There has always been a soft spot in my heart for Asian food. Unfortunately, my nagging allergies have prevented me from indulging as often as I would like. I needed to learn to adapt my favorite foods at home without soy, wheat, or chilies.
I received a book called Bowl for Christmas a couple of years back and didn’t open it until earlier this year. I just assumed the recipes were too labor-intensive to be usable for an unskilled cook. I was feeling bored and uninspired enough one day to pull the book down off the shelf and flip through it. I stumbled upon the ‘Simple Ramen’ recipe and read through the directions.
Making ramen is a lot like making bread. It’s really not all that labor-intensive, but it does require some patience and preparation. The dashi needs to be started the day before serving, and the rayu is best done in advance as well. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest you make the ramen broth a day in advance too. I can’t tell you how much better it tastes and the flavors meld when left to marinate in the fridge overnight.
You can go wild with add-ins and tweak the broth to suit your taste. I’ve made this recipe several different ways now. Lemongrass has to be an all-time favorite ingredient of mine, and Chris and I reminisce weekly about the lemongrass soup I had at a restaurant years ago of which I will never be able to adequately replicate, but will kill myself trying. The lemongrass, ginger, and lime combination is a secret bullet in my book.
One bad mistake I’ve made in the past is to throw the volume vegetables in while the broth is still simmering. By the time I’ve served them into a bowl and waited for it to cool enough that I wouldn’t entirely burn my tongue off, the vegetables are overcooked.
I’ve wondered how restaurants have gotten around this until, one night, we made an asian soup and I poured broth on top of my vegetables which were raw in my serving bowl. Chris and I don’t like the same vegetables or ratios of them, so I hadn’t cooked them with the broth like I ordinarily would. And voila. The broth cooled and my veggies were bright and crispy instead of limp and brown.
I hope someone, somewhere makes a mean ramen inspired by the recipe below and lives to tell me about it!
Soy-Free Summer Ramen
Ingredients – Serves 4-6
- one package kombu (1.5-2 oz)
- 0.5 oz dried shiitake mushrooms
- 2 quarts filtered water
- 1/4 cup neutral oil
- 1/8 cup sesame oil
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 T sesame seed
- 1/8 cup sesame oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp coriander seed
- 1/4 cup miso paste (I used chickpea miso)
- 3 T rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup coconut aminos
- 2 stalks lemongrass, chopped into 1″ pieces and smashed
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 green onions, sliced
- 1 T salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- one 4″ piece ginger, grated
- 1 T sesame oil
- 1 package lime leaves (4-6 leaves)
- 1 lime, zested and juiced
- 1/4 cup rayu
- 3 cups assorted mushrooms (we used oyster, shiitake, and lions mane)
- 1 bunch bok choy, sliced
- 1 cup savoy cabbage, sliced
- 1 bunch broccolini, broken up or sliced into thin stalks
- 2 radishes
- 1 green onion
- Ramen noodles or vegetable noodles
- cilantro, lime, and sesame seed, as garnish
- Make the dashi: Combine all ingredients in an airtight container and store in the fridge 12hrs to overnight.
- Make the rayu:
- Heat one tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- When the oil is shimmering, add shallots and cook until beginning to soften, 3-4 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook until beginning to color, 2-3 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients and gently simmer, stirring frequently, until everything is nicely browned, 30-40 minutes. Set aside.
- Make the ramen:
- Strain dashi and pour broth into a large soup pot.
- Bring the dashi to a boil at medium heat.
- Once dashi has reached a boil, add miso paste, rice vinegar, sesame oil, coconut aminos, lemongrass, salt, pepper, ginger, garlic, rayu, green onion, lime leaves, lime juice, and lime zest.
- Gently simmer until broth is well flavored and mushrooms are soft, 10-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook ramen noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Once broth has been simmering for at least 10 minutes, check for flavor and add any necessary seasonings.
- If serving immediately, remove broth from heat and divide evenly into serving bowls. Otherwise, allow to cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-3 days. Ramen broth ages extremely well and is often better on day 2 or 3.
- Add ramen noodles (or zucchini noodles), as well as rayu, desired vegetables, and garnishes.