Chipotle “Ramen” with Crispy Tofu
I really like Ramen. Warm, salty, spicy, complex and a free pass to slurp away. Yet at times it feels like a big indulgence, like a big bowl of pasta in disguise. This is my guilt-free take, just in time to take a break from all those holiday treats.
The ingredient list looks long but I promise this is easy cooking.
There are many different types of Ramen (here’s a breakdown). For the purists out there, I should state upfront: this is unlike any (so whether this is really ramen is up for debate). The broth comes together in 20 minutes (instead of 15+ hours), and is made up of ingredients I had in my pantry and fridge (including chipotle powder). If 1 is instant ramen (i.e. Maruchan) and 10 is authentic Japanese ramen, this falls somewhere in the middle.
The broth is light, flavored with miso base, aromatics and seaweed. The chipotle powder adds a lot of kick, so use a little to start with and work yourself up to your tolerance. If you have porcini mushrooms at hand this would make a great addition to the broth - dried or fresh.
Two important notes: you are adding a lot of salt with the miso and tamari, so use no-sodium or minimally salted vegetable or chicken broth. Scallions are an essential part of ramen but I didn’t have any on hand, so I included it as an optional topping; I highly suggest you use it.
Lastly, the feedfeed, one of my all-time favorite food feeds featured the first version of this dish. I recommend you head over there for more miso inspiration!
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2’ inch ginger coin, peeled and minced
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1.5 teaspoon red miso paste (more if using white or yellow miso)
1 teaspoon tamari sauce (sub soy sauce)
2 teaspoons mirin (sub white wine, or rice vinegar with a pinch of sugar)
1 teaspoon vegetable seasoning powder (sub with 2 cups no-sodium vegetable or chicken broth)
2 cups water (omit if using broth)
1 sheet Nori/Japanese dried seaweed, cut into pieces
0.5-2 teaspoons chipotle powder (or eliminate altogether)
Ramen & Topping Ingredients:
1 pack shirataki noodles, prepared according to pack (sub dried ramen noodles, follow instructions on pack)
2 big handfuls fresh baby spinach
7 oz extra firm tofu, drained and squeezed between paper towels, cut into uniform cubes
1/3 lime, for garnish
red pepper flakes, for garnish
optional toppings: finely chopped scallions (green parts as topping, white parts into broth), pickled vegetables (beets, kimchi, etc), dried seaweed, corn, sriracha, tahini, sprouts (bean sprouts, alfalfa, etc), leafy vegetables (kale, bok choy, arugula), vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower), and if you’re a carnivore - meat (minced pork, pork belly, smoked turkey, chicken)
Broth: heat a glug of vegetable oil in a pot over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger and onion and cook until soft and fragrant (2 minutes). Add the rest of the broth ingredients except the chipotle powder. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to lowest setting and simmer for 18 minutes. Stir in chipotle powder and increase heat slightly. Cook for 2 more minutes. Taste, adjust seasoning. Pour broth into a bowl over a strainer to separate the solids. If using dried ramen noodles, return strained broth to pot and cook with noodles on a low setting until ready.
While the broth simmers, prepare the rest of ingredients.
Tofu: drizzle a little bit of sesame oil in a non-stick skillet and heat over medium heat.. Swirl pan around so it coats the bottom evenly. Add tofu cubes in one layer, sprinkle top lightly with cayenne pepper. When bottom is crispy turn over, and lightly sprinkle with cayenne pepper again. Repeat until all sides are cooked and tofu is crispy, ~10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Spinach: sautee spinach with a light drizzle of vegetable oil until barely wilted (not even 2 minutes). Drain and set aside.
Soft boiled Egg (see note): bring a pot of water to a soft boil. Make sure there’s enough water to cover the egg. Gently add the egg with a mesh spoon and immediately reduce to low setting. Cook in a gentle simmer for ~5:30 minutes, remove from heat and plunge into an ice bath to stop cooking process. Peel.
Assemble your ramen. Ladle broth and noodles into the bowl. Add spinach, tofu cubes and soft boiled egg. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, squeeze in lime juice, and any additional toppings. Slurp away!
Yields 1 very generous bowl
Egg Note: getting an egg cooked just right for Ramen is a bit tricky. A 4-minute egg is too runny, while a boiled egg is too cooked. Both would still work, but the ideal is an egg with a firm white and thickened but still runny yolk (between 5-7 minutes). Serious Eats has a good piece on how to perfect this technique (including marinating the egg after cooking for a few hours - experiment!).