Learn how to make the ultimate spicy vegetarian miso ramen with this mouth-watering recipe that is ready in just one hour! You might think that finding vegetarian options in Japanese dishes can be challenging, but we've got you covered with this flavor-packed recipe. Loaded with a rich, miso-infused broth, oven-roasted vegetables, and a kick of spice, this ramen is sure to win over the hearts of vegetarians and meat-lovers alike.
What is miso ramen?
Miso ramen is one of the four major types of ramen dish in Japan, the others being tonkotsu ramen (pork bone broth), shoyu ramen (soy sauce base broth) and shio ramen (salt based broth). As the name suggests, miso ramen is served in a broth flavoured with miso.
Miso is a fermented paste made from soybeans, barley, and rice. The miso in ramen soup gives it a rich and full flavor and ingredients and seasonings change depending on the region and restaurant.
Vegetarian miso ramen is hard to find in Japan, but in this article, I'll share my special recipe for spicy vegetarian miso ramen that I made from scratch.
Japan and vegetarianism
Anyone who has traveled to Japan knows it's not easy to find vegetarian food here, especially outside major cities like Tokyo. Despite this, surprisingly, Japan has a long history with vegetarianism.
In 675, the emperor issued a "meat ban," and for the next 1,200 years, people mostly avoided meat. They didn't ban all meat, but eating beef, horse, pork, chicken, and some others was forbidden. They weren't strictly vegetarian, though, since they still ate fish and shellfish.
It was only during the Meiji Era (1868-1912) that meat-eating culture began in Japan, which is quite late compared to other countries.
Is miso ramen vegetarian?
Generally speaking, miso ramen is not a vegetarian dish. For example, miso ramen served at ramen restaurants in Japan uses the following ingredients:
- Pork chashu
- Bean sprouts
- Vegetables like spinach and cabbage
- Sweet corn
- Ramen egg
- Butter (often used in Hokkaido miso ramen)
- Scallions or onions
- Nori (seaweed)
- Bamboo shoots
Not to mention, often the broth for miso ramen contains chicken or pork as well. If you would like to know more about non-vegetarian miso ramen, I have a recipe for that too.
How I turn miso ramen into vegetarian version
I'm not a vegetarian, but I enjoy making vegetarian versions of already existing Japanese dishes. Modern Japanese cuisine most often uses meat and fish, so creating a vegetarian twist allows me to get creative. It's a great challenge to go against well-established traditional version and I love it.
In this article, I'm not going to simply replace each ingredient with an "vegetarian friendly" one in order to make a replica of the "standard miso ramen". Instead, I wanted to create a delicious vegetarian miso ramen that's totally unique. Luckily, the main ingredients - miso paste and ramen noodles - are already vegetarian-friendly.
First, I use dried shiitake mushrooms and seaweed (kombu) to create the important umami filled stock/soup base. Then, I mix in miso paste, peanut butter and soy milk for added depth and creaminess. For the toppings, I decided on oven-roasted tofu, kabocha, and zucchini (which add great texture) along with wood ear mushrooms, scallions, nori, and garlic chips.
Oven baked toppings not only add amazing texture and sweetness, but it's also very convenient to be able to work on the broth while the main toppings are in the oven. Not to mention, they go really well with the rich broth, and their bright colors make this a colorful combo you should definitely try!
You'll find detailed ingredients and steps in the sections below.
Ingredients to make vegetarian miso ramen
Since this recipe requires a lot of ingredients, I'm going to break it down into soup and toppings.
For the soup you will need:
- Kombu (dried kelp) and dried shiitake mushrooms (for dashi)
- Sesame oil
- Garlic cloves
- 2 chili peppers (fresh or dry)
- Fresh ginger
- Spring onion
- Soy sauce
- Tobanjan (Chinese Chili Bean Paste)
- White onion
- Ground sesame seeds
- Smooth peanut butter
- Awase miso paste (make sure it's suitable for vegetarians such as Marukome's "Ryoutei no Aji")
- Soy milk
And for the toppings I use:
- Firm tofu
- Kabocha thinly sliced
- Zucchini (approx 200g) cut into 4 thick, diagonal slices
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Chili oil
- Spring onion
- Wood ear mushrooms
- Ramen noodles
Instructions on how to make vegetarian miso ramen from scratch
I'll admit that there's a quite a few processes involved with making this spicy vegetarian miso ramen, but with my efficient tips you can make it from scratch within one hour and it's so worth it! (For the full list of ingredients, see the recipe card at the bottom of the page.)
Make kombu and shiitake dashi
The first step is to place the kombu and dried shiitake in a bowl water and leave them to soak to make your dashi. This will take about 30 minutes. Some people like to soak it longer (even overnight!) for a stronger flavor, and if you have time then by all means do, but 30 minutes is enough for you to make a delicious dashi for your broth.
While the dashi ingredients are soaking, this gives you 30 minutes to prepare your other ingredients!
Prepare ingredients for the toppings
Preheat your oven to 200°C (392°F).
While it's preheating, wrap the tofu with kitchen paper and place it on a microwavable plate. Microwave for 1 ½ minutes at 600W. This is a shortcut method to evaporate the excess moisture in the tofu, so you won't need to press it! I like this method because the tofu doesn't become squashed or misshapen.
Once you've microwaved it, leave it to cool for a few minutes and then cut it into cubes.
Cut the kabocha into thin slices and the zucchini into thick diagonal slices. I find that one medium sized zucchini makes 4 slices and I usually put two pieces on each portion. It's important to cut the zucchini thick because it's a very watery vegetable that tends to shrink when cooked.
Place the tofu, kabocha and zucchini on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Use a pastry brush to brush them with olive oil on both sides, this will ensure they're all coated evenly without being too oily. Lastly, sprinkle both sides generously with salt and pepper.
