Judging by the numerous reviews of ramen places in London and NYC, yes everyone loves a steaming hot bowl of noodles in a rich, flavourful broth. For the uninitiated, ramen shops do not take reservations, but long wait times outside the ramen shops in cold, windy and rainy weather do not the masses from their ramen bowls. How often have you read a review of vegetarian / vegan ramen? Look no further than this post (and some more on this blog in the very near future)…
Shoryu Ramen specialises in hakata tonkotsu (thick, rich, pork soup) ramen from Kyushu, Japan. It also serves vegetarian, and gluten-free ramen in London. We got a vegetarian ramen along with a tonkotsu (barbecued pork in a pork broth) – just to compare the two. The yuzu tonkotsu ramen with yuzu (Japanese citrus) chutney was certainly richer and filling, given the long-simmered pork broth. The vegan ramen (could have gotten a gluten-free version too), was flatter, tasted like diluted soy sauce, and lacked depth of flavour. The vegan / vegetarian ramen can be given a level playing ground with the tonkotsu on the flavour dimension with yuzu, red ginger or takana (pickled mustard leaves) as toppings – that is what I would do the next time I go to Shoryu Ramen and recommend the same as well. The vegan / vegetarian ramen cannot compete with the rich velvety texture of tonkotsu, but most vegans and vegetarians do not mind a lighter broth. Adding an egg as a topping can add some richness to the broth. With the vegetarian ramen as it is (i.e., with no toppings), there is no way one would enjoy it – it will always seem less exciting when compared to the tonkotsu and especially if its yuzu tonkotsu.
The kara-age (fried chicken) was nice and crispy outside and soft but dry inside and lacked a little something on the flavour dimension. It looks great in the picture below, but it’s not the best kara-age.
The toasted brown rice in this genmai tea had a very subtle flavour of toasted brown rice, and tasted more like green tea, but was very refreshing never the less.
If I go back to Shoryu Ramen it will be to try their spicy ramen and cocktails, not for the vegetarian ramen. Meanwhile, watch out for a Not Just Vegetarian review of Tonkotsu for a comparison of the vegetarian ramen and the (excellent) kara age (fried chicken)….