Every time I get vegetable ramen while out, I end up walking away a little disappointed. The first slurp always starts out super intense and satisfying, but then I quickly realize how overly salty the broth is, probably in compensation for the lack of meat, and things go downhill from there. I do know that the whole point of ramen is that meaty/seafoody broth plus noodles, not a veggie-based umami noodle bomb, but a girl can dream. For now, I just make my own.
Thankfully, there are plenty of umami-rich ingredients in the plant world, and many of them happen to be perfect for making an intense, savory soup. Broth is everything when it comes to ramen, and in this recipe, I employ a combination of fresh and dried mushrooms, hot pepper, ginger, garlic, and miso to create a dark, powerful, full-bodied broth. I shape daikon radish into noodle-like strands (using this handy tool) and use them in place of noodles, in an effort to lighten things up and to squeeze another beautiful but underutilized vegetable into the mix. I boil the daikon strands like I would any other noodles, so they soften up, lose some of that radish edge and become pretty similar to the real thing.
This is a really good dish to make while we are on this uncertain line between winter and spring. It’s still very warming and nourishing but a bit lighter than all those root vegetables and rich stews that you’ve probably had enough of by now. I know the ingredient list looks long, but a bunch of them, like black garlic (!) are optional, and you might already have a lot of the other ones in your pantry. I do have to talk a bit about black garlic here, because it’s kind of a life-changing little ingredient. It’s made by consistently heating whole heads of garlic over the course of several weeks, which results in something similar to roasted garlic, but even more earthy and caramelized in taste. This was my first time trying black garlic and I of course fell in love – I think anyone would fall for roasted garlic x 10. It’s been making its way into many of my everyday dishes, and black garlic simply spread on toast with some ghee is a revelation.