One of my staple meals before going vegan was instant ramen. Ramen itself is a perfect and filling comfort food, and the instant version was literally designed to be nourishing and efficient. There used to be a really great Lucky Peach article about its genesis online, but it doesn’t seem to be available anymore. I’ll paraphrase: former banker Momofuku Ando was walking around the economic and literal post-WWII wreckage in Japan, when he saw a line of people at a noodle cart. He realized that Japan needed comfort food. He knew it needed to be cheap, nourishing, easy to store, and even easier to make. Necessity is the mother of instant ramen, as they say.
My go-to additions used to be broccoli, hot sauce, and a soft-boiled egg (or an egg that I kind of scrambled in the broth? a poorly poached egg?) but since my favorite part of that combination is NOT VEGAN, I decided to come up with a few new options so I’d stop staring longingly at the non-vegan ramen packets my parents sent me and actually make my favorite food again.
To find most of vegan instant ramen, you’ll have to go to an Asian supermarket or grocer. There are some big chains like Uwajimaya in the Pacific Northwest (my heart and home), and East Coasters and friends have the swankier H-Mart. I don’t have any personal experience with other large chains but there are tons of smaller places in many cities as well. Amazon has a pretty good selection as well! Here are two that I found vetted on several vegan websites and that are available for purchase on Amazon:
Top Ramen Oriental Flavor: If you want the most bang for your buck, the unfortunately named Oriental flavor of Top Ramen is a no-frills easy bet.
Sapporo Ichiban Miso Ramen: My childhood favorite was the Original flavor of Sapporo Ichiban, but this miso ramen is their only vegan flavor and still a great and comforting dish.
This is the ramen I ended up using—it was cheap, vegan, and available for only 69 cents at my local Asian supermarket. It didn’t have a particularly strong flavor, but I added a bit of onion and garlic powder and that really helped!
Here are the variations I came up with:
Easy AF: I’d recommend this if you’re new to topping instant ramen, or if you’re having a really lazy day. You can scoop in frozen corn as the ramen cooks and throw on the bean sprouts and pickled bamboo shoots straight from the jar.
Classic: This version has fairly traditional toppings, with pan-fried tofu taking the place of fatty pork slices. I also topped the bowl with bean sprouts, corn, and enoki mushrooms.
Spicy AF: I looooooove spicy ramen! The spicy flavor of this brand fell pretty flat, so I added in dried ghost pepper and red chili flakes. I’ve always found for some reason that broccoli or a meaty vegetable helps temper spice, so I always include it when I’m making spicy ramen.
I hope this gave you some ideas! If you have a favorite brand of vegan ramen, please let me know (: