick and creamy consistency, which is not seen in the other types of ramen.
Another way to spot this ramen is to look for the paler, whitish color of the soup.
Salt or soy sauce is utilized in the broth as well as the pork bones. Served with the typical toppings of soft-boiled eggs, vegetables, pork belly, and noodles it is one of the most popular dishes outside of Japan.
How To Make Vegan Ramen
Making vegan ramen is so easy! Don’t be alarmed by the mention of pork and chicken broth as that isn’t an essential part of what makes ramen so delicious.
Vegan alternatives are used instead. Here are the essential ingredients to use when making homemade ramen.
A number of different noodles are suitable for warming bowls of ramen. Choosing the right noodles is key as you’ll want the right texture of the dish.
No one wants plain tasteless noodles; buying wheat-based alkaline noodles helps to add flavor to them.
We recommend using thick and curly noodles if you’re making a miso broth as these absorb more of the broth, flavoring the noodles. Thicker noodles are generally better suited for thicker broths.
If you’re looking for value for money, then we suggest using Hakubaku Organic Somen Japanese Noodles as the packet contains three different types of noodles in one.
These are soba, somen, and udon noodles. This allows foodies to experiment with the noodles and find which they like best.
Vegetable broth is the only suitable substitute to use as the base of your ramen. The broth can be infused with anything you like such as freshly grated ginger and minced garlic.
The first three types of ramen listed above can be made to suit vegans just by swapping out the meat-based broth with a vegetable one.
Vegetable broth is easy to find in the store or you can try making your own if you have time.
Ensure the soy sauce is vegan when choosing a shoyu base as some manufacturers add flavor enhancements that come from fish or meat.
Ramen noodles contain good amounts of protein, but to ensure you’re getting enough the addition of tofu can bulk up the meal.
Firm tofu is best for these types of dishes as it can be fried separately beforehand making it nice and crispy.
Flavor the tofu any way you like, we suggest adding a spicy miso paste for an authentic Japanese taste. For best results, press out as much moisture as possible from the tofu to create a crispy texture.
Any type of vegetable can be used in ramen, you can get as creative as you like and reduce food waste by using up anything in the refrigerator.
The most common vegetables used include green onions, spinach, bean sprouts, bok choy, and mushrooms.
If you are pressed for time then using quick-cooking vegetables is a great way to still pack the dish with nutrients.
Thinly sliced cabbage, spinach, green onions, and bean sprouts can be dropped into the hot soup moments before you start eating it.
Common ramen vegetables:
- Green onions
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Menma (fermented bamboo shoots)
- Wakame (seaweed)
- Takana (pickled mustard leaf)
- Bean sprouts
- Nira (leeks)
- Baby corn
- Bok choy
- Oyster mushrooms
Creating dimensions to your ramen is easy with a host of different toppings and sauces. If you like things hot then add some sriracha sauce or wasabi into your ramen bowl.
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds and chili flakes are also a great option to garnish the dish as well as add flavor.
Mirin, lime juice, and sesame oil compliment the ramen and enhance the classic flavors. Any of these can be found in your local Asian supermarket.
Garlic and ginger are staples in Asian cooking, these are combined with the vegetable broth to enhance the flavor.
However, there are ramen seasonings available at grocery stores that are perfect to rub on vegetables or tofu.
If you want to make a seasoning blend yourself, this is simple to do and it cuts out a bunch of the additives and sodium.
Taking dried herbs and spices from your cupboard you can mix them together and store in an airtight container for later.
The typical ingredients in the seasoning include dried parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, ground ginger, chili powder, sesame seeds, sea salt, and ground black pepper.
These can be altered to suit your tastes. Here is a great vegan ramen seasoning recipe.
How To Eat Ramen
Ramen is traditionally eaten with chopsticks which might be confusing considering it’s technically a soup.
Restaurants will typically offer their customers a small Chinese-style spoon to drink the soup with once the main ingredients have been eaten.
As the noodles sit in the broth they get soggy, so try and eat these first or as quickly as possible. The other parts of the meal can be eaten in any order you like.
When eating ramen in a Japanese restaurant, you might notice many people slurping their food down.
Although in some cultures this is considered to be bad table manners, this slurping sound helps to enhance the flavors in addition to cooling down the noodles.
If you want to pay a big compliment to the chef for a delicious meal, then consume the entire contents of the soup bowl!
What To Serve With Ramen
If the ramen isn’t filling enough, there are plenty of tasty side dishes that can be served alongside it.
Vegetable gyoza dumplings are a firm favorite amongst ramen lovers, especially when dipped in some salty soy sauce.
For a lighter option, a cucumber and chili salad is a great option to refresh the palette and contrast with the hot soup.
If you’re making a big spread for friends and family, some teriyaki vegetables are a great crowd pleaser and are simple to do for large groups.
Other fantastic side dishes to serve with ramen include:
- Edamame beans with salt
- Sauteed bok choy
- Vegetable spring rolls
- Seaweed salad
- Fried rice
Vegan Ramen Summary
That’s a lot of information about ramen. Phew. Let’s summarize it into some simple steps to make it less confusing.
- Step 1: Choose your broth base – salt, soy, or miso
- Step 2: Choose your noodles
- Step 3: Choose your protein source and vegetables along with some seasoning
- Step 4: Add a bunch of toppings and enjoy!
Cooking the proteins and vegetables separately can help to crispen them up and this way you can really get the flavors of the seasonings in there.
When the broth is nice and hot and the noodles are cooked you can add everything to the bowl before sitting back and enjoying.
The Bottom Line
Ramen is a warming and hearty dish that is perfect for the colder months.
There is nothing quite like the steam from the bowl to hit your face as you slurp on the soup. Making vegan ramen is super easy to do and doesn’t take as long as you’d think!
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can Vegans Improve Instant Ramen?
If you’re cooking ramen from a packet, then adding vegetables that will cook quickly in the water will add nutritional value such as spinach or green onions.
Sesame oil or sriracha is a great way to increase the flavor of the meal. Toss in some nuts or seeds for depth.
Can You Add Peanut Butter To Ramen?
Adding peanut butter to ramen can help to increase the amount of protein in the dish, add flavor and make it even more comforting.
If you’re making instant ramen, this is a super quick way to improve the flavor of the dish.