We’re in the midst of a big rain storm in the Bay Area, which happens about as often as a lunar eclipse. We’ve been trudging along for three years in a drought-induced haze, giving the stink eye to the neighbor who’s washing his car with the hose running, turning off the shower water between shampooing and rinsing, convincing ourselves that our brown lawns are eco-cool, wondering whether giving up H20-sucking beef was enough or if now we even need to give up almonds… all these stupid inconveniences distracting us from the fact that we really just miss hearing the sound of good, old-fashioned, life-filled rain.
Rain is such a rare sound now that when it starts, I turn everything off. No more NPR on my car radio, no more music while I cook, just the cadence of five thousand drops per second hitting my windowpane, quickening with the swells of wind. That’s the sound I’m hearing now as I write. And it’s the sound that put me in the mood earlier today — for ramen.
Ramen is the perfect food for cold, wet weather (well, I can’t exactly claim that this 59-degree storm counts as “cold weather,” but it’s at least safe to call it wet). If you’re like me and don’t have a fireplace, you may agree that the only consolation prize capable of filling you with the same coziness of a crackling fire is a steaming bowl-full of ramen.
I created this recipe on a rainy day back in December for an article I wrote for the San Jose Mercury about livening up the winter doldrums with some fun, not-so-common produce. Kohlrabi is one of my favorite winter vegetables, delicious cooked or raw, and perfect for this vegetarian version of ramen. The key to this meat-free broth is adding back some of the strained stock bits to the liquid and then pureeing it to give the broth that thick, meatiness that makes it stick to the noodles. SLURP. YUM.
If you would like to read more about kohlrabi including its health benefits, check out this earlier post for kohlrabi lettuce wraps. Otherwise, just get to work on the ramen so you can sit back and slurp it up to the sound of the rain before it passes us by.
For the broth:
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 quart vegetable stock
- 1 quart water
- 1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons yellow or white miso paste
For the ramen:
- 8 ounces ramen or Japanese noodles
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 2 kohlrabi, greens and stems chopped, and bulbs peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 spicy red chile, such as Fresno
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced in half
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 soft-boiled eggs
- 3 green onions, chopped
To make the broth, heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 8-10 minutes or until the onion is golden but not browned. Add the stock, water, dried mushrooms and soy sauce. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Stir in the miso paste. Process the stock in a blender until smooth. Cook the ramen according to package directions.
In a large wok or skillet set over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil. Add the kohlrabi, chile, ginger and fresh mushrooms and stir-fry for 5-6 minutes, until the kohlrabi is tender but still slightly crisp. Stir in the sesame oil and soy sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Divide the noodles into four deep bowls. Ladle the hot broth over the noodles. Top each bowl with the stir-fried vegetables, half a soft-boiled egg and some chopped green onion, and serve.