Tip: It's important to use baking paper to prevent them from sticking to the tray!
Once your oven is heated, place the baking tray in the oven on the middle shelf and bake for 20 minutes.
Make crispy garlic chips
Heat a large frying pan on low and add sesame oil. While it's heating, thinly slice the garlic cloves.
Once it's hot, add the garlic to the pan and fry until crispy. It's important to maintain a low heat here so that the oil and garlic don't burn. Not only are we making garlic chips to sprinkle over the finished dish, but we're also flavouring the oil for cooking.
Once the garlic is crispy and brown, scoop them out with a mesh spoon and place them on kitchen paper to dry them and absorb the excess oil.
Make the base flavour for the broth
In the same pan, add sliced chili, finely diced ginger, finely diced spring onion (white part), thinly sliced white onion, salt, soy sauce and tobanjan. Increase the heat to medium and fry until the onion is softened.
Once the onion is soft, add ground sesame seeds and mix thoroughly.
Turn off the heat until the kombu and shiitake dashi is ready.
Complete the broth
Once your dashi ingredients have been soaking for 30 minutes, pour the entire contents of the bowl into the pan and heat on low.
Warm it through for about 5 minutes but be careful not to let it boil.
Remove the kombu and shiitake mushrooms and discard. Scoop a few tablespoons of the broth from the pan and pour it into a small bowl. Add miso paste and smooth peanut butter to the bowl and whisk until it becomes a smooth thin paste.
It's important that the consistency is thin so that it easily incorporates into the broth. If it's too thick, you will end up with random chunks of miso paste or peanut butter in your soup, so feel free to add more broth before adding it if necessary.
Pour the contents of the bowl into the pan and mix well.
Finally add the soy milk and continue to heat until it's warmed through. Again, don't let it boil. To prevent the soy milk from curdling, warm it up over a low heat to about 60-65°C (140-150°F). Once it's hot, turn off the heat (don't leave it to simmer). Reheat right before serving if necessary.
Cook the noodles
Cook your ramen noodles according to the instructions on the packaging. It's important to use a large pot of water so that the noodles have plenty of space to move around as they cook. This will help prevent them from becoming sticky and starchy. Make sure the water is brought to a rolling boil before adding the noodles, and cook over a high heat for the time stated on the packaging.
Place the cooked noodles in the bowl.
Add the soup.
Arrange the baked kabocha, zucchini and tofu on top.
Garnish with thinly sliced woodear mushroom, chopped spring onion, nori and the crispy garlic chips.
Drizzle with chili oil and enjoy!
I hope you enjoy the recipe! If you make it, be sure to let me know what you thought in the comments below. Happy cooking!
Spicy Vegetarian Miso Ramen
- 300 ml water
- 5 g kombu - dried kelp
- 2 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 100 g firm tofu
- 50 g kabocha thinly sliced
- 200 g zucchini - cut into 4 thick, diagonal slices
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 pinch salt and pepper
- 1 tsp chili oil
- 1 tbsp green onion - (negi) green part, thinly sliced
- ½ sheet nori - cut into halves or quarters
- 1 tbsp woodear mushroom - thinly sliced
- 2 portions ramen noodles
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic - sliced
- 2 chili peppers - fresh or dry, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger - finely diced
- 2 tbsp green onion - (negi) white part, finely diced
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp tobanjan - Chinese chili bean paste
- 50 g onion - thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp ground sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp smooth peanut butter
- 2 ½ tbsp awase miso paste - make sure it's suitable for vegetarians such as Marukome's "Ryoutei no Aji"
- 100 ml soy milk
- Soak the shiitake and kombu in a bowl of water for 30 minutes to make the dashi. If you use dried wood ear mushrooms, soak them now in a separate bowl.
- Preheat the oven to 200 °C.
- Wrap the tofu in kitchen paper and place on a microwavable plate. Microwave for 1 ½ minutes at 600W and then leave to cool for a few minutes. Once cool enough to touch, cut into cubes.
- Place the sliced kabocha, zucchini and tofu on a baking tray lined with kitchen paper. Drizzle with olive oil and brush to evenly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper both sides. Once the oven is hot, place the tray on the middle shelf and bake for 20 minutes.
- Take a large pan and add the sesame oil. Heat on low and add the garlic slices, then fry until crispy and golden.
- Once the garlic chips are done, carefully scoop them out trying to leave as much oil in the pan as possible and place them on kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil.
- In the same pan, add chili, ginger, spring onion, white onion, salt, soy sauce and tobanjan. Turn up the heat to medium and stir fry until onion is slightly softened.
- Once the onion is softened, add ground sesame seeds and mix thoroughly. Turn off the heat until the dashi has finished soaking.
- When the dashi is ready, pour the contents of the bowl (including the kombu and shiitake) into the pan and warm through on a low heat for about 5 minutes. Be careful not to let it boil.
- Scoop out a few tablespoons of the broth and pour it into a small bowl. Add peanut butter and miso paste and mix until lump free. The consistency should be quite thin so feel free to add more broth if it's too thick.
- Remove the kombu and shiitake mushrooms and pour the contents of the small bowl into the pan. Mix thoroughly.
- Next, add soy milk and continue to cook over a low heat until warmed through to about 60 °C - 65 °C to prevent curdling. Once hot, turn off. (You can reheat right before serving if necessary.)
- Bring a large pot of water to boil over a high heat. Add the ramen noodles and cook for the time stated on the packaging.
- Divide the cooked noodles into bowls, add the soup and the toppings.
- Garnish with garlic chips, chopped spring onion (green part), nori and thinly sliced wood ear mushroom. Finish with a drizzle with chili oil.
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