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
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!