Ramen Review: Spicy Ramen @ Ramen Hood

Those that are well acquainted with ramen are pretty familiar with umami. I’m sure many of you can remember taking your first sip of your broth and feeling the satisfaction of the rich, savory soup warming you. It’s that delectable savoriness that really makes slurping noodles so enjoyable. The trick to the umami found in a lot of bowls of ramen are usually meat and bones.  This focus on meat as source of umami, however, sometimes leaves our non-meat eating friends with the impression that ramen is very much a dish out of reach. Fortunately, there are other ways of generating that umami and Ramen Hood in Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market definitely demonstrates how.


What’s in the Bowl?

Last ramen of the year! I took a trip with my friends Shawn and Juan to Grand Central Market for a bowl from @ramenhood . I’d definitely recommend this spot, especially if you want to try out their rich, vegan ramen (had to get a to-go bowl since they were a bit popular!) Look for a blog post in the new year! #ramenthusiast #bowlsieat #ramenhood #veganramen

A post shared by Khalid Richards (@ramenthusiast) on

Trying to capture the spirit of a tonkotsu broth, the lovely noodles get to sit in a sunflower seed broth. Since I opted for the spicy version, included was spicy paste, adding a bit more red to the broth and darkening it. The toppings were pretty simple: king oyster mushrooms, bean sprout, scallions, chili threads, and nori (dried seaweed). The extra bit that I think was impressive (but more on that a bit later) was the vegan egg: the “egg white” is made from soy milk and agar agar, while the “egg yolk” is made from beta carotene, nutritional yeast, B-vitamins, sodium alginate, and black salt.

How did it shape up to meat broths?

I feel like a big downfall of some ramen dishes that try and cater to the vegetarian and vegan palette is a lack of depth within the broth. Ramen Hood does this excellently with its sunflower seed broth. It’s first made by creating a vegan dashi, then blends it with a creamy base with onions, roasted sunflower seeds, white miso, and nutritional yeast. The result tastes like the familiar tonkotsu broths made from meat: hearty, bold, and full of flavor. The topping of the ramen are things I’d love in regular bowls of tonkotsu ramen: mushrooms that take place of the usual slices of cha-siu pork, bean sprouts to add a bit of a crunch, scallions to add a bit more depth, chili threads to add more heat, and nori for even more umami.

Though I loved most of the toppings, I will say that the vegan egg did take some adjusting to. I enjoyed the bite that you get from normal eggs in ramen. However, I’m not sure I’m entirely convinced on flavors. Perhaps I should have gone for the egg sooner than I did (I like saving mine for the end), but I feel like I didn’t get as much flavor as I would from traditional eggs. That being said, I felt like getting something that did have some of the texture of regular eggs was pretty impressive in and of itself.

So, do we need to try the vegan ramen?

In a word: yes. I definitely recommend taking a trip to Ramen Hood for two reasons. The first is to just add another bowl of tasty ramen on your “Have Eaten” list. I’m definitely of the opinion that one should try and find no reason not to have tasty food. The second reason, however, is to really gather an appreciation for a pretty difficult task: creating a dish where taking the easy road – in this case using meat to create a powerful broth with lots of umami – is ignored in favor of developing something that is truly delicious and special in its own way. Instead of thinking of the ramen at Ramen Hood as a substitute for tonkotsu ramen, treat it as its own dish. If you’re ever in Los Angeles, make your way downtown and please do give Ramen Hood a try!


Things I Bake: Sweet Potato Pie

A couple of sweet potato pies I baked for Christmas!

The American holiday season happens to be one of my favorite times of the year. After the rush of what usually turns out to be a pretty eventful and busy year, it always feels good to sit down with people you love and surround yourselves with nice food. As someone with a strong sweet tooth, I always look forward to dessert the most, as it usually seems that family and friends put out their best sweet treats around this time of the year. In recent years, I’ve decided to join my friends and family that bake and learn how to create these dishes that I love. While I tried my hand at several desserts this season, the one that really made me proud to make was sweet potato pie. Yes, you read that correctly: sweet potato pie. After baking several for my coworkers, friends, and family, I definitely want to share what I believe is a very underrated dessert more dinner tables need for their holiday seasons.

