As the days grow shorter and colder, many of us experience changes in mood. This can range anywhere from rainy-day blues to more serious cases of SAD, or seasonal affective disorder — a condition characterized by bouts of depression that usually affect people in the late fall and winter months.
According to Psychology Today, SAD affects an estimated 10 million Americans each year, so those of you affected are not alone. And for those of you who aren’t, waking up while it’s still dark out and watching the sun go down before leaving work is still a major vibe killer. So today, we’re sharing a recipe for vegan miso ramen that will warm your belly and boost your mood with its nutritious ingredients.
Where do we begin on the positive properties of this ramen? The real stars of this recipe are miso, mushrooms and winter greens, which provide vitamins and nutrients that fight inflammation and boost production of neurotransmitters, which in turn help improve and regulate mood. Here’s the lowdown on these mood-boosting ingredients:
Winter greens: Swiss chard, kale, collard greens and turnip greens are rich in magnesium and folate. Magnesium helps your body to regulate hormones, enzyme activity and neurotransmitter functions that affect mood and overall bodily health. Folate supports the regeneration of cells and helps the body produce the mood-regulating neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which help fight anxiety and depression. Dark leafy greens also help reduce inflammation, which is said to be a leading factor in depression and anxiety.
Shiitake mushrooms: These meaty mushrooms are high in vitamin B6, which affects the production of serotonin and neurotransmitters. Healthy B6 levels are associated with positive mood and natural stress reduction. It’s also been proven to treat mood disorders such as depression effectively.
Miso: This fermented soybean product contains probiotics, which are healthy bacteria that help maintain gut health. The gut has been called the second brain because it produces many of the same neurotransmitters as the brain does, including serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid. All play a key role in regulating mood. In fact, an estimated 90% of serotonin is made in the digestive tract, which is why probiotics are important for regulating mood and mental health.
Traditional fresh Japanese ramen is made with a fatty pork-based broth cooked slowly with lots of aromatic herbs and spices to create a thick broth that is almost creamy. This vegan version uses a combination of vegan butter, soy and ground sesame seeds to mimic the creaminess and make the soup a lot healthier. This recipe includes quite a few ingredients to create a flavorful soup base with depth, but the process is actually very quick and easy — less than 30 minutes.
Miso ramen ingredients
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced, stems removed
1 cup shitake mushrooms, quartered, stems removed
1 cup oyster mushrooms, torn, stems removed
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt to taste
Winter greens medley
1 tablespoon sesame oil
5-6 cups chopped winter greens, loosely packed
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt to taste
*Winter greens: We used black kale and red chard, but you can use a combination of collard green, turnip greens, mustard greens, any type of kale, and any type of chard.
Mushroom stems (use the stems you removed for the mushroom medley)
1 piece konbu
2 cups water
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon shallots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon scallions, chopped, white part only
½ tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
2 teaspoons chili bean paste or chili oil
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, ground, or tahini
2 teaspoons white miso paste
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1 cup nondairy milk
¼ teaspoon salt
White pepper to taste
Winter green medley
4 single servings ramen noodles
Green onions (green parts), and sesame seeds for garnish
Start by creating a dashi broth, a fish-based broth that is used as a base for many of Japan’s traditional recipes, including miso soup. This vegan version uses a combination of mushroom stems and konbu (dried kelp) to create this flavor; however, you can use regular vegetable broth instead. To make the dashi broth, simply bring the konbu, cremini and shiitake mushroom stems, and water to a boil, then turn off the heat and set aside to soak while you continue to cook.
Next, make the toppings. For the mushroom medley, heat the sesame oil over medium-high heat in a large pan or wok. Add the mixed mushrooms and salt, and sauté until they begin to sweat. Next, add the soy sauce, and sauté until completely tender. Set these aside until your ramen is ready for assembly.
To make the winter greens, heat the sesame oil over medium-high heat in the same pan you used for the mushrooms. Add the winter greens and salt to taste. At first, it will seem like a lot of greens, but they will cook down to a reasonable amount. Continue to cook until they have reduced to about half their size, and then add the soy sauce. Sauté until completely tender, and set aside until you’re ready to assemble the dish.
To create the soup broth, heat the sesame oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, scallions, shallots and ginger, and sauté until fragrant (1-2 minutes), stirring constantly to ensure they don’t burn. Next, add chili bean paste, ground sesame seeds, miso paste and soy sauce; sauté for 1 minute, stirring vigorously to ensure that everything combines evenly into a thick paste. Last, add nondairy milk, dashi broth (from above), vegan butter, salt and white pepper. Bring to a low boil and let simmer while you prepare the ramen noodles.
Ramen noodles come in many dry and fresh varieties. Fresh noodles tend to be a little chewier and flavorful. You can find these at Asian markets and sometimes at health food stores such as Whole Foods. But remember, many fresh ramen noodles are made with egg, so check the ingredients list if you’re vegan. In terms of dry noodles, not all are created equal. Many prepackaged varieties are loaded with preservatives and unhealthy ingredients.
For dry, we like to use Lotus Foods rice ramen, which are organic and gluten-free. They also come in many flavors and varieties, such as millet and brown rice, forbidden rice (which is blue), and jade pearl (which is green). Whatever ramen you decide to use, prepare it according to the instructions on the packaging, and transfer it to the ramen bowl when ready.
When the ramen is in the bowls, add the miso ramen broth to each bowl over the noodles. Top with sautéed mushrooms and greens, then add green scallions and sesame seeds for garnish. Add a bit more chili oil if you like it hot.
This recipe makes enough broth for four ramen bowls, but you can keep the broth in your fridge for up to a week, or in your freezer for up to three months.