Asian noodle soups are a popular lunch option at YouTube’s San Bruno, Calif., campus, says Trent Page, the GM at Bon Appetit Management who runs the company’s three corporate dining venues. But Page noticed an increasing preference for customizable dishes and vegan preparations among the 1,000 customers he feeds daily. Inspired by a recent visit to Japan, he introduced tsukemen to the menu—a dish that features most of the traditional ramen ingredients (noodles, eggs and vegetable garnishes) served separately so diners can mix and match. “Separating the components makes it more customizable and adaptable to people with allergies or dietary preferences,” he says. Each diner then takes a bowl of noodles, adds a walnut-miso sauce instead of broth and spoons on the desired garnishes.
- Ramen broth is typically made by simmering meat bones for many hours, says Page. The vegan broth he makes—a combination of water, kombu (dried kelp strips) and shiitake mushrooms—not only fits every diet, but it’s also ready in just 15 minutes.
- To create the sauce, Page purees toasted walnuts with red miso paste, soy sauce and enough of the broth until it emulsifies and turns creamy but doesn’t get too thick. “The miso provides umami flavor that the walnuts accentuate,” says Page. “Plus the nuts add body and richness, acting as a substitute for meat.”
- In building the tsukemen, customers start with soba, udon or egg noodles and add the sauce, which clings to the noodles more effectively than a ramen broth. Poached eggs, scallions, Japanese seaweed, pickled radishes, sesame seeds and other toppings are available to customize the dish—as well as cooked pork and chicken for the meat eaters.