This soulful vegan ramen is not your average ramen dish. The ramen is cooked in an aromatic soothing broth and complimented with soul food staples roasted sweet potatoes and blackened okra.
As a kid I used to buy cheap instant Top Ramen packs that came with different flavorings. They’d run about 5 packs for a dollar. I’d boil a pack and add whatever canned meats we had (Spam or Vienna Sausages) plus some leftover vegetables and hot sauce. It was straight hood gourmet and my cousin Lil Buck and I ate it like we were brunching at the Ritz Carlton. Who knew it would be the origin of the “soulful vegan ramen bar” that is now common in our house.
I’m a long way from cheap ramen and canned meats. I swore that ish off as soon as I started making steady loot and ain’t looked back sense. My kids love ramen. but like canned meats, cheap ramen will forever be buried in my past. Humility is a character trait we emphasize, but canned meats and bad ramen will not be the tools to teach them. We keep quality noodles on hand and I make a weekly pot of meatless broth then refrigerate. When the kids want ramen they do as I and Lil Buck did in our youth, i.e. boil their noodles and top with whatever vegetables are on hand or those they desire to cook themselves. For this version I was actually pretty intentional with respect to having some ingredients on hand, specifically the roasted sweet potatoes and the “blackened okra”. The others were “fillers” included to add some heft, provide that ramen essence, and increase the health profile.
What gives this soulful vegan ramen it’s soul?
The sweet potatoes add sweetness plus the roasted notes. The whole okra, spiced and blackened with chinese five powder seasoning adds some pungency along with sour, bitter, and sweet accents. The baby bok choy provides a mild peppery taste which pairs well the rich buttery flavor of the shitake mushrooms. Lastly the mushrooms also provide that meaty element to this vegan dish you’d normally get from something like pork or beef common with ramen dishes.
What makes the broth in the soulful vegan ramen so dynamite?
Every good ramen dish I’ve ever had evolved around the flavor of the broth. Did it have depth and character? Everything else is about elements like texture and consistency. The thing about a really good broth is you can add pretty much anything to it and the dish will be fantastic. This dynamic gives you a lot of flexibilty in which direction you go with your ramen. You can be as simple or complex as you desire. The broth in this version is off the charts good. The aroma arrests everyone in the house and then pulls them by their noses into the kitchen. I use a bundle of “heirbas de olor” which are a partially dried bundle of three herbs (thyme, marjoram, and bay leaves) that you can find in Mexican markets or create your own. Their great for anything that requires slow cooking.
There are so many different ways to get flavor in a broth. Meat bones are an easy way to get depth and richness. In order to keep this vegan and achieve better results than meat bones, I used star anise pods, smoked dried chiles, and charred onions. Go light with the anise. They are highly fragrant and can overpower a dish if used too heavily. The chiles provide that smoked meat element. However the character of the broth is from the charred onions, achieved by burning the onion right on a gas stovetop burner. Simmering the charred onions brings out both their richness and sweetness and also gives that browned element. The combination of these different facets mimics the depth of a meat based broth. The rest is about concentrating the broth, so it’s important not to dilute it with too much water.
Dope beats, fresh eats. Enjoy this soulful vegan ramen dish!
Soulful Vegan Ramen
- 1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- 3 garlic cloves sliced
- 6 cups water
- ½ tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 3 Dried Smoked Morita or Chipotle Peppers
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 large white onion Charred on stovetop
- 1 bundle of Mexican herbs or combination of fresh thyme bay leaves, and marjoram or oregano
- 1 celery stalk chopped into 2-3 pieces
- 1 large carrot chopped into 2-3 pieces
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Organic Ramen noodles 3 oz. packet
- 1 large sweet potato cubed and roasted
- 2 whole baby boy choy quartered
- 2 cups shitake mushrooms
- 12 whole okra halved
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Chinese Five spice
- Green Onion Scallions chopped
- 1 jalapeno sliced
- Sriracha hot sauce optional
Make the broth:
Add all ingredients to stock pot and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. After 10 minutes remove the chiles before they breakdown, otherwise they will leak seeds into the broth rendering it very spicy. Let broth simmer for another 30 minutes to concentrate the flavor. Strain the broth in a fine mesh sieve and set aside.
Make the Okra
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place okra in a mixing bowl. Add olive oil and make sure okra is coated well. Season with spices.
Place okra on baking sheet skin side down and roast for 20 minutes. To blacken, heat cast iron skillet on high, add a bit of oil and sear the okra skin side up for 1-2 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Make the Ramen
Cook ramen according to packages directions. During the last 2 minutes add the bok choy and mushrooms. Drain and rinse well with cold water.
To serve, divide the bok choy, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, okra and the cooked noodles between 4 bowls. Ladle the hot broth over the noodles and top each bowl with the scallions, jalapeños and hot sauce. Serve immediately.
Vegetables are substitutable as the broth is what makes this dish work.