Meatless and Equally Delicious – Vegan Ramen at Soranoiro NIPPON
I respect the idea of veganism. The approach against harming animals, especially cruel animal-farming has a lot of grounds. At the same time, being a huge fan of ramen who consumes this Japanese pleasantry about three times a week, I find the myself struggling. Even without the common toppings of chasiu pork and eggs, almost every good ramen broth takes a generous amount of pork bones, chicken bones, dried fish or some other animal ingredients to make, so to find a good vegan replacement is truly a challenge.
At the same time, knowing the difficulty brings me to come to respect those ramen shops who attempt to create vegan-friendly ramen, even if it is for marketing reasons. Taking on the trial to using zero animal products in a bowl of ramen is an honorable mission, and Soranoiro NIPPON at the Tokyo Underground Street is one of such restaurants.
At the ramen street below Tokyo Station, Soranoiro often has a line outside their fun little shop. Fun is the best word to describe the atmosphere of the interior. Not only does it resemble nothing of a typical ramen shop, it makes you question if you are in a restaurant at all. This breakthrough from the traditional image of ramen shops is novel.
Their vegesoba was the reason for my visit. This vegan-friendly ramen is a priced at 900 yen, and the toppings include 4-5 kinds of vegetables that rotate based on what is fresh in season. What stood out for me was the fried renkon chips (lotus roots). The sensation of slices of meaty pork was obviously not available, so these goodies bring a nice crispy texture for variation.
The soup used was a very thick soup full of flavours from fresh produce. Some would say that it resembles a creamy carrot soup mixed with other vegetables, so a traditional ramen soup flavour should not be expected. However, it is a very refined and refreshing flavour not found in regular ramen. If you find the soup to be slightly too peaceful, the yuzukosho on the side and the garlic on the counter will also add more punch to your ramen.
The noodles themselves are very intriguing too! Thanks to the bell pepper infused into the noodles, they come out orange! These flat noodles are more of the soft side, and just like any ramen shop, you can ask for the ramen thickness to be adjusted when you make your order.
This vegesoba also has a deluxe version for an additional 200 yen, which includes 1-2 more kinds of vegetable toppings plus an egg. The egg is of course not vegan-friendly, and the shop acknowledges it by clearly stating which options on their menu are suitable for vegans. If you want a little bit more to complete the meal, the shop also has salad and their own blend of vegetable smoothie available, making your meal even more filling.
While not all offerings from Soranoiro are vegan friendly as they do use meat in some of their more traditional ramen, they do seem to have an emphasis on vegetables and high-quality ingredients. On top of that, each of their branches also have their location exclusive noodles, so there are still shops out there for me to try out as my exploration in the world of vegan-friendly ramen continues.