The watermelon radish had been sitting in my fridge for almost a week. I couldn’t come up with a dish that did the blushing vegetable justice–every recipe I encountered put the damn thing on toast. Not that there is anything wrong with that but since I don’t eat that much bread and I don’t eat cheese coming up with a vegan alternative was just getting depressing. Plus, I had all of these other fresh ingredients from the local farmers’ market that I didn’t want to go to waste.
Enter Tonkotsu. Tonkotsu is a hearty broth used in traditional ramen recipes. Labor intensive, the soup takes almost 24 hours to make. Cooking it that long ensures that the pig fat in the bones used to make the broth emulsify, lending the dish its signature creamy texture. Served with ramen noodles and an assortment of meat and vegetables the soup is absolutely delicious–and I can’t eat it. So I’ve come up with an alternative which cuts out the meat, soy and noodles but not the flavor. Even better? The soup provides a perfect showcase for my seasonal vegetables and an even better compliment to my watermelon radish. The pepperiness of the radish provides the needed contrast to the richness of the soup.
I know this recipe looks labor intensive, but I promise it isn’t that bad. You can keep the ginger-garlic oil and tare in your fridge up to a week–just add them to cashew milk (1 1/2 tbsps. tare, 1 tsp. nerigoma and 1 tsp. ginger-garlic oil per cup of cashew milk) for a quick and easy broth.
Not only is this dish full of rich umami flavor it also packs a protein punch thanks to the cranberry beans–which is important for veggie and vegan folks.
Vegan Tonkotsu with Watermelon Radish and Cranberry Beans
1/3 cup vegetable oil
6 scallions, white parts only and finely minced
1 tbsp. grated garlic
1 1/2 tbsps. grated ginger
1 tbsp. coconut aminos
1/4 cup dried shitake
1/4 sheet dashi kobu
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/3 cup coconut aminos
1/4 cup sake (I like this one)
1 tsp. salt
3 cups cashew milk (I like this one for its thicker consistency)
3 tsps. nerigoma (this may be called “sesame sauce” at your local Asian market, it’s similar to tahini)
4 cups fresh cranberry beans,
6 scallions, green parts only
1 watermelon radish, thinly sliced
3 handfuls fresh watercress
1 portobello mushroom, sliced
black sesame seeds, for garnish
For the Ginger-Garlic Oil: Cook the oil, scallions, garlic and ginger in a small saucepan on low heat until the mixture browns. Remove the pan from the heat and add the coconut aminos (be careful, it may splatter). Return the pan to the heat and cook until the mixture darkens to a deep coffee color. Remove from heat and let cool.
For the Tare: Add the shitake, dashi kobu and nutritional yeast to a coffee grinder and grind until the mixture is a fine powder. Add the powder to a saucepan along with the coconut aminos, sake and salt, bring to a boil and cook for three minutes.
For the Soup: Place the cashew milk, nerigoma and 3 1/2 tablespoons tare into a blender. Blend until smooth and strain through a fine mesh sieve into a medium saucepan. Heat the mixture over low heat, careful to not allow it to boil.
While the broth is heating, place the cranberry beans in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes, until the beans are tender. While the beans are cooking, place the portobello mushrooms in a pan with a teaspoon of sesame oil and saute until tender, about five minutes.
To Assemble: Divide the beans and broth evenly among three bowls. Add 1 teaspoon of the ginger-garlic oil to each bowl along with the scallions, watermelon radish, watercress and portobello mushroom. Top with sesame seeds and slurp to your hearts content. Makes 3 servings.