We welcome our first guest blogger, Tim Tim, who researched and ate more ramen in a 7 day period than is physically possible, just to write this post. Thanks for sharing your delicious experience and giving us major food envy!
I had too much vegan ramen and too little sleep during my one-week trip to Tokyo last month. With some help from my friends, I was still unable to taste as much as I planned! This just goes to show how vegan-friendly Tokyo is.
Ramen recipes consist of five elements: the broth, seasoning, soup, oil, noodles and toppings, which traditionally contain animal products. Fortunately, many restaurants in Tokyo provide clearly labelled English menus to indicate vegan options. Their staff also welcome questions regarding their ingredients. Printing out bilingual questions helped me a lot in communication, especially when asking whether the noodles are made with eggs. Some questions I used include:
|I am vegan.||私は完全菜食主義者です|
|I don’t eat meat, seafood, eggs and dairy products.||私は肉とシーフードと卵と乳製品を食べません|
|Does this contain fish stock?||これは魚のだしが入っていますか|
|I don’t eat fish stock.||私は魚のだしを食べません|
|Are the noodles made with eggs?||このラーメンは卵で作られていますか？|
|I don’t eat eggs.||私は卵を食べません|
Don’t miss the following ramen places!
1. Kyushu Jangara Ramen (Akihabara)
This one was my absolute favourite. I craved for more charred bean curd and pickled bamboo shoots. The soy-based broth was so flavourful and hearty. With a generous amount of scallions, it tasted just the same as traditional ramen – only no animals were harmed in the making! An oriental vegan version was also available.
Address: 3 Chome-11-6 Sotokanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo 101-0021, Japan
Opening hours: 10:30am–11:30pm on weekdays; 9:30am–11:30pm on weekends
2. Chabuton Tonkotsu Ramen (Setagaya)
The miso-based soup was full of sesame goodness. Okra, diced avocados, cherry tomatoes, and leek strips made the ramen perfect for a summer light lunch, which gave me room to devour their crispy vegan gyoza (pan-fried dumplings). Dipping them in a mix of soy sauce and vinegar made them taste so good that my omnivore friend was not convinced that they were vegan.
Address: 2 Chome-10-10 Kitazawa, Setagaya, Tokyo 155-0031, Japan
Opening hours: 11am–11pm every day
3. AFURI (Ebisu)
The ambiance in Afuri was great despite its long queue. What’s better than listening to Jamiroquai and watching surfing videos on their TV as you wait for your food? Their refreshing vegan ramen was served at room temperature in clear salt-based vegetable stock, garnished with freshly picked veggies from Kamakura. It was essentially a garden in a bowl. Noodle choices range from wheat noodles blended with lotus root to mannan (konjac) noodles.
Address: 1-1-7 Ebisu | 117 Bldg.1F, Ebisu, Shibuya 150-0013, Tokyo Prefecture
Opening hours: 11am–5am (YES) every day
4. Noodle Stand Tokyo (Shibuya)
Tucked away in a basement near the train station, Noodle Stand Tokyo’s vegan option struck me as a crafty fusion between Thai and Japanese cuisines. With toppings such as mock ham, a rose of sliced pickled ginger and a lime wedge, the ramen’s coconut-y broth is creamy and refreshing all at once.
Address:1-21-15 Jingumae | B1F Napore Harajuku Bldg., Shibuya 150-0001, Tokyo
Opening hours: 11am–4pm, 6–9pm on weekdays; 11am–9pm on weekends
5. Soranoiro NIPPON (first photo) / Soranoiro Honten (second photo)
Having accidentally tried the same ramen from two branches of the same franchise, I couldn’t decide which one was better! Both ramen bowls were topped with seasonal vegetables in thick pumpkin soup. The one I tried in Tokyo station came with a dab of spicy yuzu (Japanese citrus) paste, pesto-marinated barley and deep-fried lotus root slices; while the other one had salad leaves with a dab of mashed potato and spicy miso. If you’re not a fan of boiled cabbage, opt for the more westernized bowl in Hirakawachō. I didn’t get to try their vegan soy milk ice-cream as the portion of their paprika noodles was very filling. Brown rice noodles are also available upon request.
