meatless . #39 {vegetable ramen}

In the past six days, at least one of my meals has been soup. Even though summer is still lingering here in Seattle {okay, don’t blame me tomorrow for ‘jinxing’ this – forecasters are saying the rain’s coming}, I’m having a little soup obsession. Since Mike has been under the weather with a terrible cold, which is apparently befriending everyone in his office, soup for dinner sounded good…something brothy? Perfect! I’ve always, always loved ramen. Especially when my mom or grandma would add a hard boiled egg. Kimchi ramen…yum! Ramen with with pork belly and pork shoulder so tender and slowly cooked you wish the ratio of pork to noodles was 80/20…ah.maz.ing. Just thinking about it makes me drool and yearn for Momofuku’s ramen but, one, since we’re not in New York, diving into that is not possible, and two, it was time in the week for our meatless dinner, tried making a vegetarian ramen. Plus it also gave me a reason to venture to one of my favorite places, Uwajimaya. Since I have never ever made any kind of ramen before, making a vegetarian version scared me a little because the broth is absolutely key! The use of dried shiitakes for this meatless noodle soup made the difference; they provide a depth and earthiness that is essential to achieving good broth flavor. Add a hard boiled {or Mike’s preference – poached} egg and you’ve got a great dinner.
Vegetable Ramen
serves 4
8 cups vegetable stock
1 3×6″ sheet of kombu {dried kelp}
2 cups dried shiitakes mushrooms, rinsed
1 yellow onion, peeled + halved
1 garlic clove, smashed
6 scallions, 4 – tops/ends removed, roughly chopped, 2 light green parts thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled + roughly chopped
3 tbsp. taré
4 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sesame oil
dash of mirin
2 – 8 oz. packages ramen noodles {chuka soba noodles}
1 pkg. store-bought fish cake, thinly sliced
1 – 8 oz. can bamboo shoots, cut into matchsticks
1 pkg. enoki mushrooms, rinsed, end removed

3 cups baby spinach {I used Chinese spinach}
4 baby bok choy, steamed + sliced in half legthwise
4 large hard-boiled eggs 
In a large pot, bring the vegetable stock to a boil. Rinse off the kombu under running water, then add it to the pot. Turn off the heat, cover and let the kombu steep for 10 minutes. Remove the kombu from the pot and discard. Bring the stock back up to a boi;add the dried shitakes, onion, garlic, scallions and carrots. Lower the heat and let everything simmer for 20-25 minutes until the mushrooms are rehydrated.
Strain broth into another pot through a sieve lined with cheesecloth, gently pressing the on the cheesecloth with a wooden spoon to retain as much of the broth as possible. Discard cheesecloth with the mushroom vegetable medley; return broth to the stovetop over medium heat.  Taste and if needed, add water to dilute the strength. 
To the broth, add the taré, soy sauce, sesame oil and mirin. This is where you will have to keep tasting the broth and add more or less of the the taré, soy, sesame oil and mirin to fit your own tastes. Lower heat to a simmer and cover.
Cook noodles as directed on packaging. Once cooked, evenly divide between four bowls. Top each bowl with the hot broth. Now for the creative part: add your choice of toppings to your soup. To each bowl we added thin slices of store-bought fish cake, sprinkling of bamboo shoots, enoki mushrooms, baby spinach, bok choy and a hard boiled egg. Top with the remaining thinly sliced scallions.
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