Round one of vegan ramen from scratch.

After watching the first season of The Mind of a Chef with David Chang on Netflix I wanted to learn more about ramen and see if I could make a reasonable version without seafood or meat. It turns out ramen involves a lot of components and coordination to create! And I’m not good at planning ahead! I haven’t read the Momofuku cookbook yet but read the Ivan Ramen book to get a better idea of all the pieces that went into a bowl before I started.

One of the components that I wasn’t sure how to replace was the chicken and pork fat. Some searching revealed a recipe for vegetarian schmaltz (a Jewish clarified chicken fat used as a general purpose cooking oil) that I thought I’d try. I doubt there’s any way to really replace pork fat (or any hope in replicating a tonkotsu broth) but this schmaltz ended up smelling great, and the onion byproduct is hard to stop snacking on.

The bowl was a combination of miso konbu and shiitake broths, some of the fake schmaltz, alkaline noodles and topped with fried tofu, nori, pickled ginger and some of the fried onions from the schmaltz.

Overall, Monique and I enjoyed the meal. It was interesting to cook something with different flavours than we usually have. There were definitely some things I’ll do differently next time though:

  • Way more toppings.
  • Make as many of the components ahead of time as possible. Getting the noodles cooked perfectly and a bowl assembled can be enough of a hassle, so not having to make a broth or other ingredient beforehand helps.
  • The noodles were simple to make, but definitely need to rest for a few hours, and are an opportunity to make the day before. They were too soft after being cooked, but they still held together in the broth.
  • Salt! I thought the miso would add enough salt but there easily could have been a tablespoon added to the broth and it would have been fine. I could get better at tasting things as I go too.
  • I found the mushroom dashi a bit too strong, and it overpowered some of the other flavours. I had steeped the mushrooms overnight, so either a shorter steep time or just less of it would be better.
  • Plain fried tofu is really boring, there’s probably some easy things that could be done to improve this.
  • I didn’t make a tare. I need to read some more about this to see what flavours it would add and how it’s different from the broths themselves.

I’m torn on this, but part of me wants to try a “real” ramen to see what the katsuobushi and animal fats (among other things) contribute to the bowl.

Given that it wasn’t a complete disaster I’m going to try making ramen more often, experiment and hopefully improve each time. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I think it’ll be a good way to get better at orchestrating a more complex meal, learning about flavours and improving my palate.