(THE WASHINGTON POST) - For cooks who want to make ramen at home, Chloe Coscarelli’s recipe in her new book, Chloe Flavor (Clarkson Potter, 2018), inspired by a bowl she had at Ramen Hood, uses coconut milk to add a silkiness sometimes missing from vegan versions. Before it goes in (along with vegetable broth), you quickly cook down shiitake mushrooms and baby bok choy and add a little curry and garlic for seasoning depth. The noodles can be instant ramen (without that seasoning packet, please), fresh vegan ramen noodles when you can find them, or udon or soba.
Coscarelli knows that toppings go a long way towards creating a good bowl of ramen, and the tofu treatment the chef uses here is one of the best I’ve cooked in a long time. You pan-fry cubes until crispy, then glaze them in sticky-sweet hoisin sauce. It’s even good enough to satisfy the carnivores at your table, too.
The only problem is that you might pop too many of them in your mouth before you get a chance to ladle the ramen and its broth into bowls. So try to restrain yourself.
Vegan Ramen Bowls
MAKE AHEAD: The cooked noodles and the tofu can be refrigerated for up to 1 week (separately); do not freeze. The rest of the soup (without the noodles and the tofu) can be refrigerated for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months.
Adapted from “Chloe Flavor: Saucy, Crispy, Spicy, Vegan,” by Chloe Coscarelli (Clarkson Potter, 2018).
One 397g package extra-firm tofu
½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more for the noodle cooking water
227 to 255g dried ramen noodles (see headnote; may substitute with udon or soba noodles)
5 Tbs vegetable oil, or more as needed
¾ cup hoisin sauce
227g (2½ cups) shiitake mushroom caps, sliced
1 bunch (about 340g) baby bok choy, trimmed and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp curry powder
4 cups no-salt-added store-bought or homemade vegetable broth
One 383g can full-fat coconut milk (may substitute with light coconut milk)
3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal, for garnish
1 Tbs sesame seeds, for garnish
2 Tbs Sriracha (optional; may substitute with another hot sauce of your choice)
1. Wrap the tofu in several layers of paper towels, place on a plate, put another plate on top, and put a large can of tomatoes or another heavy object on the plate, and let the tofu drain for at least 20 minutes. Unwrap it, and cut it into bite-size cubes.
2. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook them according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water.
3. Heat four tablespoons of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the tofu cubes and sear for about three minutes on each side, until golden and crisped. Add more oil as needed if much of the oil gets absorbed. Once the tofu is cooked, pour out any excess oil. Reduce the heat to low, add the hoisin sauce, and turn the tofu to coat and glaze it evenly.
4. In a large saucepan, heat the remaining one tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Once it shimmers, add the mushrooms and bok choy; cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are soft and the bok choy has wilted, for three to five minutes. Stir in the garlic, curry powder and ½ teaspoon salt; cook until fragrant, for one minute. Add the broth and coconut milk; once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Taste, and add more salt, as needed. Add the cooked noodles and stir until heated through.
5. Serve right away, before the noodles absorb too much broth and thicken. Ladle the broth and noodles into bowls and top each serving with scallions, sesame seeds and the glazed tofu. Top each portion with a squirt or two of Sriracha, if desired.
Serves six to eight (makes 12 cups)