A delicious creamy, vegetarian friendly broth without all the cholesterol and without boiling for more than 12 hours? It’s entirely possible! This ramen recipe is so good and it offers the same delicious comfort as Tonkotsu broth or Paitan broth, both animal-based broths. This recipe was inspired by the vegetarian friendly Tantanmen from one of the best ramen places here, Mendokoro Ramenba.
The secret to delicious plant-based tantanmen is based on three components: The Tare (ramen seasoning), the broth, and the toppings. Since tantanmen is based on sesame paste, I made sure that I made my own sesame paste to include in the Tare or ramen seasoning to be able to control the strength of the flavor and the nuttiness coming from the sesame paste.
Then there are two major components for the broth – the actual clear broth, which was made by soaking some kelp and shitake mushrooms in water and bringing it almost to a boil. Then, every Japanese household secret to a quick creamy ramen broth: some good quality soy milk. I find that the best soy milk to achieve this is fresh soymilk of course, but also any asian brand of soy milk (like Soy Fresh). American soy milks have the tendency to neutralize the soy flavor from the milk and will be less effective for this one.
And of course we have the toppings! I used some Doubanjian (Chili Bean Paste) to make a flavorful “ground meat”, kind of like what we eat in Mapo/Mabo Tofu, but instead of pork, I ground the some rehydrated shiitake mushrooms in the food processor before sauteeing it with the chili bean paste. I also made Ajitama 1 day before making the ramen (you can do this 1-3 days earlier for a more jammy egg consistency). And finally, I braised Firm tofu in what normally is the liquid used to make Chashu, and then fried each side until lightly crispy before making beautiful delicate slices out of it. You can also add other toppings such as menma (bamboo shoots, which my sister and mom dislikes so I skipped it), some greens like bok choi, chopped green onions, and some thinly sliced wood-ear mushrooms.
Follow the recipe below to make this delicious 90% plant-based ramen! The ingredient list and the steps may seem long, but they take less time than Tonkotsu ramen and the results are so worth it! It would be perfect to make on rainy or cold day, especially on a weekend.
Vegetarian Ramen (Vegetarian Tantanmen)
Prep Time: 24-48 hours for the Ajitama, about 20 minutes on the day itself
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
- 500 grams of fresh/dry ramen noodles
For the dashi:
- 1 piece kombu (dried kelp)
- 3 pieces of dried shitake mushrooms
For the sesame paste:
- 2 cup of raw sesame seeds
- 1 cup of sesame oil
- Salt to taste
For the Tare:
- 6-8 tbsp of sesame paste
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 inch ginger
- ¼ cup of scallions (white part)
For the Broth:
- 2 tbsp miso
- 3 tbsp doubanjian (Chili bean paste)
- 1 tbsp mirin/sake
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 5 cups of unsweetened soy milk (Asian brand is better, but regular soy milk is all right)
For the Toppings:
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- 1 tsp chopped fresh chili
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ inch ginger, chopped
- 1 cup of rehydrated shitake mushrooms, minced finely or ground in the food processor
- About 5 bok choy leaves, blanched for a minute
- green onions, chopped
- ¼ cup of wood ear mushrooms, thinly sliced
For the Ajitama:
- 4 large eggs (refrigerated)
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 4 tbsp mirin
- 2 tbsp sake
- 1 cup of finely chopped green onions
For the Tofu “Chashu”:
- 100 grams of firm tofu
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup mirin
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 cups of water
Making the Ajitama:
- In a sealable container, add the soy sauce, mirin, sugar, sake, water and green onions and mix together. Set aside.
- Place the eggs in a pot and bring it to a boil. Let it simmer for 6-7 minutes.
- Remove the eggs from the hot water and place in an ice bath to cool down.
- Peel the shell from the eggs and place in the marinade. You can place some folded paper towels on top of the marinade to make sure all sides of the egg get marinated.
- Cover and let it sit in the refrigerator for 1-3 days.
Making the Sesame Paste:
- In a pan over high heat, place the raw sesame seeds. toss and roast them, making sure that they don’t burn.
- Once the seeds are a beautiful golden brown color, remove from the heat and transfer to a blender or food processor.
- Add the sesame oil and blend until smooth. Season with salt to taste.
Making the Tare:
- In a saucepan over medium heat, add the vegetable oil or sesame oil.
- Add the scallions and let it cook until almost brown.
- Then add the ginger and saute for 30 second and add the garlic. Saute until the garlic is fragrant.
- Turn off the heat. Set aside.
Making the Tofu Chashu:
- in a small pot, add all the ingredients for the braising liquid.
- When it’s almost boiling, add the tofu and braise for 10-15 minutes, depending on how big the tofu block is. Make sure to flip the tofu every 5 minutes.
- After braising, remove from the heat.
- Add vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Place the tofu on the pan and let it cook til a bit brown and slightly crispy.
- Once cooked, place on a plate and let it cool before cutting into thin slices.
Making the “ground meat”:
- in a saucepan over low heat, add the vegetable oil and the chili flakes and fresh chili. let it sit and cook for 5 minutes. Set the chili aside.
- Add the ginger and saute for 30 seconds, before adding the garlic. Saute until fragrant.
- Add the ground mushrooms and saute before adding the doubanjian. Remove from the heat and add the cooked chili back into the pan. Mix and set aside.
Making the Broth:
- In a large pot, add the dashi broth, water, soy sauce and mirin and bring to a boil.
- Add the unsweetened soy milk and wait for it to boil.
- Add the doubanjian and mix.
- Turn off the heat. Place a ladle on the broth and add the miso paste to the ladle. Mix by pressing a spoon against the ladle until the miso melts into the broth.
- Cook the ramen according to instructions and drain the water. If it’s fresh ramen, it’ll only take 1-2 minutes in boiling water.
- Prepare individual bowls to serve the ramen with. At the bottom of the bowl, add 2 tbsp of sesame paste and 1 tbsp of the tare oil.
- Place the noodles on top of each bowl.
- Assemble the toppings on top of the noodles: sliced Ajitama, bok choi, wood ear mushrooms, Ground mushrooms, green onions and other topping that you prefer.
- Add 1-2 ladles of broth onto each bowl, or until it is the right proportion against the noodles. you can choose to add more tare oil on top as well. Serve immediately!