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Warming Vegetarian Ramen To Get You Through Winter + Giveaway

by Kristina Gill

My hometown of Nashville, TN hasn’t always been a city in which you could genuinely hover with indecision over a long list of delicious-sounding restaurants you’d like to try out. Over the past decade, however, the food scene has been steadily diversifying. I could hardly believe my eyes when I read that local restaurateur Sarah Gavigan was opening a ramen shop, and the similarities between Japan and Middle Tennessee which sealed her determination were equally interesting. I was lucky enough to be in town shortly after its opening in 2015 and was pleasantly surprised with my meal.

To help you through the cold spell sweeping the US and many places in the northern hemisphere, we are sharing the Cauliflower Tantanmen recipe from Sarah’s first book, Ramen Otaku. The combination of sesame and chili oil defines a “tantanmen,” which is a derivation of the Chinese Dandan noodle dish.  A traditional tantanmen uses ground pork as the topping, but here Sarah has used riced cauliflower.

We are very lucky to be able to bring you the recipes for the toppings and the ramen — so you really don’t want to miss out on this!  Though the recipe list looks long, it’s all quite easy. Just make sure you read through everything first (the topping recipes are listed below the main recipe) and have everything ready to add to the bowls when you start to make the ramen. You will probably already have most of the ingredients on hand, so shopping for this dish will be light work! Let us know how you like it, and especially if you use the rayu in other dishes! —Kristina

About Sarah: Sarah Gavigan is the chef and ramen geek behind the Nashville ramen shop, Otaku Ramen. During her 20 years working in film production and as a music executive in Los Angeles, Gavigan ate her way through the local ramen spots, but upon moving back to her native Nashville, she found she missed the steaming bowls of ramen she used to devour. So she dedicated herself to mastering the oft-secretive but always delicious art of ramen-making and opened her own shop within a few years. You can find Sarah on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.

For a chance to win a copy of Ramen Otaku, respond in the comments section below by January 30, 5PM EST to the following question: What food have you learned to make at home that brings you the most satisfaction, and how did you learn? From a recipe? A person? Trial and error based on memory? We will announce the winner in the comments section, so be sure to check back!

Image above: Ramen Otaku: Mastering Ramen at Home. Photography by Emily Dorio. Illustrations by Stevan Chavez.

Image above: Sarah Gavigan

Image above: Cauliflower tantanmen


Cauliflower Tantanmen

Makes 4 Bowls

The combination of sesame and chili oil defines a “tantanmen,” which is a derivation of the Chinese Dandan noodle dish. I love this ramen for the flavors and the heartiness, which is hard to do without animal fat. A traditional tantanmen uses ground pork as the topping, but here we use riced cauliflower, which really works great as a topping.

Note: This recipe assumes that you have broth, tare, and fats already made. From there, plan to make all the toppings before assembling bowls.

Equipment needed: Small cast-iron or heavy skillet, large stockpot with strainer or double boiler with holes, large pot for broth


  • For Toppings
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil (or other high-heat neutral oil)
  • 4 cups riced cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons Spicy Miso Tare
  • 2 Ramen Eggs
  • 4 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions (green parts only)
  • 2 tablespoons Rayu
  • For Ramen
  • 8 tablespoons Miso Tare
  • 6 cups Vegetable Stock
  • 18 ounces fresh ramen noodles or 12 ounces dried



Make the toppings and prepare the bowls for serving

Heat a medium cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat with canola oil, add the riced cauliflower, and saute until cooked through, for 5 to 8 minutes. Add the spicy miso tare and mix until well blended. Set aside.

Fill your biggest pot ¾ with water over high heat to bring water to a boil, ideally with a strainer (or double boiler with holes) that fits into it.

Meanwhile, make sure your serving bowls and all toppings, tare, and fats are laid out for easy access. Mark each serving bowl with 2 tablespoons of the tare.

In a separate large pot affixed with a temperature gauge over medium heat, heat the broth to a boil.

Slice the ramen eggs in half and set aside.

Cook the noodles according to the package instructions, minus a few seconds of cooking time, as the noodles will continue to cook in the hot broth.

When the noodles have about 30 seconds of cooking time left, ladle 1½ cups of broth into each bowl and whisk tare in until totally emulsified. When the noodles are done, pull the strainer containing them out of the hot water, and using chopsticks, divide the noodles as evenly as possible among the serving bowls, working as quickly as you can.

Once the noodles are in, use chopsticks to lightly stir them around, so that broth and fat evenly coat each noodle. Then grab as many noodles as possible, pull them upward out of the broth, and lay them flat across the top, creating a sort of raft on which to lay the toppings.

To each bowl, add 1 cup of the cauliflower mixture, 1 tablespoon of the scallions, and half an egg. Add ½ tablespoon of rayu to each bowl with a spoon. Serve immediately.


Spicy Miso Tare
Makes 4 Cups

This is one of those flavor combos you just never move away from if you love spice. It’s simple, and you can adjust the heat to your liking by adding or taking away the sambal. In the shop, we make sure it has an intense kick. You might find other uses for this as well. Don’t be afraid to toss it on chicken wings or make a salad dressing out of it by thinning it with oil and vinegar.


1 cup white miso
½ cup sambal, or to taste
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup water
6 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons tahini
¼ cup plus 1½ teaspoons sesame oil
¼ cup gochujang (Korean chili paste)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2¼ teaspoons MSG
1 teaspoon ground white pepper


In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all the ingredients. Transfer to an airtight container. The tare will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator or up to 12 months in the freezer. Follow instructions in main recipe on serving tare with ramen.


