Ramen (the famous Japanese huge bowl of noodles and toppings in a stock) is such a particularly filling dish, I gradually got used to cutting down the noodle portion by half and replacing it with vegetables. Courgette, thanks to its neutral taste and short cooking time, has always been my favourite. Cauliflower is not something I think of when cooking Japanese, but I have recently discovered that when slightly blanched, it pairs very well with my ramen and is an excellent light replacement for the left half package of noodles.
As I have already mentioned here, ramen soup is all about stock (by the way, if you are a ramen fan and don’t know the film Tampopo yet, you must absolutely see it!). Ramen can be made with different stocks, based on various ingredients and these are usually more important to big amateurs than the toppings or other ingredients added just before serving. Thanks to Nancy Hachisu and her Japanese Farm Food I discovered a perfect homemade ramen based on baked chicken bones and vegetables. I like it so much, I sometimes prepare it two weeks in a row (which means having several ramens a week). It has a bold, deep taste but is not heavy or high-calorie (if you skim the fat), so it can be enjoyed even by those who watch their waistline (unlike, for example, tonkotsu, the very heavy and thick pork bone stock I couldn’t prepare regularly, even though I like it and will always order it in Japan). For me it’s particularly convenient since I often buy a whole chicken and then cut it up on my own, so the chicken carcass I am left with is ideal for this type of home ramen stock. Please check my (slightly modified) recipe explained in details here and read the original one in Nancy Hachisu’s Japanese Farm Food.
I have never liked mushy cauliflower and here only quickly blanched one is used (it must still be crunchy). Even if you prefer mushy cauliflower, its flavours will get stronger, changing the whole ramen, so I strongly advise against it. Do not cook the raw cauliflower in the ramen stock. It will dominate the taste of the whole dish even more.
I usually break dry noodles portion in two and use only half (a whole portion is too much for me), but of course feel free to use the whole portion.
Below is a list of my favourite toppings, some being obviously not traditional at all (I like adding frozen peas for example). I am crazy for yuzu koshou (see the super easy recipe here) with its slight bitterness, but many people dislike it, so taste it first (it will change the taste of the whole soup). I also like adding soy sauce before serving ramen. Check Wikipedia if you want to read the list of strictly Japanese toppings.
Strained stock will keep for at least four days in the coldest part of the fridge (I have never tested a longer period).
Preparation: (if you already have the stock ready) 15 minutes
Ingredients (serves 2):
1 – 2 portions of dry Japanese noodles (my favourite are thin, very curly yellowish wheat noodles)
soy sauce (I use low-sodium to have more soy sauce taste but not too much salt)
blanched crunchy (not mushy!) cauliflower
Some of my favourite toppings (I usually don’t put them all at the same time):
half-boiled egg (hard-boiled is ok too)
sliced roast meat (usually pork is used, but I often put some roast or grilled chicken too; here I have used chicken breast grilled in pieces)
chopped spring onions or chives
yuzu koshou (chilli and yuzu peel paste, see the recipe here or a Westernised lime and chilli paste)
shichimi togarashi (Japanese hot seasoning; you can see it on the egg halves)
soy bean or mung bean sprouts
frozen green peas
Reheat the stock. Add soy sauce to taste.
Break the dry noodles portion in two (if you want to make a bigger, more filling ramen, use two portions).
In the meantime boil some water and put ramen noodles into it.
Cover and wait about 10 minutes until they soften (I prefer them slightly al dente but feel free to leave them for longer).
In each bowl put small pieces of blanches cauliflower, a 1/2 portion (or whole portion) of noodles and pour the stock over them.
Add the toppings: sprouts, halved egg, roasted meat, chives, chili oil… Serve very hot!