burnt toast

Vegetarian Ramen

This has been our favourite soup for the past year and has been on medium to high rotation on our dinner table. It is tangy and luscious and utterly packed with umami.It. Is. Absolutely. Incredible. It may not be authentic or traditional, but in a world of continuous adaptation and improvisation, what really is. It’s what we like and what makes us happy that counts, and in this current situation of impending doom, that is truly what we need right now.

I’ve adapted the original Bon Appétit recipe to better suit the contents of my fridge and possibly yours, too. All toppings are optional, but I’d suggest you definitely add something green and something protein-y to make this more of a meal.

Recipe adapted from here.

Vegetarian ramen

Serves 4

5cm ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

3 spring onions, finely sliced – reserve about ¼ for garnish, preferably the green bits

1-2 Tbsp oil of your choice – I like to use the oil from the chilli garlic crisp if I have it on hand

2 slightly heaped Tbsp tomato paste

1 slightly heaped Tbsp light miso paste

1 litre vegetable stock, plus 250-500ml water to thin out at the end 

8 dried (whole) shiitake mushrooms

2-3 Tbsp soy sauce or to taste

50g butter, cut into rough pieces – the butter is essential, so don’t skimp on it

250g dried ramen or other long noodles (I’ve even used fettuccini here – I don’t know about you but I am too lazy to head into town just to get the right type of noodle) 

To serve (optional)

4 jammy to hard cooked eggs

200g kale or other leafy green, torn to pieces

250g tofu, cubed

The reserved spring onions

1 Tbsp toasted sesame

Chilli and garlic crisp

Add the ginger and ¾ of the spring onions and the oil to a large pot and fry over high heat for a few minutes, stirring often, until they begin to take on a bit of colour. Add the tomato paste and stir for another minute. It will begin to stick to the bottom of the pan and darken slightly. Add the miso and give it another stir before adding the litre of veggie stock and the whole shiitake mushrooms. Cover and bring to a boil, letting it simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened enough to be easily pierced with a sharp knife. Remove from the heat and give it a good blend with a handheld blender. It is at this point where you might want to add a bit of extra water – I like it to be the consistency of thin cream, but you might feel a little different. Just keep adding 100ml at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. Add the soy sauce to taste, and finally, with the blender on, add the butter bit by bit until it is completely emulsified. Give it another taste to check for seasoning, find someone in your vicinity to lock eyes with and whisper “Oh my god”, followed by a passionate “Mmmmmhmmmmh!!”, and keep it warm, covered, while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Cook the eggs to your liking. Peel and halve. Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Add the kale to a pot with a little salted water and cover. Let it steam for a few minutes until just soft. Add the tofu to the pot and set to the side, covered – this will ensure it will be nice and warm when you serve it. 

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and divide the noodles, eggs, kale and tofu among them. Top with the spring onion and a sprinkling of sesame and serve with the chilli and garlic crisp on the side.

Chilli and Garlic Crisp

I’ve made this a million times and each time it’s a little different, depending on how garlic heavy I’m feeling that day (usually very). It doesn’t tend to last very long at ours, as one of us can usually be found picking out a crisp slice of garlic to gluttonously chomp on on our way past. Yes, we are monsters. I like to make this to accompany a bowl of ramen, but really, this will work with anything. The original recipe calls for soy sauce instead of vegemite, however I’ve found that the water in the soy sauce will make the garlic lose its crispness a lot faster. If you hate vegemite, by all means replace it by 1-2 Tbsp of soy sauce. The goal is for it to have a slightly funky salty bite, along with the heat and the crispy textures.

Recipe slightly adapted from here.

Chilli and garlic crisp

Makes one jar

100ml sunflower oil

1 cinnamon stick

2 star anise

1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and sliced thinly

1-2 shallot, peeled and halved, sliced thinly

5cm ginger, peeled, cut into tiny cubes

2 slightly heaped Tbsp chilli flakes

1 tsp vegemite or marmite

½ tsp honey

Combine the oil, cinnamon, star anise, garlic and shallot in a small pan over low to medium heat and let it bubble gently. You don’t want it to cook too quickly, otherwise the garlic will start browning at the edges while the centre is still soft, and that’s not what we want – we want evenly crisped golden garlic, so keep your eye on it.  

In a bowl, combine the chilli flakes, the vegemite and the honey. It will be a little clumpy, but that’s okay.

Once the garlic just begins to take on a golden hue – this can take any time between 10-20 minutes, add the ginger. Continue frying on a low heat until everything is a nice golden hue but isn’t starting to brown – the garlic will get bitter if it does. Remove from the heat and carefully pour the hot oil over the chilli, making sure to keep back the garlic and shallot in the saucepan – not combining everything at once gives the garlic and shallot the time crisp up. Give the chilli flake and oil mixture a good stir and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Once it has cooled down, stir in the now very crispy garlic and shallot. Transfer to a glass jar and use at your own discretion.

This will stay crisp for about a week, but will still be good a few weeks after that, albeit not as crispy.

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