Spicy Venison Ramen

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Brrr! Who else loves ramen? There is nothing like a warm, comforting bowl of noodle soup to warm you up on a cold day. Ramen is a delicious, adaptable soup that has evolved from a Chinese and then a Japanese staple food, to a necessity for college students and now a trendy restaurant food. In our version we have kept the essence of the recipe and all the flavours, we just tweaked it to be a touch more WILDFIT friendly. You can of course make it your own, but this is a wonderful and delicious place to start! A hot, satisfying meal ready in under 30 minutes? Yes please!

Season: Spring

Challenge Weeks: 1-13

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2-4 (appetizer or meal)

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 cm piece (15g) ginger, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil or lard
  • 250 g/ 1 cup of ground venison (bison, beef, pork or chickpeas make good substitutes)
  • ¼ teaspoon of chili powder
  • ⅛ teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) coconut vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 1/4 cup (80g) tahini paste
  • 1.5 Tablespoons (25g) anchovy paste, fish sauce or seaweed flakes
  • 4 cups (1 L) of bone broth
  • 2 large eggs, soft boiled 
  • 2 heads of pak choy,  quartered 
  • 5 oz. enoki mushrooms
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 2 medium size zucchinis, spiralized
  • 2 green onions, chopped

Preparation:

There are a few different steps involved in this recipe, but everything still comes together quickly and easily. I chose to use yellow summer squash to make spiralized zoodles, however you could also use cabbage noodles or your favourite vegetable or bean noodles. Zucchini makes a nice imitation futomen (or fat noodle) and if you peel them they become particularly absorbent, picking up the thick broth the way you expect in a good bowl of ramen. I used my spiralizer to create ‘zoodles’, however in a pinch you can also use your vegetable peeler to create long, wide noodles. Once they are ready, sprinkle them with some salt and set them aside in a colander to drain. While you are getting everything else ready the zucchini will release some of its water, making the texture more chewy and less crunchy.

While you’re at it you can prepare the rest of the vegetables by smashing and mincing the garlic cloves up small, then chopping the garlic finely. Depending on the size of your pak choy bunches, slice the bulb lengthwise into halves or quarters. Baby bok choy will also work here- I prefer to keep the bulbs together as it looks nicer, however if you have larger greens you can also cut them in ribbons if you prefer.

The enoki mushrooms don’t need to be chopped, as their stems create a nice noodle substitute, but you probably want to cut off the base of the cluster so that they can separate. Enoki are exotic in North American or European cuisine, however they are very common in Japanese cooking. They are known to have anti-inflammatory properties and are excellent immune system boosters. In a similar way the bean sprouts do not need to be chopped, rather they are added afterwards to give the dish a crunch and a fresh flavour. Finally chop the green onions into fine slices. 

Next we need to cook the meat. I was given some deer meat from this past hunting season, which I thought would complement the spicy flavours in this dish. However, any ground meat like bison or grass fed beef will work well also. A vegan version can also be made with lentils or chickpeas, as you wish. Heat oil in a frypan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger, cumin and chili powder and cook, stirring occasionally, for two to three minutes or until golden. Add the meat and cook, stirring to break apart the chunks into smaller pieces. Cook for five to ten minutes or until browned all over and no pink remains. Venison is much more lean than commercial beef, so you need a bit more oil to keep it moist. If you are using regular beef you can use half the fat used to cook it. Remove the meat from the heat and divide it between two soup bowls.

Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans, and so it is not a WILDFIT friendly food. Fortunately the salty, sweet, earthy, fruity, and savory flavours can be replicated using other foods. In a small bowl, create a faux miso sauce by combining the coconut vinegar, coconut aminos, tahini, and anchovy paste to make a thick umami sauce and set it aside. If you do not have anchovy paste on hand (I’m a big fan of Caesar salad, so keep in in my fridge regularly!) or don’t enjoy the flavor, then you can replace it with fish sauce or dried seaweed flakes. Both alternatives will add a ‘fishy’, savoury taste that creates depth in the soup. I prefer to use seaweed flakes regardless, as kelp is the little known secret ingredient that gives Japanese ramen it’s special taste and added umami flavour. 

Some meals can leave us feeling like “something is missing”, usually because the flavor profile is incomplete. A sauce like this hits all the notes, which makes this soup deeply satisfying. One thing I will add is that this is a Spring recipe, so if you are preparing the soup for someone who has not yet completed the WILDFIT challenge, you may want to add a touch of sweet to their soup- like a half teaspoon of coconut sugar stirred into their broth- as their palette may not detect the subtle sweetness of the coconut aminos.  In a similar way, some people may enjoy an extra dash of salt in their broth, adjust it to your tastes. 

Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to the boil over high heat. Once it is boiling, add the eggs to the water carefully and cook them for 6 minutes for perfectly soft boiled. Remove them with a slotted spoon and immediately place in iced water to cool. When you are ready, peel the eggs and halve them lengthwise carefully as the yolk is slightly soft. I was never much of a fan of adding eggs to soup, and so sometimes enjoy this recipe without this extra step. However I have found that when the eggs are perfectly soft boiled the yolks add a creaminess to the broth. The option is yours, make it your own! 

The soup stock in traditional ramen is the most special ingredient. It can take hours, varying temperatures, numerous steps and added ingredients to find the perfect unique ‘umami’ taste. How humans are able to experience the flavor of umami is through the inosinic acids and glutamic acids that are found in ingredients. These ingredients stimulate the sensors in the tongue, and this stimulation informs your brain that it “feels” delicious. If you have a signature broth, now is the time to use it! My prefered soup stock is beef and chicken bone broth from my favorite local butcher. Whether you want to make your own or pick some up is entirely your choice! 

Place the stock in a wide shallow saucepan over low heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Bone broth is my prefered stock as I find it to be the most nutritious and tasty, however whatever you like will work just fine. Once it is steaming, Add the faux miso and stir to combine. Add the zoodles, pak choy and mushrooms to the broth and press them down to submerge. Allow them to wilt slightly for about one minute, and then divide them between the soup bowls with the slotted spoon.

Finally pour the finished soup stock (or dashi) over the cooked seasoned meat and vegetables to nearly fill your bowl, and then garnish your soup decoratively with bean sprouts, spring onion, the halved eggs and sesame seeds. Serve immediately and enjoy by slurping. Although it may seem rude to slurp your soup, this may actually unlock a whole level of flavor that you have been missing! According to Professor Ippeita Dan from Chuo University (who specializes in Food Cognitive Science) when you slurp the ramen, the ingredients in the umami taste vaporize and this stimulates the nodes at the back of the throat all the way to the back of the nose. This enables the brain to react to the taste, allowing the body to feel the delicious satisfaction of the various flavours hidden in the soup.

For more yummy soup recipes, click here!

Do you have a delicious Ramen recipe you are willing to share with us? Please share below! 

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