Building the Vegan Paitan Stock
From my experiences in vegan ramen and ramen class in Japan, which included the original famous Towzen ramen in Kyoto and Washo’s cooking class in Osaka, I picked up that the creamy factor could be easily solved by adding soy milk. Quite a no-brainer isn’t it? The problem is that soy milk tends to mute the umami flavours of a stock, hence we need to build an ultra-umami stock that can stand up to the addition of milk.
The power umami base employs layers of high glutamate ingredients. It starts with a dashi concentrate of with a high proportion of kombu and dried shiitake to water. As the optimal temperature for glutamate extraction is 65°C, it is best if you leave the kombu and shiitake to steep in hot water overnight. The second layer of umami is mushrooms roasted in tamari. The trinity of onions, garlic, and ginger are first charred to caramelise their sugars, then when added to the stock, they lend a sweet, smoky undertone and spread their inherent umami. After simmering to reduce and concentrate the flavours, the stock is strained. We are not done yet! Now, the fourth layer of umami is added, namely fermented foods – miso paste and sake lees, the byproduct of sake production. Sweet, savoury and funky at the same time, both build up complexity in the stock. Finally, freshly roasted sesame seeds (or tahini) is added, which thickens the stock and contribute a deep smoky nuttiness. These are blended with soy milk and strained, and the result should be a thick, creamy, milky, aromatic, deep, puzzlingly undecipherable complex stock of sweet and savoury. No one should be able to tell that not a single animal product went into it. I have provided soy-free options in the recipe card in case you wish to avoid soy.
When heating up the soup before serving, heat to just below boiling; do not boil as this will cause the soy milk and soup to split.
Noodles or Zoodles
As I am unable to tolerate much grains and a general preference for raw foods, I chose to use spiralised zucchini as the choice of noodles. The trick to get slurpable zucchini noodles is to soften them by placing them in the dehydrator for 45 minutes. When mixed in the soup, they soak back the flavour-packed broth, and will not water and dilute the taste. You could use regular wheat ramen noodles if preferred.
Once the soup stock and noodles are settled, ramen toppings are generally to one’s preference. This time I went with tempeh dengaku (miso-glazed tempeh), kale, red peppers, reserved charred onions, vegan egg made with tempeh milk whites and pumpkin yolk, and a smattering of sesame seeds and shichimi togarashi.
I was gifted the tempeh from Angie’s Vegan Pantry and was glad to put it to creative use. Dengaku is a miso-glazed dish that can be applied different vegetables like eggplant, daikon, tofu and tempeh. This marinade enhances but not overpowers the creamy bean taste of tempeh. For the vegan egg, I would typically use almond/soy milk but I switched it up with tempeh milk. I was apprehensive that it would taste funky and off-putting initially, but nope, it turned out quite unique with a hint of bitter tempeh taste. Just remember to boil your tempeh before marinating or making the milk to remove the funky flavours.
Looking for more Japanese-inspired recipes? Check out my:
Miso Soymilk Paitan Rawmen (Raw Vegan Fusion)
Creamy milky vegan paitan rawmen. No bones about it, literally and figuratively. The soup employs layers of high glutamate ingredients for ultimate umami - kombu, dried shiitake, tamari-roasted mushrooms, charred onions, garlic, ginger, miso, sake lees and tahini. It is then creamed up with soy milk. Soy-free options provided.