Soranoiro NIPPON (Tokyo Station)
Address: 1-9-1 Marunouchi | Ramen Street No.1 Tokyo Station, Chiyoda 100-0005, Tokyo
Opening hours: 8:30am–10:30pm every day
Soranoiro Honten (Hirakawachō)
Address: 1-3-10 Hirakawacho, Hirakawacho, Chiyoda 102-0093, Tokyo Prefecture
Opening hours: 11am–10pm on weekdays; 11am–3pm on Saturdays; Closed on Sundays
6. Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum (Yokohama)
If you are a Japanese food fanatic, it doesn’t take long to travel from Tokyo to Yokohama to learn about the history of ramen. With detailed information boards and a gift shop, the museum is essentially a food court with a theme park element that recreates retro, shabby street food alleyways. There is a rotation of ramen restaurants on the museum’s two floors, some of which offer vegan options that are clearly labelled on their vending machines and English menus.
The first bowl I tried was from Komurasaki. I enjoyed the rich and roasty soup with tossed sesame, deep-fried garlic and crunchy black fungus strands. The lingering aftertaste was a bliss. The mock charshu (barbecued pork) could have been more substantial though. It crumbled as soon as I picked it up with chopsticks. Despite that, it was one of the vegan ramen bowls that was closer to what I imagined as traditional.
My second bowl was from Moku. There was a vegetarian option but the noodles weren’t vegan. Before buying my food ticket from the vending machine, I told the staff I was allergic to eggs so they kindly changed the noodles into gluten-free rice noodles, which had a much firmer texture. The miso-based soup was heavy and peppery with a generous amount of cooked onion, carrot slices, bean sprouts and chopped scallions. It was bursting with the uniquely savoury and roasted umami taste.
It would have been more satisfying if more half-portion bowls could be offered. There were at least four vegan options available, but I only managed to finish one full-sized and the other half-sized bowl in three hours. I would recommend going with friends or your family for kid shows and photo opportunities too, apart from sharing a bowl.
Address: 2 Chome-14-21 Shinyokohama, Kōhoku-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture 222-0033
Opening hours: 11am–9:30pm on weekdays; 11am–10pm on Saturdays; 10:30am–9:30pm on Sundays
7. T’s Tan Tan (Tokyo Station)
T’s Tan Tan is a renowned fully vegan restaurant. I went there on a Monday. It was more crowded at night than at noon. To cool myself down in the violent summer heat, I ordered the cold tan tan ramen set with gyoza and multigrain rice (for the sheer love of carbs). It was tangy and peanut-y with tossed sesame, fresh leek strips and minced soy meat. T’s Tan Tan’s definitely worth visiting more than once for other vegan sets and snacks, such as deep-fried soy meat, which I didn’t get to try.
Address: 1-9-1 Marunouchi | Keiyo Street, Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo Prefecture
Opening hours: 7am–11pm on weekdays and Saturdays; 7am–10:30pm on Sundays
8. Food Therapy Diner Chabuzen (Setagaya)
As its name suggests, Food Therapy Diner Chabuzen promotes health-conscious and fully vegan meals, seasoned with their homemade all-purpose yeast fermented from brown rice. Dazzled by its various choices, we settled for the signature ramen and curry ramen. The broth was savoury and mellow, proudly without any MSG or the five pungent roots. Customers can add on toppings such as vegan roasted pork. Other snacks include artisan tofu in three forms nicely placed on a black plate. You can sit by the kitchen bar or on the tatami floor in the tiny restaurant, reading more about how they make their yeast. Note that orders stop 30 to 60 minutes before closing.
Address: 6-16-20 Daita, Setagaya 155-0033, Tokyo Prefecture
Opening hours: Closed on Tuesdays; 12pm–11pm on Fridays; 12pm–3pm, 5pm–11pm on Monday, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
9. Ramen Ouka (Shinjuku)
Ramen Ouka is a halal restaurant that offers vegan options. My friend tried the half-sized original flavour while I ordered the lightest of their spicy broth. They were basically the same except for chili flakes. The friendly staff gave us free homemade iced tea (fruity but unsweetened!) as we indulged in the simple but tasty soy-based soup and fresh vegetables.
Address: 1-11-7 Shinjuku | 1st Floor, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo Prefecture
Opening hours: 2pm–10pm on Mondays to Thursdays; 6pm–10pm on Fridays; 1pm–10pm on weekends
Some afterthoughts: I have to thank Calvin, Jamie, Tim and Graeme who challenged their appetites to undertake this ramen odyssey with me. Masateru San also helped with translating the questions. As much as I thought I was sick of ramen during those 7 days, I am starting to miss stuffing my face, bowl after bowl.