Give Vegan Ramen An Umami Boost With Shiitake Mushrooms

To make a vegan ramen dish that's truly flavorful, a number of different factors come into play. For one thing, there's choosing the right noodle. Developer Catherine Brookes goes with an unorthodox choice in her vegan mushroom ramen recipe by opting to use rice noodles, since ramen noodles are actually made of wheat flour. Still, it does make for a gluten-free ramen-adjacent dish, although you can always revert to the proper wheat-based noodles if you prefer a more ramen-y ramen. Apart from the noodles, you'll also need plenty of flavor, which is provided here by chiles, garlic, ginger, and lime juice.

This ramen(ish) dish, as Brookes describes it, is a "perfect light dinner that's packed with goodness," so of course, it contains protein, which comes in the form of tofu. As tofu alone would make for a rather monochromatic bowl, Brookes also includes bean sprouts, bok choy, onions, and mushrooms. The last of these vegetables — she prefers the shiitake variety — is what, in her words, "give[s] this vegan ramen such a rich umami flavor that there's no need for meat."

Shiitake mushrooms aren't the only umami-rich ones

The shiitake mushrooms, in combination with a few other ingredients (Brookes singles out the soy sauce and miso paste, in particular), provide this noodle dish with most of its savory element, because tofu — while it may be a good source of plant-based protein — is singularly lacking in flavor. That being said, shiitake mushrooms aren't the only ones that are up to the job. Various mushrooms, after all, have a certain amount of umami to them.

Shiitake mushrooms are among the more savory sorts of fungi. Still, they do not stand alone atop the list. In fact, there are three other common supermarket mushrooms also singled out as being particularly umami-rich, including crimini, portabello, and plain old white button (yep, the cheap kind). That means that if shiitakes are in short supply or else are too pricey for your weekly grocery budget, you may feel free to substitute any of these other mushrooms into your vegan noodles; although, if you're buying in bulk, you might want to pick out the darker ones since these are likely to be the most flavorful. If you really want some serious umami power, though, you can use rehydrated dried mushrooms in your soup since their flavor is more concentrated.