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Spicy Vegan Miso Ramen from Just Enough by Gesshin Claire Greenwood

Fresh out of college, Gesshin Claire Greenwood found her way to a Buddhist monastery in Japan and was ordained as a Buddhist nun. Zen appealed to Greenwood because of its all-encompassing approach to life and how to live it, its willingness to face life’s big questions, and its radically simple yet profound emphasis on presence, reality, the now. At the monastery, she also discovered an affinity for working in the kitchen, especially the practice of creating delicious, satisfying meals using whatever was at hand — even when what was at hand was bamboo.

Just Enough

Based on the philosophy of oryoki, her book Just Enough combines stories with recipes. From perfect rice, potatoes, and broths to hearty stews, colorful stir-fries, hot and cold noodles, and delicate sorbet, she shows food to be a direct, daily way to understand Zen practice. With eloquent prose, she takes readers into monasteries and markets, messy kitchens and predawn meditation rooms, and offers food for thought that nourishes and delights body, mind, and spirit.

Vegan Ramen

Spicy Vegan Miso Ramen

Spicy Vegan Miso Ramen is adapted from other recipes I have read online and in books (especially Ramen at Home, by Brian MacDuckston, as well as Ivan Ramen for general techniques) and incorporates the advice I have received from Japanese nuns on making good vegetarian stock. It’s not an entirely unique recipe, but it includes elements that I uniquely enjoy eating and is the best way I know to make the dish.

Ramen tare in restaurants is usually made by simmering meat bones. The vegan version I have created involves simmering a veritable witches’ brew of konbu, shiitakes, soybeans, aromatics, soy sauce, and salt (be wary, it stinks up the house!) to create a rich, salty broth. It’s best to make a large quantity of soy tareand store it, so you do not have to recreate it from scratch each time you want ramen.

shiitake mushrooms

Part 1: Witches’ Brew (Soy Tare)

Makes about 5 cups

  • 10 medium dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 ounce konbu (dried kelp; about 1 cup when cut into 1-inch squares)
  • 5 cups water
  • ½ cup soybeans
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sake
  • 1/3 cup mirin
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped green onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons salt

Grind the dried shiitakes to a fine powder in a food processor. (You can also mince them very finely if you do not have a food processor.) Add the konbuand powdered shiitakes to the water and bring to a boil on very low heat.

In a small dry pan on medium-low, toast the soybeans until their aroma emerges, about 4 minutes (be careful not to burn them). To the shiitake-konbubroth add the toasted soybeans, soy sauce, sake, mirin, green onions, garlic, and ginger and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and let rest for another 10 to 15 minutes until it is cool enough to handle.

Remove the konbuand larger ingredients with tongs. Next, using a coffee filter or very fine colander, strain the liquid to remove all small particles. Stir the salt into the strained liquid.

ginger and garlic

Part 2: Spicy Miso Tare

Makes 1¼ cups

  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 cup red miso (or half red and half white, if you have it)
  • ½ cup Soy Tare 
  • 1/3 cup toban-djan (spicy Asian fermented bean paste; the Asian sauce brand Lee Kum Kee sells this under the name “Chili Bean Sauce”)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

In a medium pan sauté the garlic, ginger, and green onions in the sesame oil on medium-low for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring. Add the red miso, Soy Tare,toban-djan, and sugar. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until all the ingredients are incorporated and the sauce thickens to a paste, about 3 minutes.


Part 3: Tofu “Pork”

Serves 2 to 3

1 block (14 ounces) extra-firm tofu

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mushrooms, such as shiitake
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoons mirin
  • 1 teaspoontoban-djan (spicy fermented bean paste)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Cut the tofu into 1-inch-thick slices. Wrap them in paper towels, cover with a cutting board, put a weight on the board, and let sit for 30 minutes to press out excess water. In a bowl, crumble the tofu with your hands and sprinkle the cornstarch over the tofu until it is coated. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the sesame oil in a medium frying pan and sauté the garlic, ginger, and green onions for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook another minute. Add the vegetable oil and then the coated tofu crumbles to the pan and sauté on medium-high, stirring frequently, until the tofu is brown and crispy and the mushrooms are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the soy sauce, mirin, and toban-djanand continue cooking until the liquid is absorbed into the tofu. Remove the pan from the heat and top the dish with sesame seeds.

Vegan Ramen Noodles

Part 4: Spicy Miso Ramen

Serves 2 hungry people or 3 polite ones

  • 5 cups konbu (dried kelp) dashi or other Japanese broth
  • ¾ cup Spicy Miso Tare
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1½ cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup moyashi(bean sprouts)
  • 1 package (12 ounces) Sun Noodle ramen (or other fresh ramen that serves 2 people)
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon chili oil
  • 2 servings Tofu “Pork”
  • 3 tablespoons sliced green onions, for garnish

Bring the konbudashi to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and add the Spicy Miso Tareand tahini. Stir until dissolved and continue cooking another 20 minutes.

Blanch the cabbage and moyashiin salted water (in separate pots, if possible) for 2 minutes and then rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Gently squeeze the vegetables to remove excess water.

Cook the noodles according to the package directions. To each serving bowl, add a small amount of chili oil, depending on how spicy you like it (1 teaspoon is enough for me, but fans of spice may want to up it to 1 tablespoon). Ladle the spicy miso broth into the bowls. Add the noodles to the broth; top them with the Tofu “Pork,” cabbage, and bean sprouts; and garnish with green onions.

At some point, you’ll have to choose your own way. This is true in all areas of your life. Be a faithful apprentice and then take what you know into the world. With the right recipe, life is delicious. It is not perfect or instant, but it will be something you will want to eat more of.

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