Ramen is the Japanese adaptation of Chinese wheat noodles. In fact, it is the literal translation of lamian. It is a soup that originated around the 16th century. When vegetarian dishes became popular, so did the vegetarian ramen. Vegetarian ramen is a soup with no meat in it. Rather, it is made with vegetables, egg noodles, and broth. Still, even though this soup only has vegetables in it, it is as rich and creamy as its meat counterparts. It offers multiple layers of flavors and textures with a hint of salt, spice, and umami notes.
Vegetarian Ramen Trivia
- The No. 1 ramen shop in the U.S.A. is located in Austin, Texas.
- According to one theory, Chinese immigrants were the ones who introduced ramen in Yokohama Chinatown, Japan back in the late 19th century or early 20th century.
- China is the number one ramen consumer in the world.
- The first vegan ramen in the world was crafted by Minoru Yonezawa, owner of the TowZen restaurant in Kyoto, Japan; he called it the “World Peace Ramen.”
- A ramen museum was inaugurated in Yokohama, Japan in 1994.
- There are at least 30 different styles of ramen in Japan.
- Ramen in general, is the number one best-selling product in Riker’s Prison, New York.
- Ramen is the first noodle in space.
Vegetarian Ramen Buying Guide
While it is a lot healthier to make your own at home, instant vegetarian ramen has become popular not only in Texas but all over the world. It is convenient, affordable, and can last long enough on the counter. Not to mention that it only takes 4 to 5 minutes to prepare. Thus, here are some things to look out for when you opt to buy vegetarian ramens in stores:
- Know that there are plenty of vegetarian ramen flavors. It’s a lot easier to know in advance what flavor to go for before you buy one. Vegetarian ramens are usually flavored with the following: soy sauce, miso, shiitake mushroom, lemongrass ginger, garlic pepper, garlic & vegetable, spring onion, Thai ginger, tofu, purple potato, and brown rice.
- Look for vegetarian ramen in the Asian aisle section.
- Check out the sodium content. The product should have less than 500mg of sodium per serving. Or better yet, opt for no-salt-added, reduced-sodium, or low-sodium.
- Look for the bad stuff. Preservatives, additives, and MSG are common in instant ramens. Look for the one with the least amount, as these ingredients can weaken your heart tissues and can contribute to weight gain. I’m sure you don’t want that.
- You can also buy ramen toppings for a more flavorful and healthier choice. Some toppings include onions, boiled eggs, seaweed, butter, bacon, mushrooms, corn, bean sprouts, and bamboo shoots.
Vegetarian Ramen Production & Farming in Texas
While it is possible to find instant vegetarian ramens in large supermarkets such as H-E-B and Natural Grocers, the state of Texas also features countless numbers of restaurants that serve organic vegetarian and vegan ramens. Remember, the number one ramen shop in America is located in Austin. Moreover, you may also visit nearby local farmers’ markets where they showcase local and good quality products. Or better yet, grab some fresh and local vegetables and create your own vegetarian ramen at home – recipe can be found below.
Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:
Instant vegetarian ramens are commonly produced with certain preservatives, additives, and chemicals that not only enhance the flavor but also increases its shelf-life. We visited some of the local grocers in Texas and found these not-so-good ingredients:
- Dextrose and Maltodextrin – It is a type of sugar that acts as an artificial sweetener, food neutralizer, and a preservative. Too much consumption of this ingredient can lead to body fluid build-up and high blood sugar.
- MSG – Monosodium Glutamate is used to enhance the flavor of almost any product. It is the one responsible for creating that umami flavor. Although it is generally classified as safe to consume, it can cause headaches, flushing, palpitations, sweating, nausea, numbness, and weakness to some people. It allegedly can cause asthma, brain damages, and even cancer; however, these allegations remained controversial.
- Natural and artificial flavorings – These are usually chemically-formulated products that are used to intensify the flavors of the product. Although they are labeled as such due to its very small quantitative participation in the product, it’s always a better option if we stay away from these ingredients. For vegetarian ramen, some of which come in the following names: disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, disodium succinate, sodium phosphate, soy protein isolate, TBHQ, and alike.
Instant vegetarian ramens usually come in plastic packets and foam cups. However, these packages not only create a negative environmental effect, but they also leave toxic residue in the noodles that can be detrimental to anyone’s health, especially if it is frequently consumed as such particles can build up in your body system over a period of time. Good thing that local artisans carefully package vegetarian ramens in either ergonomic paper cups or bowls, and mason jars.
Enjoying Vegetarian Ramen
Vegetarian ramen is best enjoyed with the use of chopsticks. Take some noodles from the bowl using your chopsticks, slightly lift up until the noodles are completely separated from the bowl, then dip your noodles back in the broth before you lift it up again and eat it. Hold your bowl close to your mouth and take a slurp, and that could mean a loud slurp, and savor the richness of the broth.
Store-bought vegetarian ramen could last up to 18 months on the counter. The homemade ones should be stored in an air-tight container; it can last up to 5 days in the refrigerator unconsumed.
Make your own vegetarian ramen:
Now that you’ve finally decided to make your own vegetarian ramen at home, which by the way the best choice, here is a quick Texan recipe that will surely satisfy you and your family:
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
- 6 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds of any kind
- 1 tbsp Gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder, can be found in Asian stores) or 1 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes or chilis
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- 4 scallions, sliced thinly, separate dark green parts from the white ones
- 1 2-inch piece ginger, skin off, sliced thinly
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 8 pcs dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 4×3-inch piece dried kombu (Asian kelp, can be found in Asian grocers as well)
- 5 cups water, cold
- 3 tbsp butter, unsalted, cubed
- 1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 12 oz baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise
- 4 5-oz packages fresh ramen noodles (can be found in Asian aisle or Asian stores)
- Nori sheets for garnish, as needed (can be found in Asian aisle or Asian stores as well)
- Cilantro for garnish, as needed, optional
- Sauté garlic in 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil until golden brown. Add in sesame seeds and sauté for another minute. Just be careful not to burn the garlic down.
- Transfer to a bowl, add in Gochugaru, and season with salt and pepper. Remove the oil and set aside.
- Sauté white scallions’ parts and ginger in the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add in the tomato paste and continue stirring until the paste becomes slightly darker and somehow sticks to the bottom of the pot.
- Add mushrooms and kombu; cook for about 30 seconds or until the mushrooms sweat out. Add in cold water and bring to a boil. Add Gochugaru back into the mixture. Remove and discard kombu.
- Purée the soup mixture using an immersion blender or a food processor. Return to low heat and simmer.
- Add butter one cube at a time while whisking until the mixture is homogenous before adding the next one. This step ensures a smooth soup.
- Stir in soy sauce and fish sauce; keep the soup simmering. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Meanwhile, blanch baby bok choy in boiling water for 2 minutes. Use a kitchen thong to remove the bok choy from the pot and transfer it to an ice bath.
- Then, cook the noodles in the same boiling water accordingly. Drain and divide into 4 bowls.
- For service, ladle some broth onto the noodles and top with nori sheets and cilantro. You may also add some miso for extra flavor, chili-garlic sauce for extra spice, and some ramen toppings that are stated above.