Where did this pie even come from?

While it’s hard to trace the exact origins of the pie, it’s widely believed that it was developed by African-American slaves in the South. The first written record of the pie’s recipe could be found in Abby Fisher’s (former slave) What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking. Since then, the pie is a staple in many Southern and African-American households, usually eclipsing the more popular sweet potato pie.

What even is a sweet potato pie?

For those familiar with the season-famous pumpkin pie might find it initially difficult to tell the difference between these two pies, and it’s not really hard to see why! Both pies contain similar ingredients such as sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. However, there are notable differences (in my experience) between the taste and texture of both desserts. Sweet potato pies tend to feel a bit smoother and less custard-like than their pumpkin pie cousins. Additionally, I get more of an earthy taste from pumpkin pie than I do sweet potato (and this really shows after adding the spices to both pies).

Sounds good! How do we create a sweet potato pie?

Sweet Potato Pie (Filling)

(Note: I cheated with the crust here, but will provide a small recipe for crust sometime in January!)

Ingredients —

2 sweet potatoes (1 pound)

1 cup of white sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

½ cup evaporated milk (need to get better measurements)

2 eggs

½ cup butter softened

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. For pre-made pie shells, follow the heating directions provided on your shells. Otherwise, use your favorite pie crust recipe.
  2. Boil the sweet potatoes until soft (you should be able to go through them with a fork without any resistance)
  3. In a mixing bowl, break apart the sweet potato apart in the bowl (without the skin), then add the softened butter. Mix the two together (I use an electric mixer for this and suggest you do the same!)
  4. After mixing the sweet potato and butter, add (one at a time) the sugar, milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and eggs [medium speed]. You’ll stop when the mixture is smooth.
  5. Pour the pie filling into your crust, bake on 350 degrees for one hour, then let cool. Either serve immediately or refrigerate.

Notes from Making Sweet Potato Pie

  • Taste as you go. Remember, you can easily add more to a recipe but subtracting is hard. As you add your spices and other ingredients, if you feel like your pie doesn’t have quite the taste you want, take a second to think about what you want more of, add a little bit (we don’t want to overwhelm the pie), mix, and taste again.
  • Add eggs after you’re satisfied with the flavor. This piggybacks off of the last note, but saving the eggs for the end allows you to safely taste your pie before committing to that flavor.
  • If you want to curb some of the sweetness of the pie, add a little citrus for a fun flavor. What surprised me in my last iteration of making this pie was how I could add a bit of a different flavor by adding citrus to the pie. In my case, a bit of lemon extract did reduce the sweetness of the pie (which can lean more towards molasses) but added a different dimension to the flavor. Think of sweeter citrus candies you’ve had before, except with heavier autumnal flavors mixed in.

Do you have plans to make a sweet potato pie?  Or do you have some sacred family recipe that you use around the holiday time? Take a picture, share it on your IG and tag it with #ramenthusiast so I can check it out!

Ramenthusiast in 2018

Hi there readers!

It’s been a while since actual content has been posted to the site, so I wanted to go through and talk about expectations for the future with Ramenthusiast. It’ll be quick (I’m not a fan of drawn out updated), so here we go:

  • New Look — A part of some of the updates that you’ll see in 2018 is a new look for the site. I’ve been hard at work trying to nail down what I believe the Ramenthusiast should look and feel like when you visit the site. I hope to have more updates about this project in March!
  • Consistent Blog Posts — I have an army of content I’m currently editing and hoping to post on here. The idea is to always have a stream of food-related topics to make available on the site. For example, there is an awesome post about sweet potato pie planned for next week. Don’t forget to check out the Instagram page for updates on blog posts
  • Ramen Map — A project I’ve been mulling over as well is the Ramen Map, something I’ll update whenever I have a bowl of ramen. The idea is to create short notes about different ramen bowls at the restaurants I get a chance to visit. More details on implementation will be available in March!
  • More Instagram content — Most of the Ramenthusiast content in 2017 has been on Instagram. I definitely plan to include more of the same in 2018, but more often!

