I seriously never thought I would ever buy a $600 vacuum, or that I would like or would want to prepare a vegetable based ramen. Well, now we are here with two types of vegan/vegetarian ramen.
After being exposed to an all vegetable based pasta by my good friends Linda and Mike about a decade ago lead to countless visits to a vegetarian Chinese restaurant, to trying a vegan ramen shop in Orange County. Now a decade or two later, here I am doing not only one, but two.
My motivation behind this is because I wanted to offer a version that did not pander to and was not a cliché version of “vegetarian” food, but a dish that reflect Japanese cuisine/tastes which utilized familiar ingredients and preparation techniques.
One of the most core to Japanese ramen would be a shoyu (soy sauce) ramen and in the North a miso ramen, so I really wanted to do one that I would want to eat.
Anytime I hear a friend who doesn’t eat a variety of food from the world, and they want to lose weight, I just know they are going to tell me how they eat salads or on some trendy diet plan. I find that all laughable because they could be eating Lebanese arnabeet amongst a million other things, or adopting a diet of foods like Greek, Lebanese, to Vietnamese.
Unfortunately, a lot of dishes that are marketed to vegans, vegetarians, or the health conscious are not simply the dishes found throughout the world, but contrived dishes that meet a stereotype of what healthy food is such as salad greens, couscous, quinoa, “super foods,” and tofu.
I plan on serving both of these dishes either hot or cold because you do not have to cook a majority of the ingredients other than the grilled or deep-fried components – no edamame, bok choy, corn, or tofu here.
I can do a complete vegan tempura batter without egg, but I’m debating if I want to – it is already an issue of going from fried to grilled components on top of my main ramen (roasting and braising) menu although maybe I might just do this menu on certain days only?
The Japanese are no strangers to a strictly vegan diet due to Buddhist beliefs (shojin-ryori), and there are restrictions beyond what vegans would have issue with such as not eating pungent vegetables like garlic and onions. I love garlic and diced onions, yes, please, and anybody who knows me, knows I am like a walking garlic bulb.
The Chinese are the O.G. originators of char siu which is barbecued pork, and the Japanese version is a braised version with a soy-based flavoring.
If you have had ramen before, you know there are two common approaches to eating your chashu:
Either you set it patiently aside like dessert treat at the end of your meal to only have your significant other (S.O.) take it from your bowl, and as you are watching them eat it right in front of you, you decide to be a little wiser way regardless if you have do or do not have an S.O.
That approach is to ration it out throughout your meal, so that you make sure you don’t end up with just a bowl of noodles…. kind of like you eating alone, by yourself, just you and your noodles, with no juicy, tender, savory chashu to pair with your noodles, very sad.
The most common cuts are either belly or shoulder although I also love the jowl/cheek (guancia) which the Italians are most famously known for curing into guanciale.
Unfortunately, most of the time I have had pork shoulder, it has always been dry, chewy, and just crap although that has typically been the case at most old school ramen shops that have since disappeared over the years such as Kohryu in Coast Mesa which is now Kitakata Ban Nai.
After doing a small tasting with neighbors who had never had ramen before, I realized I would need to test out pork shoulder which was going to be a challenge since I had never roasted one before (stewed, yes).
After a ton of research reading and watching YouTube vids from the pro’s of the pork world, BBQ’er’s. I merged those techniques with a number of techniques used by the Japanese, and the results, well you’ll soon find out although for the time being feel free to lick your monitor which allows you to taste the chashu (only works on LED displays).
I’m hooked on this pork shoulder, so I can’t resist making sandwiches out of it even though I need to test it in my ramen.
Ohhhh, jeeebus, I’m using a lot of the ingredients I have for the ramen, but as a sammich, I can’t stop eating it this way which is why I’m going to do sandwiches and ramen. #cantstopwontstop
Any given day, I have been out on my bike riding around town checking out neighborhoods from Aurora, Boulder, Centennial, to downtown Denver. Although, years prior I had also looked at Portland and Seattle, and I realized how developers all around the country are rolling out cookie-cutter food halls.
A couple of people had suggested or asked if I would be locating in some hipster area, but I am not entirely interested in paying a premium for a hipster branded gentrified area because of a talented bunch of artists, graphic artists, and designers had put their stamp on it for some food hall by a mega-developer. What I do care about is a location that puts me in an area that is right where all of you want a ramen shop to be in… if it rhymes with “ripster rare-rea,” fine, but I have to be around some kick-ass dudes/dudettes like Rolling Smoke BBQ (mmmmh, that mac’n’cheese).
Aside from the hipster premium tax, I do love a lot of initiatives some of these places have implemented like the small-scale/communal spots that help minimize start-up costs, but I have not seen any anchor businesses to draw a significant amount of people or traffic to a number of the places in Denver. Not to mention, the menu pricing at some these places are just stupefying.
Majority of the neighborhoods and places I visited did not seem like they come close to the foot traffic you’d find in DTLA’s art district or at food halls like the Anaheim Packing District or LA’s Grand Central Market (the Denver Central Market seems like they’re doing well with foot traffic). If they did pull people in, I’d be up for it because just trying to be cool is lame AF, and if I wanted that, I’d grow a beard, get some tattoo’s, and drink Moscow mules while I updated my font library inside one restaurant in FIVE POINTS that was dead on a Friday night.
Ideally, I want something that I think will be hard to find because I would like a small square footage of under or a max of 1,000 sq ft., with an open kitchen, a counter area, and within an area for people to walk to.
Portland, Anaheim, to LA
A small gallery of poorly shot images of LA’s Grand Central Market, a Portland bar, DTLA’s “Art District,” and the Anaheim Packing District.
Some of the Areas I Have Looked At in the Denver Metro Area
I’m so glad that the Cherry Creek Trail exists because I have been taking it to get from the DTC area to downtown Denver although Aurora, I’m better off driving.
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Early tasting: this is unfortunately an invite only event because we will be limited in size although if you sign-up early, we will giving away any open seats to you and a +1. This event will most likely be held on a weekday in the early evening in the Denver metro area.
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Thank you, thank you, and thank you, and we hope to see you all at our next event.
Before investing in a full-fledged restaurant, many chefs use it to test the market, showcase their food, and some future restauranteurs use them to procure funds or investors.
In the case of Taniguchi Ramen, Greg Taniguchi had not come back to Colorado till August of 2017, and before that, he had lived in Northern and Southern California for the last couple of decades. With that much time that had gone by, it was a good idea to get to know the people, community, and various neighborhoods around Denver a lot better before moving forward, cautious he is.
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