Miso Soymilk Broth
- 10 g kombu
- 10 g dried shiitake mushroom
- 720 g (3 cups) filtered water
- 100 g (1 cup) cremini mushrooms, stems on
- 1 tbsp tamari
- 1 medium brown onion, skin on, halved
- 1 head garlic
- 5 cm (2 inch) ginger, sliced thick
- 400 g (1 2/3 cup) soy milk
- 75 g (5 tbsp) miso paste, preferably a mix of white (shiro) and red (aka)
- 40 g (1/6 cup) sake lees (sake kasu)
- 48 g (5 tbsp) white sesame, freshly roasted (may use tahini in a pinch)
- 1/4 tsp Himalayan salt, to taste
Zucchini Udon + Vegetables
- 680 g (1 1/2 lb) zucchini, peeled and spiralised on large noodle setting
- 1 no red bell pepper, julienned
- 200 g kale, stemmed and roughly torn
- 1/2 tbsp lime juice
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- Pinch Himalayan salt
- 200 g (1 block) soybean tempeh (I used Angie's Vegan Pantry)
- 45 g (3 tbsp) white (shiro) miso
- 23 ml (1 1/2 tbsp) sake
- 5 ml (1 tsp) mirin
- 5 ml (1 tsp) tamari
Tempeh Milk Onsen Egg (makes 6)
- 45 g soybean tempeh (I used Angie's Vegan Pantry)
- 180 g (3/4 cup) filtered water
- 30 g (2 tbsp) unsweetened plant milk
- 1/4 tsp Indian black salt (kala namak)
- 1.5 g (3/4 tsp) agar powder (0.75% for a semi-firm gel)
- 60 g (1/4 cup) pumpkin puree
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast powder
- 1 stalk scallion, minced, or reserved charred onions
- 1/2 sheet nori, cut into large rectangles
- 1 tbsp freshly roasted white sesame
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- Dash chili powder (ichimi) or seven pepper powder (shichimi togarashi), to garnish
Miso Soymilk Broth
The day before, prepare a dashi concentrate. Soak the kombu and dried shiitake mushrooms in water overnight at room temperature.
Roast the cremini mushrooms, onion, garlic, and ginger. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). In a bowl, toss the mushrooms with tamari. On a lined baking tray, spread the mushrooms on one side, and onion (cut side up), garlic head, and ginger slices on another side. Remove the vegetables at intervals, or when they start to turn brown: ginger at 15 minutes, onion at 20 minutes, mushrooms at 30 minutes, and garlic at 35-40 minutes. (If you have a grill pan, you may char the onion, garlic and ginger on the grill instead). After cooking, transfer the roasted vegetables, mushrooms and cooking juices into the overnight dashi.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the kombu halfway through to prevent the broth from becoming slimy.
After 30 minutes, strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer. You should have about 400 ml of stock. In a blender, add the stock, 400 ml soy milk (1:1 ratio), miso, sake lees, roasted sesame or tahini and blend on high speed for 1 minute. Strain the mixture through a nut milk bag. Set the broth aside until ready to assemble.
Zucchini Udon + Vegetables
In a bowl, massage the kale with olive oil, lime juice and salt.
Spread the kale, spiralised zucchini and julienned peppers on separate dehydrator trays. Dehydrate at 46°C (115°F) for 1 hour, or until the vegetables are wilted and take on a cooked appearance. The kale can be dehydrated for a longer time to become crisps.
The day before, marinade the tempeh. Bring a pot of water to boil. Slice the tempeh to 6-7 mm (1/4 inch) thick and boil for 3 minutes. This helps to open up the bean pores to better absorb the marinade, as well as remove any funky smell. (Set aside 45 g tempeh for the egg)
In a small bowl, mix together the miso, sake, mirin and tamari. Using a spoon or brush, spread the marinade over the tempeh slices. Ensure all sides are well-coated. Transfer the tempeh into a container and place in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, bake the tempeh at 175°C (350°F) for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through. You may also pan-fry the tempeh.
Tempeh Milk Onsen Egg
Make tempeh milk. In a blender, place boiled tempeh, water and plant milk and blend on high speed until smooth. Strain the mixture through a nut milk bag. In a small bowl, mix a little of the mixture with the agar powder to create a slurry. Place the tempeh milk and the agar slurry into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes to dissolve the agar. Pour the mixture into egg molds. Place in the refrigerator or freezer to set. It will take about 15 minutes. Once set, use a melon baller to scoop out a hole for the yolks.
In a bowl, mix pumpkin puree and nutritional yeast. Fill the hollowed egg whites with the pumpkin mixture. Use an offset spatula to smoothen the surface.
Heat the miso soymilk broth to just below a simmer. Do not boil or it will cause the broth to split.
Divide the zucchini among four serving bowls. Pour the broth over. Top each bowl with kale, red peppers, tempeh dengaku, tempeh milk egg and the garnishes. Serve immediately.
Use walnut milk instead of soy milk. Walnuts are one of the highest glutamate nuts, and can mimic the glutamate content of soy. Blend 1 cup walnuts with 3 cups water and strain. Use 400 ml for the recipe.
Use coconut aminos instead of tamari. Coconut aminos is generally less salty than tamari so you may have to use more.
Use chickpea miso instead of soybean miso.
Use chickpea tempeh instead of soybean tempeh.