Pat and I have a list of countries that we want to visit and I have to admit it’s pretty long. It’s mostly places we haven’t been and a few that were so good we’re aching to repeat them. At the tip top of the list is Japan. I’m absolutely enamored with Japanese culture. Everything from the style to the cuisine to the people – it’s all just so different than any place I’ve ever visited.
This interest in Japan started a long time ago. My dad is an educator and a Fulbright Scholar and did a few exchange trips with other international educators when I was in middle school. Throughout the years, we had several people from Japan stay with us. At that time, I was living in the country in a small town in Wisconsin, so it was very exciting to have a foreign visitor. Our community was pretty isolated and we didn’t get much for diversity – even visitors from out of state for that matter! The other 40 people in my class (that’s right, my graduating class was 41 people!) looked pretty much like me. I loved to read and spent a lot of time reading about faraway places and foreign cultures, but to actually experience it was another story.
Read more and get the recipe after the jump!
Luckily, my dad understood the importance of exposing us to different cultures and set up these exchanges. Looking back, I remember the first time one of our visitors cooked us a traditional Japanese meal. I couldn’t believe all the strange-smelling packets of spices. Then I saw the dried seaweed and I just couldn’t believe it! People actually ate that stinky dried green stuff? On purpose?! I remember trying to keep an open mind, but it definitely was far outside my 5th grade comfort zone.
Fast-forward almost 20 years later and I am living in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. There are literally five Japanese restaurants within a mile from our home. I think nothing of stopping on the way home from work to grab some sushi. Heck, I even buy sushi at the grocery store if I have a craving and am feeling exceptionally lazy. Japanese culture is all around me.
Pat and I love to cook at home, but one thing that we haven’t tried yet is homemade Japanese food. We finally took a swing at creating our own ramen at home. Ramen is totally blowing up the food scene here in San Francisco. Make no mistake though, this isn’t your little brother’s dorm room ramen recipe. This is a start-to-finish made from scratch version that is definitely a little involved but worth every bit of work for the salty umami-ness (yes, I know I made that up) of it.
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- For the Sesame Tare:
- 1 c. sesame seeds, toasted
- 2 T. of soy sauce or tamari
- ¼ c. sugar
- ⅓ c. chili oil
- ½ c. sesame paste or peanut butter
- 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 spring onion, thinly sliced
- 8 c. boiling water
- 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 2 T. of miso (I used red)
- 2 T. soy sauce or tamari
- 2 c. vegetable broth
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1½ inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced
- 200g canned and drained bamboo
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 1 T. soy sauce
- 2½ tsp. sugar
- Pinch or two of chili flakes, to taste
- 8 oz. extra-firm tofu, thinly sliced
- 1 T. sesame oil
- 8 ounces ramen noodles (in a pinch, you can buy the easy Maruchan kind and discard the spice packet)
- 4 large eggs, soft boiled and gently peeled
- 3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
- Handful of bean sprouts, blanched
- 4-6 baby bok choy, sliced in half and blanched
- Make the sesame tare (a seasoning base for the mushroom broth)
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.
- In large bowl, combine the boiling water and the dried mushrooms and let soak 15 minutes. Strain the mushrooms through a sieve. Reserve both the soaking water and the porcini, slice once cool.
- In a large saucepan or Dutch over, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot, sauté 2 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the miso and soy sauce (or tamari if you're gluten free).
- Add the miso mixture, mushroom liquid, veggie broth, garlic, and ginger to your veggies and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Strain the broth over a bowl to remove the solids and discard them. Return to pain over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
- In a skillet, heat 1 tsp. sesame oil over medium and stir-fry the bamboo until dry. Add the soy sauce, sugar and chili flakes and cook until dry. Watch carefully as they will burn quickly!
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook until crispy and golden. Flip to ensure even cooking, about 5-8 minutes total.
- Before you begin, have everything laid out so you can work quickly. Have the pot of broth warm on the stove.
- Heat a large pot of water to boiling and cook the ramen according to package direction or until tender (about 8 minutes). Drain and remove from heat.
- Divy up broth between your serving bowls and equally divide the sesame tare between them. Whisk to combine. Add the cooked ramen. Top each bowl with mushrooms, soft-boiled eggs, bamboo shoots, tofu, and green onions.
Need more healthy vegetarian meal ideas? Try these kale and veggie whole grain rice bowls!