Ramen Eggs
Makes 12 Eggs

Eggs are a common topping for all different kinds of ramen—some ramen shops add them automatically, while some offer them as an add-on, which I almost always opt for. Ramen eggs should have a white that’s completely set, with a creamy yolk that’s almost the texture of marmalade. Even if you’re not making ramen, these are a great and easy snack to have on hand at home. You’ll never go back to hard-boiling after mastering
this technique.


12 large eggs
1 cup white vinegar
½ cup kosher salt


Pull the eggs out of the refrigerator and let them sit out for at least 1 hour to come to room temperature.

Bring a large pot with enough water to cover all the eggs (roughly 12 cups) to a boil over high heat. While the water comes to a boil, set up an ice bath in a large bowl with about 3 cups ice cubes and 10 cups cold water, ideally in your sink. Add the vinegar to the boiling water. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, carefully lower in all the eggs and set a timer for 8 minutes. When the timer buzzes, remove the eggs and immediately sink them in the ice bath. At this point, you can keep the unpeeled eggs in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

For ramen purposes, you’ll want to peel the eggs in advance of serving so you can assemble everything quickly (follow the ramen assembly instructions in the main recipes). Peeled eggs will keep, floating in a container of cool water, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.


Makes About 2½ Cups

Although Japanese cuisine isn’t generally known for its heat, rayu is an infused chile oil that’s become increasingly popular as a dipping sauce and ramen topping in recent years. I love it because it’s spicy, sweet, and texturally rich; and it’s not so hot that it will leave you in physical pain. Rayu keeps well, which is convenient, because you’ll find yourself putting it on everything from eggs to stir-fry.

Note: Korean chili powder is sometimes sold as “Korean red pepper flake powder” or “Korean red pepper fine powder.”

Pro Tip: Buy the jars of fried red onion and fried garlic in the Thai or Vietnamese section at the Asian grocery store. It’s a major time saver and the crunch stands up well—the texture is a solid 35 percent of the magic here.


3 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons canola oil (or other high-heat neutral oil)
1 tablespoon plus 2¼ teaspoons sesame oil
One 3-inch dried chile de árbol
¼ cup roughly chopped ginger
1 thinly sliced scallion (white part only)
½ cup gochujang (Korean chili paste)
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup fried garlic
¼ cup fried onion
¼ cup Korean chili powder (see Note above)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar


In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the canola oil, sesame oil, chile de árbol, ginger, and scallion and cook until you start to smell the aroma, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and fold in the gochujang, sesame seeds, fried garlic, fried onion, chili powder, soy sauce, and sugar. Let cool at room temperature. Store in a small glass container with a tight-fitting lid. The rayu will keep for up to 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the refrigerator.


Miso Tare
Makes 4 Cups

Miso is the heartiest of all ramen. Think fortified miso soup with noodles in it (YUM): a stick-to-your-ribs kind of food that feels like a big warm blanket. Miso is also fermented, like the shoyu, so there is a lot of room for umami. Miso ramen is much thicker than the shio or shoyu simply because of the miso paste. I call for white miso in my tare, but you can try other types and see what you like. If you have good miso in your fridge already, use it.

Miso variations:

Shiro miso is on the sweeter side and is also called white miso. We typically use it for dressings.
Shinshu miso is fermented longer than shiro and has a richer flavor that makes it great for miso soup and ramen. This is our go-to.
Mugi miso is made from barley and is fermented a bit longer. It’s much harder to find, but it can make for a really well-balanced and rich miso flavor. I would not use this miso your first time out, but definitely play with it if you find it.
AKA miso is red in color (due to longer fermentation time) and has a much saltier flavor.

Note: These misos can be mixed together as well when you’re making tare, so there are infinite options. Remember to document what you try so that if you strike gold you can replicate it.


1 cup white miso
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup water
6 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons tahini
¼ cup plus 1½ teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2¼ teaspoons MSG
1 teaspoon ground white pepper


In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together all the ingredients. Transfer to an airtight container. The tare will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator or up to 12 months in the freezer. Follow the instructions from the main recipe for how to use this tare with ramen.


Vegetable Stock
Makes 6 Cups

For a ramen chef, this stock is always, well, the stock that we continue to try to improve. It will never match the unctuousness of a bone broth, so what we are going for here is flavor and balance. This is a light stock that can easily take the saltiness of a shoyu tare or the creaminess of a miso tare. In other words, it’s versatile. Think of your veg stock a little bit like free-form jazz. Use what you have, make notes, and adjust the seasoning as your palate tells you.


3 corncobs
1 pound Idaho potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
¼ cup black peppercorns
10 cups water

Stovetop method:

Remove the kernels from the cobs, reserving the cobs and kernels. In a large stockpot, place the cobs, kernels, potatoes, celery, onion, carrot, and peppercorns and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 2 hours. Strain and cool. Transfer to a food-grade plastic or glass container. Will keep in fridge for one week and freezer for 4 months.

Pressure cooker method:

Load the pressure cooker vessel with all the ingredients, lock the top, and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes.

Reprinted from Ramen Otaku: Mastering Ramen at Home by arrangement with Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2018, Sarah Gavigan with Ann Volkwein. Illustrations Copyright © 2018 Stevan Chavez. Photographs Copyright © 2018 Emily Dorio.

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