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A restorative bowl of vegetarian ramen sent Lukas Volger on a quest to capture the full flavor of all the one-bowl meals that are the rage today—but in vegetarian form. With the bowl as organizer, the possibilities for improvisational meals full of seasonal produce and herbs are nearly endless.
Volger’s ramen explorations led him from a simple bowl of miso ramen to a glorious summer ramen with corn broth, tomatoes, and basil. From there, he went on to the Vietnamese noodle soup pho, with combinations like caramelized spring onions, peas, and baby bok choy. His edamame dumplings with mint are served in soup or over salad, while spicy carrot dumplings appear over toasted quinoa and kale for a rounded dinner. Imaginative grain bowls range from ratatouille polenta to black rice burrito with avocado. And unlike their meatier counterparts, these dishes can be made in little time and without great expense.
Volger also includes many tips, techniques, and indispensable base recipes perfected over years of cooking, including broths, handmade noodles, sauces, and garnishes.
Photographs by Michael Harlan Turkell
From the Publisher
Spring Ramen with Snap Peas, Shaved Asparagus, and Lemon Zest from Bowl
This bowl features juicy sweet snap peas and the delicate, sharp flavor of shaved raw asparagus in a light broth that’s brightened with lemon zest and fresh ginger. It also incorporates a streamlined kombu-soaking step, so that the dashi doesn’t need to be prepared in advance.
1. Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus and set the top parts aside. Combine the tough asparagus ends, mushrooms, garlic, and water in a stockpot or saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the kombu, remove from the heat, and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain out and discard the solids and return the broth to the stockpot.
2. In a tall glass or measuring cup, or the plastic cup that usually comes with an immersion blender, combine the miso and a ladleful of the hot broth. Puree thoroughly with an immersion blender until smooth. (Alternatively, puree in a blender.) Pour the mixture into the stockpot with the rest of the broth and bring to a bare simmer. Add the salt and taste, adding more salt as necessary. Keep covered over low heat until ready to serve.
3. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the asparagus spears into ribbons. It’s easiest to do this by laying them flat on a cutting board, and using a Y peeler.
4. Bring another saucepan of salted water to boil and prepare an ice bath. Remove the fibrous strings from the snap peas: Pinch one end and pull along the straight edge of the pea as if it’s a zipper. Once the water comes to a boil, add the snap peas and blanch for 90 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peas to the ice bath. Reserve the boiling water.
5. Add the noodles to the boiling water, in a strainer basket or the pasta insert that comes with your stockpot, if you have one, and cook until tender, usually 4 to 7 minutes for dried (or according to the package instructions), or 60 to 90 seconds for fresh. Lift out the noodles, reserving the cooking water, and rinse the noodles thoroughly under cold running water in order to remove excess starch. Quickly dunk them back into the hot water to reheat. Divide among four bowls.
6. Just before serving, wave the nori squares over the flame of a gas burner a few times until the corners curl and they turn crisp, or roast under a broiler, flipping periodically. Slice into thin strips with a chef’s knife, or crumble with your fingers.
7. Arrange the shaved asparagus, snap peas, and egg halves, if using, over the noodles in each bowl. Add a pinch of lemon zest and a scant teaspoon of ginger pulp or a few gratings of ginger to each bowl, then cover with the piping hot broth. Divide the frizzled scallions on top, garnish each serving with a few drops of sesame oil and the nori, and serve immediately.
8 ounces asparagus
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 plump garlic cloves, smashed
9 cups water
Four 2-inch squares kombu
2 tablespoons light-colored miso paste
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 ounces sugar snap peas
8 ounces dried or 12 ounces fresh ramen noodles
Two 2-inch squares toasted nori
4 large boiled eggs, molten or firm yolks
4 pinches of freshly grated lemon zest
Freshly grated ginger, to taste
1 cup Frizzled Scallions
Toasted sesame oil, for garnish