The fourth in my Oscar Noms series is in honor of Manchester by the Sea, the most depressing film among this year’s nominees, hooray! This is the one where the lesser Affleck (Ed: That was so mean. I’m a horrible person.) finally shines, and will likely win the Oscar for Best Actor. Unless Denzel wins, in which case, sorry Casey, your parents probably still love Ben the most! (Ed: Totally kidding! I’m feeling kind of punchy today. I’m sure Mr. and Mrs. Affleck love both brothers equally.)
Anyhoo, in honor of the sea, I wanted to make something with seaweed, and I remembered this recipe for Late-Night Japanese Noodles that I found back in 2013 when I was pregnant with my daughter. It is relevant that I was pregnant at the time, because while I was intrigued by this recipe, I was still suffering from horrible morning sickness, and the thought of cooking in general made me queasy, but also the combination of seaweed and caviar and mayonnaise made me especially nauseated. To be honest, it kind of sounds like a weird combination even when you don’t have morning sickness, but you’re going to have to trust me on this one. It’s really yummy. So anyway, even several years later, I remembered this recipe that I wanted to try, and I finally had a perfect excuse to test it out.
Let’s be honest, “late night” recipes are generally for things that taste better when you are drunk. Or stoned. Or both. But you don’t have to be under the influence of anything to enjoy these noodles. To start with, who doesn’t love ramen? Crazy people, that’s who. Side story: I remember when I first started college a million years ago, I went on a camping trip with a bunch of friends, and for some reason we didn’t have enough water to cook with, so we cooked ramen noodles with beer. Yep, with beer. Because we had more beer to spare than water. Strangely, I remember the beer-cooked ramen tasted surprisingly good, but then again I was
probably definitely under the influence of something that was, let’s just say, not seaweed. So maybe don’t test out my beer ramen suggestion. But if you do, let me know how it turns out!
There were a few elements in this dish that needed to be veganized. The original recipe uses mayonnaise, mentaiko (pollock roe), and chicken stock. The mayo and stock are easy to replace, but the fish roe is more difficult. I ended up ordering some Cavi-Art, which is a brand of seaweed-based vegan caviar. I got the black kind, but if I made this recipe again I would order the orange, simply because I think the pops of orange would be prettier in this dish.
And lastly, the original recipe also called for fresh green shiso leaves, which can be very difficult to find unless you have a well-stocked Asian or Japanese market. I substituted a mixture of fresh mint and basil leaves, which I thought added some nice bright herbaceous notes. The end result is really comforting and creamy, with flavors from the sea. It’s also really easy to make, so even if you’re drunk you can master it.
Late-Night Vegan Ramen
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (I recommend Vegenaise or Just Mayo)
3 tablespoons vegan caviar, like CaviArt
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1/4 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
Two 3-ounce packets instant ramen noodles, flavoring packets discarded
1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon neutral-flavored vegetable oil
One 5-ounce package shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 large scallions, thinly sliced
3 large fresh basil leaves, very thinly sliced
3 large fresh mint leaves, very thinly sliced
1 large sheet seasoned nori, shredded
In a small bowl, gently stir the vegan mayonnaise with the caviar, sesame oil, Sriracha sauce, vinegar, and 1/2 cup of water.
In a large, deep skillet, combine the noodles with the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over moderately high heat until the noodles are softened and the broth is nearly absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add the vegetable oil, then stir in the mushrooms and scallions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broth is completely absorbed and the vegetables are softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vegan caviar sauce and cook, tossing, just until the noodles are evenly coated. Garnish with the fresh herbs and nori and serve.