I’m absolutely looking forward to sharing more of my dining and cooking experiences with you all! You’ve been amazing with your support and I cannot wait to see how Ramenthusiast grows over time.

Until next week’s pie post!

Welcome to the Ramenthusiast!

Hey there! If you managed to make it to this slice of internet, I suppose I’ve gotten lucky and earned a new reader or I probably told you about the blog. Nevertheless, welcome to the Ramenthusiast! Here, you’ll find a lot of posts about the food I have a chance to eat (especially the ramen), the dishes I learn how to create, and some other thought pieces around food that go a bit beyond typical discussions of how things taste. I encourage you to check things out weekly here, and to follow me on Instagram and Twitter (which I’ll update more often).

Let’s go for this ride together, eat some good food, and have some great discussions!

Curry and Ramen !?! Exploring Jin Ramen’s Green Coconut Thai Curry

Those familiar with Thai cuisine are most likely familiar with the warm, spicy green curry. For those unacquainted with Thai green curry, it’s typically made with spices you’d see in other curries, with green chilis, a coconut milk base, lemongrass, lime leaves, and Galangal (a root that looks rather similar to ginger). The coconut milk usually does a good job masking the bite from the spices of the green chilis. The lemongrass and Galangal adds a citrusy note to the curry, adding to the dimension of flavor. Add some vegetables and a protein and you have a pretty hearty, smooth dish. However, how does one – and this case Jin Ramen – turn this curry dish into a ramen dish? Simple; they took all of these really good elements of green curry and transformed them into the beautiful dish you see below:

Green Curry Ramen… A Special from Jin in the UWS!

What’s in the bowl?

Jin does something special and makes the soup base using green curry inspiration and the diner’s choice of either chicken or pork broth. (I usually aim for pork broth since I’m a sucker for tonkotsu but I’ve been satisfied with chicken broth options from Jin Ramen before). One taste of the broth reminds frequent Thai diners of how delicious green curry can be. The broth is accompanied by chicken, bean sprouts, zucchini, squash, scallion, sesame seeds, a beautifully boiled egg and curly ramen noodles. The display, as you can see for yourself, is stunning; the colors reminds me of a lot of Thai dishes that I get while still maintaining the integrity of a Japanese ramen.

So how does it taste?

Jin does a rather magnificent job capturing the spirit of a green curry while also serving a ramen dish. For this dish, I chose the pork option for the broth. It was most definitely a heavier broth (as most pork broths are), but really smooth like actual green curry. As I allowed my egg to soak in the broth bath (more on that at the end), I dived straight into the noodles. The noodles were a bit springy, which provided a pleasant mouthfeel especially when slurping up a bit of the spicy broth. The toppings, especially the vegetable choices, complement the dish well (the squash and zucchini absorbed a lot of the flavor of the soup, making them delicious to eat as I kept digging in). And the egg…oh the egg. Biting into it was like biting into a curry-yolk flavor bomb. The spiciness from the broth’s green curry influences combined with its umami and the flavorful egg made for a wonderful climax of flavorful before I concluded with a couple of more sips of the savory soup. If I were to address how this dish tasted in a word: wonderfully.

So should I go and try it?

If you’re a fan of spicer dishes, especially green curry, I definitely think that giving Jin’s Green Coconut Thai Curry ramen bowl a try is a good idea. It’s definitely a testament to how ramen can differ from the usual shio/shoyu/tonkotsu options that we may be so accustomed to when visiting our favorite ramen spots. So don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone if you can handle the heat, and give this bowl a try!