A few months ago, Shojin, a vegan restaurant in Little Tokyo introduced vegan ramen on their menu. Our first attempt at trying this rare bowl of soup was foiled when we unknowingly arrived during their sushi night. Apparently, no ramen was to be had on sushi night.
A week later, we made sure it wasn’t sushi night and tried again. I tempered my expectations a little, telling myself that there’s just no way a non-meat version of ramen could compare to the broth at Daikokuya, a stone’s throw away, so I shouldn’t even think about the comparison. I would think about vegan ramen as a completely different species as regular ramen.
I ordered the sesame ramen, which from the description on their menu, made me think it was Shojin’s attempt at a milky, rich broth. Unfortunately, the richness came from soymilk and tahini. The broth just didn’t have the same mouthfeel as a slow-simmered pork broth, but that wasn’t the soup’s only short-coming. That would be reserved for the overwhelming flavor of tahini. I had expected a slight nutty taste like that of sesame oil, but the broth tasted just like watered down tahini with a bit of bitterness.
Will ordered a more traditional ramen, which I believe was the spicy miso ramen. It was a Japanese level of spicy (not spicy at all) but the broth was a great deal better than mine. The miso lent the broth the much-needed umami flavor. The broth wasn’t too shabby for a vegan ramen broth.
Although Shojin didn’t make the ramen noodles from scratch, I was glad that they cooked them well. The noodles were chewy, plentiful, and managed not to get too soggy. The vegetables (mainly kale) were a great addition too. What was blatantly missing from our bowl though, were the pickled slices of bamboo which often comes with ramen. I don’t think there was anything un-vegan about pickled bamboo. I was sorry to see it missing. Our bowls also came with a few slices of seitan ‘cha-siu’ which I could have done without. The texture was good, but the slices weren’t seasoned well at all.
Shojin’s ramen isn’t going to be luring any omnivores through its doors, but considering they’re the only place I know of that serves actual vegan ramen, it’s worth going for the vegetable-inclined.
333 South Alameda Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013-1735