Popular ramen chain creates a meat-free version of its acclaimed pork-broth noodles.

With 100 stores around Japan and 60 stores around the world, Japanese ramen chain Ippudo is one of the country’s top tonkotsu pork broth noodle specialists. Founded in Fukuoka’s Hakata district, an area renowned for tonkotsu ramen, the restaurant has a number of menu items for diners to choose from, but at every branch it’s their two most popular dishes that take centre stage–Shiromaru Ramen and Akamaru Ramen. 

Literally translating to “White Ring“, Shiromaru is the chain’s classic ramen, featuring a creamy white broth and served in a white bowl. Akamaru (“Red Ring“) is the chain’s “modern broth” that comes with extra richness and depth, and is served in a red bowl.

▼ Ippudo’s Shiromaru ramen

Image: Ippudo

▼ Ippudo’s Akamaru ramen

Image: Ippudo

Now, the chain is expanding their menu, and stepping away from their pork broths for the very first time, with the release of a “Plant-Based Akamaru“. Made only with plant-derived ingredients, this is big news in the ramen world, where non-meat eaters usually have to steer clear of tonkotsu ramen altogether or try their luck with miso or soy-based broths, which are still likely to contain noodles made with eggs.

While some restaurants like Afuri serve up vegan ramen, the broth is clear and doesn’t attempt to replicate the flavour of tonkotsu. The Plant-Based Akamaru, however, aims to provide diners with a tonkotsu-like experience without using any meat, and to achieve that, they’ve spent several years perfecting a recipe with the help of some innovative new ingredients.

Working with Fuji Oil, a company with 60 years of experience in researching and developing vegetable oils and soy proteins, the two companies developed a rich and creamy soymilk by using new “Miracore” technology. This soymilk is so rich and creamy it looks less like milk and more like a broth, with a thick texture reminiscent of tonkotsu broth. Adding kelp soup stock and porcini mushrooms helps to develop a meatless broth with rich, meaty flavour.

The Plant-Based Akamaru broth has a creamy appearance that could be mistaken for tonkotsu.

In addition to the plant-based broth, the new ramen will use plant-based noodles. Made without eggs and containing whole grain flour, which has more dietary fibre and a higher nutritional content than ordinary wheat flour, these noodles are straight and thin, in the same style Hakata, and Ippudo, is famed for.

Showing their dedication to replicating the Akamaru as closely as possible for diners on plant-based diets, Ippudo has also developed a special char siu-style topping. Made with green bean paste, wheat protein and sautéed mushrooms, this delicious product looks and feels like char siu, with a surprising amount of meat-like flavour.

Completing the dish are: green onions; bean sprouts; and shimeji mushrooms, maitake mushrooms, and wood ear mushrooms fried in garlic oil and extra virgin olive oil to create a fragrant topping.

Ippudo’s “future-oriented” ramen will be on the menu for 1,100 yen (US$10.60) at 44 Ippudo stores across Japan from 1 February, but only for a limited time. Ippudo does note that while the noodles and broth contain no meat, they are produced in the same kitchen as products that contain animal ingredients and the noodles are boiled in the same water used to boil noodles containing eggs.

Whether you’re going plant-based or simply want a lighter option to the chain’s heavier meat broths, Ippudo’s new ramen aims to please a variety of palates while helping the planet too. Hopefully the plant-based ramen will be so well-received the chain will consider keeping it on the menu for good and expand it overseas branches as well!

Participating Locations:

Kyushu: Nishidori, Daimyo main store, Sanno, Shiobara main store
Kanto: Ebisu, Gotanda east exit, Asakusa ROX/3G, Hamamatsucho stand, Machida, Komazawa Park, Ikebukuro (starting sales from 5 February), Shinjuku Island Tower, Sereo Hachioji, Yokohama West exit, Cross Garden Kawasaki, Minato Mirai Tokyu Square, Lasca Kayagasaki, Shonan SEA SIDE, Honatsugi Milord, LaLaport TOKYO-BAY, Takeishi Inter, Kawagoe Inter
Koshinetsu: Niigata, Kanazawa Korinbo, Toyama, Takasaki, Suwa interchange
Tokai: Nagoya Sakae Brossa, Nagoya main store, Kariya
Tohoku: Sendai Aoba-dori, Sendai east exit
Kansai: Horie, Nagahori, Minami, Abeno nini, Ikeda, Nishinomiya Kitaguchi, Sannomiya, Himeji
Chushikoku: Hiroshima Fukuromachi, Fukuyama, Kurashiki, Matsuyama

Source, images: PR Times
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