I love ramen, even the instant kind. But those deep-fried instant ramen, that were part of my staple diet as a uni student, are a poor imitation of the real thing.
Fresh ramen, like the ones you get in a ramen bar are a delight. The trouble is that, as a vegan, it is sometimes difficult to find a ramen bar that serves a vegan broth.
The answer is to make them. I’ve never done it before, but I am excited that I have. They are pretty easy, particularly if you have a pasta machine. And they are delicious.
The secret ingredient in ramen noodles is alkaline water. This is what gives the noodles their slightly chewy texture. To make this you need an alkaline salt. Traditionally this is kansui which is a combination of potassium carbonate & sodium bicarbonate. But, an easy replacement is easily made at home by “cooking” sodium bicarbonate in an oven on a low heat for an hour. This raises the pH of the bicarb making it more alkaline.
This is then dissolved in the water used to make the dough. Once you have made the baked bicarb, making the noodles is fast. Another piece of good news is that the noodles can be frozen and used later to make “instant” ramen.
There are other recipes out there that cook normal noodles in water with unbaked sodium bicarbonate but they reportedly don’t taste good. So I settled on this more traditional one where alkaline water is used to make the dough. There are a heap of recipes out there. I based this one on a recipe on the New York Times by Harold McGee who is credited with the idea of baking the sodium bicarbonate to make the alkaline salt.
Char kway teow is probably my favourite noodle dish of all time. That’s a big call because I am a BIG fan of any noodles, and rice noodles in particular.
I’m lucky because my volunteering at Fareshare takes me down Victoria Street in Richmond, which is Asian grocery central. It is a rare week that I don’t pick up some kind of Asian ingredient on my way home.
Since becoming vegan I don’t think I’ve eaten char kway teow, as the classic recipe contains lots of meaty or fishy items as well as egg. I’d really consigned it to one of those things that I probably wouldn’t eat again.
But last week on my way to volunteer, I noticed a trolley delivering fresh rice noodles to a Vietnamese grocer and I made a mental note to grab some on the way home. I wasn’t really thinking about char kway teow at all, just the rice noodles with something.
But then I got a bee in my bonnet about char kway teow and decided I had to give it a try. I made a really simple version and I am happy to say that it was swoon worthy. I’m really delighted that the flavours in char kway teow don’t really depend hugely on the bits and pieces in the dish, but the sauces and the scorchingly hot wok. The dish is really all about the noodles.
There are heaps of differing opinions on the web as to what goes in the sauce, but I’m really happy with mine which contained garlic, kecap manis, sriracha and light soy.
It tasted just the way I remember it should, salty, sweet, savoury and hot. I added some bean sprouts, spring onions and mock vegan prawns from Vincents for a bit of texture.