Vegetarian Ramen: Using Your Noodle
Ah, Ramen! We eat it when we're in college. We eat in when we're young (or not so young) and poor. For some us, it's comfort food. (As the song reminds us, there are some things we wouldn't have to eat if we had a million dollars... but, you know, we might.) As time goes on, though,we tend to have a love-hate relationship with those starchy white noodles. It's hard to get the cheap stuff vegetarian -- there are fewer flavor options. And vegetarian or not, we know it's not so healthy.
There are ways to make those noodles (relatively) healthy and (completely) veggie without adding a lot of cooking time. There are some recipes on this page; the main focus is on what to stock your pantry with so you can throw together a five minute Ramen meal any old time. The intended audience is... well, there are three of them: folks looking for quick and easy vegetarian recipes, folks looking to make their noodles healthier, and folks whose kids are moving out of the house. (You just know they can't pass up 3 for a dollar meals. Oriental Top Ramen is vegetarian -- but does it contain nutrition?)
Hacking the Ramen Package: How to Stock Your Pantry - Or your kids'
This is a list of ingredients that it's good to have on hand so you make a variety of quick (and much healthier) Ramen noodle recipes without a lot of notice. The emphasis is on things that will keep a long time.
- Seaweed You can buy a small bag of seaweed in the refrigerator section of a natural foods store. It will cost at least $3.00, but a little goes a long way, and it lasts a long, long time in the fridge.
- Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or tamari sauce) Bragg's is a relatively inexpensive and pure soy sauce product. You may find it in the bulk liquids section -- bring along a small bottle.
- Sesame oil This makes a very good vegetarian broth. You'll probably use less sodium if you add some sesame oil.
- Mushrooms Fresh is the most economical, but you can buy a small bag of dried ones to keep on hand.
- Frozen Veggies I like spinach, but there are lots of options (edame, broccoli, mixed stir fry vegetables).
- Flaxseeds No, don't run away! (More on this topic later.)
- Textured veggie protein Cheap! Adds fiber, iron, and protein (and if you're relatively young, chances are good you can digest it)
- Vaguely chicken-esque bullion I like Frontier's vegan chicken broth powder -- also available in the bulk bin.
- Garlic Any form.
- Canned corn
Make a Vegetarian Ramen Care Package - A Great Send Off for College
It's easy to pack seaweed, dried mushrooms and vegetables, and some veggie bullion.
- Ramen noodles
- Button mushrooms
- Seaweed (a couple tablespoons of the refrigerated kind)
- Garlic (1-2 minced cloves or a dash of powder)
- Sesame Oil
- Start your water boiling.
- Clean a half dozen (or so) mushrooms and slice them up. Rinse your seaweed a little better than you think you have to.
- When the water is boiling, add all ingredients except the sesame oil.
- Stir a bit, and remove from heat when the noodles are soft.
- Taste the concoction. Seaweed tends to retain salt even when it's rinsed pretty well. Add a bit of sesame oil, and it's probably good to go.
- Alternative (Stir Fry Ramen): Cook the noodles without any flavoring. Drain most of the liquid and fry up all the ingredients in sesame oil.
Miso Vegetable Ramen
Miso is another good broth base -- a bit thicker and richer than Bragg's. This soup uses a lot of vegetables: spinach, kale, mushrooms.
(Not Quite) Chicken Noodle Soup
You can make a vegetarian chicken noodle soup with Frontier's vegan chicken broth and a package of ramen. Make it more nutritious by adding garlic and some chopped celery, onions, and/or parsley. Onions can be bought frozen, so you don't necessarily need to. As for parsley, it's good to add at the very last minute.
Textured vegetable protein is an optional ingredient. You can also use a dash of sage, for flavor.
Convalescing? A sprinkle of flaxseeds is a nutrition boost.
Spotlight on the Flax Seed
And why you want it in your Ramen noodles (really!)
Most of us know flaxseeds are healthy, but they have this... well, reputation. You may even think of them as something akin to barley grass -- you mix it in some liquids and hold your nose. No, no! I personally think flaxseeds taste better than sunflower seeds or even pumpkin seeds (though they're tinier and admittedly, they do tend to get away if I try to eat them on their own). Flaxseeds can even be bought roasted!
So why the reputation? Well, we don't grind roasted pumpkin seeds into flour, mix them with apple juice, and try to pass it off as a smoothie. But with flax seeds, we do. Like other seeds, flaxseeds go better in thicker, heartier foods. They're a natural for savory dishes. You can add a spoonful or two to your boiling noodles... You might like it, or you might not notice much, but your Ramen noodles have just gotten a lot healthier. (And flaxseeds are pretty cheap in the bulk bin, too.)
Ramen with Tofu, Vegetables, and Corn
More Vegetarian Ramen Recipes
- Imperial Ramen
A rather gourmet vegetarian Ramen recipe that looks like something you might find at an ethnic restaurant.
- Spicy Ramen noodle soup
An easy-to-make spicy soup, with chili oil and ginger root
- 100 Ramen recipes for college students
Not all of these recipes are vegetarian, but a lot are -- and the list is well organized.
- More on vegetarian Ramen ingredients
This is not quite a recipe, but it gives an introduction to different brands of noodles and some more things you might add to your soup.
Vegetarian Ramen Options
The easiest to come by vegetarian Ramen is Nissin Top Ramen Oriental. That's also one of the least expensive. There are some healthier options, though.
I haven't tried this one or viewed the ingredients, but the reviews on Amazon indicate it's vegan.
Beyond the Basics - if you want to experiment with more exotic recipes
You can make a quick stir fry with Ramen. Here are some ingredients for those that like to go beyond soup. Keep your eye out because the cost of some of these items can be very variable. (You may do better at either an Oriental foods store or a store that specializes in discounts.)
- Canned baby corn
- Coconut milk
- Chili bean paste
- Frozen peppers (Cheap at Trader Joe's)
- Spicy (chili infused) cooking oil
- Tempeh (It's easy to keep on hand because you can freeze it)
- Peanut butter or tahini I recommended the natural, unsweetened peanut butter.