Online class on vegan ramen (vol.1)
In this series, we are sharing the contents we have done on our special noodle classes online. If you’d like to see a recording of this class, please contact us for a link to the recording or check out our YouTube Channel to see if it is available in video. Please visit our YouTube channel by clicking here.
Why more and more go vegan?
There are several reasons people go vegan. Some do it for their health benefits because of the ingredients allowed for use. Some do it for their beliefs and values in animal welfare. Others follow their vegan diets due to concerns over environment as our reliability on animal-based foods has been damaging the environment to the point everyone can feel the effects, for example, in form of global warming. To keep down or reduce CO2, we should go vegan and/or consume foods that are locally grown. Because there are many who are concerned about the environment going vegan, we should try to use as many locally grown ingredients as we can and explain it to the customers who in turn would be passionate about what you offer and become fans of your restaurant.
Vegan and Ramen?
Vegan and ramen have many things that are conflicting and going against each other because most of the ramen dishes traditionally heavily rely on animal-based ingredients especially for the soup and toppings. Going vegan is something new for ramen and many Japanese as well. So, it’s been some challenges for ramen shops, especially ones operating in Japan to develop vegan ramen. Yet, because we have a unique cuisine culture, called “shojin ryori”, or Buddhist cuisine which has been developed by monks training and living at temples, using only plant-based ingredients (due to their religious precepts). Studying this cuisine may give us some hints to what ingredients to use and how we can cook these ingredients to bring out sufficient umami to make a bowl of noodles a bowl of ramen.
Challenge of making a great vegan ramen
We think the challenge and goal of developing vegan ramen is to create a dish that’s all plant-based and able to fully satisfy non-vegan and ramen fans. Often times, it is difficult to bring out enough umami that will satisfy the cravings for meat from vegetables or other non-animal source foods. Yet, finding and cooking the plant-based ingredients that resemble the tastes of ramen that’s made of animal source foods or build unique tastes and flavors that will satisfy every ramen lover is a challenge but worth the efforts. And, whenever possible, probably as the sub-goal, we should find and use as much locally grown ingredients as possible to reassure the concerns for the environment.
Because there are certain rules (what’s allowed to eat or not) in veganism, we need to understand and decide on which ingredients to use to create a bowl of vegan ramen. According to some sources, what you can eat as a vegan are follows. (vegan diet regimen)
Basically, all the ingredients need to be foods made only from plants.
Fruits and vegetables
Legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils
Nuts and seeds
Breads, rice, and pasta
Dairy alternatives such as soymilk, coconut milk, and almond milk
Shirunashi (soup-less) Tantan Men
Tantan men that’s originally from China and polished in Japan
Because what you can use to make your ramen is limited, you have to be creative and flexible to think and come up with recipes that make your ramen a bowl of ramen that’s good for a vegan person to enjoy.
A Vegan ramen tends to be light in taste and flavors, but with a certain combination of ingredients and how they are cooked, we can create a ramen that’s dense and packed with umami, which should satisfy even ramen fans who are non vegan.
So, the ingredients you use to make your vegan ramen are critical. It would be whether or not you can use what’s readily available locally in your area to create a great bowl of vegan ramen.
Let’s look at the components of ramen and what ingredients may be used to create each component.
First, a bowl of ramen consists of 3 components, noodles, soup, and toppings. A good bowl of ramen has a good balance in tastes and flavors that these components make up. The soup is made of 3 parts, base stock, base sauce, and flavored oil. Usually, these 3 are put together in a bowl when serving it to a customer. And, as some vegan may be concerned about their health, they may appreciate the explanation of how much of each nutrient (carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber) each bowl contains. (of course, if you can indicate other nutrients/health benefits in more details, that would be better)
Finding good locally grown non animal source foods is the key
Base stocks: various types of vegetables, fruits, types of legumes (such as chickpeas), seaweeds (konbu, etc.), mushrooms (dried), various types of milk from non-animal source foods (ASF), fermented rice drink, etc.
Base sauce: soy sauce, salt, miso, (what ingredients are used to infuse flavors with – certain types of vegetables, mushrooms, kelp, etc.)
Flavored oils: oils-various types of vegetable oils, coconut oil, sesame, sunflower oil, etc. what ingredients to infuse the oils with- seeds, nuts, vegetables, sesame, chili, garlic, ginger, etc.
Toppings: various types of vegetables, legume-products (fried bean curd, tofu, etc.), bean paste, nuts, seeds, various types of mushrooms (grilled, chopped, paste) meat-substituting ingredients
Noodles: wheat flour, various types of grains, various types of vegetables, seaweeds, tea, spices, nuts, seeds, or any ingredients that are non ASF and good for health
Variations of vegan ramen
Though you can bring strong flavors in bowls of vegan ramen, because there’s no ASF ingredient used, it is usually not heavy on stomach.
Some other dishes use coconut milk as the base stock along with vegetable stocks. Others feature curry spices, tantan men (dense sesame paste), stocks made mainly from tomatoes, konbu, shiitake mushrooms, and others.
Use of miso for base sauce, and other fermented foods as soup base and toppings have been common practice, but you may be able to find local non ASF ingredients that are very good for your vegan soup and toppings. So, there are some patterns of ingredient use for vegan, but we should find local ingredients that are great for vegan ramen.
Noodles suitable for Vegan Ramen
To make noodles for a bowl of vegan ramen, we should aim for making them healthier with certain ingredients that may be popular among the vegan and locally grown. Because there are many variations of vegan ramen (tsukemen, mazemen, standard noodle soup (smooth, viscous, etc.), noodle sizes and textures also vary. The noodle size (thickness x width) tends to be smaller or thinner for noodles that are hard in texture, and it tends to be bigger or thicker for noodles that are soft in noodle texture. Because it would be a poor noodle texture if noodles are hard and thick or if noodles are thin and soft, there is a certain pattern like those circles in the chart for good noodle textures. In online classes, we usually make a few patterns of fresh noodles, and in this class, we made craft noodles that may appeal to vegans, using ingredients that are said to have good health benefits.
You can watch the rest of the class or entire recording. If interested, please contact us for the link to the recording.