Answer: It depends.
Oriental ramen is conditionally vegan as it depends on the flavor you want to eat.
Ramen is a go-to bowl of noodle soup that makes a great option for lunch and even dinner on the go. You can easily steam the pillowy noodles for several minutes and add some flavorful broths to spice it up.
Not every bowl of ramen is vegan since there are some flavors that include beef, chicken, and other meat. When it comes to vegan ramen, many people are claiming that the oriental flavor is vegan. This is partly true because there is an oriental flavored vegan ramen brand that is made of plant-based ingredients such as onion, garlic, turmeric, and ginger seasoning.
Oriental ramen is a delicious noodle soup that is packed with vitamins and minerals. But how do you know if you’re ordering vegan ramen at a restaurant, or buying vegan instant ramen in the grocery store? Read this guide and learn about the best ramen noodles for vegetarians!
What Flavor Is Oriental Ramen?
Oriental ramen is a noodle soup with a distinct flavor. It’s mostly soy-flavored with piquant seasoning that includes garlic, turmeric, onion, and ginger. While there are brands that don’t offer certified vegan ramen, you can find some trusted products that are good for vegans.
When it comes to flavor, oriental ramen may contain fish and other animal products to achieve a certain flavor. For example, a popular Asian ramen brand called Maruchan makes oriental flavor ramen packets that contain non-vegan ingredients including beef.
Unlike Kraft Dinner, ramen is more convenient and tastes better. Stock and ramen noodles are flavored with various seasonings and animal by-products like shrimp, chicken, and pork. For the oriental ramen, the flavor is mainly soy sauce.
What Ingredients Are In Ramen Noodles?
The main ingredients in ramen noodles are vegan-friendly so you are guaranteed to enjoy a vegan noodle soup. These are the ingredients commonly used in making ramen noodles:
- Wheat-based flour which is suitable for vegans, but may not be ideal for those with gluten allergy.
- Potato starch helps enhance the gelling properties of the noodles to make them shinier and smoother.
- Kansui is used to replace salt and improve the yellow color of the noodles. This alkaline mineral water also enhances the bounce and texture of the ramen noodles.
- Baking soda is added if there’s no kansui or alkaline salt available.
- Palm oil to flash-fry ramen noodles before dehydrating them.
- Salt enhances the flavor of the noodles while strengthening the dough’s gluten structure.
- Water is added to hydrate the ramen noodle mixture to achieve dough consistency.
For the broth or stock, there are many different flavors to choose from and this only makes it challenging to specify the ingredients. However, the following are the most common ingredients used in ramen stock:
- Dried soy sauce creates that umami flavor with extra saltiness.
- Glucose enhances the sweetness of the ramen while balancing the salty flavor.
- Dried veggies are added to add nutrients and color to ramen noodles.
- Yeast extract reduces MSG and salt, and helps lower the stock’s sodium level.
- Dehydrated meat such as chicken, beef, and shrimp are the most common options for ramen flavors.
- Herbs and onion powder help enhance the flavor of the stock naturally.
- TBHQ and MSG are also added to enhance flavors and act as preservatives.
Does Oriental Ramen Have Meat In It?
Most oriental ramen brands are not vegetarian, but there are a few labeled and marketed as vegetarian. Oriental ramen that is advertised as vegan doesn’t contain animal products such as beef or chicken.
On the other hand, most instant ramen packets contain dried animal stock or fish by-products. Some oriental flavored ramen may also contain dried animal broth so vegans can’t eat them. If you’re planning to enjoy a bowl of Maruchan oriental ramen, the seasoning contains animal by-products as well.
Moreover, the term oriental is no longer popular and is outdated. In the United States, this problematic term is prohibited to use in any official documents. Therefore, most brands are now labeling their ramen packets as soy sauce flavor.
What Types Of Ramen Are Vegan?
There are different types of ramen, some are vegan while some are not. Today, let’s focus on the five main types of ramen that can be made vegan-friendly. From the traditional Japanese ramen noodles, the US has experimented with the formula and created some new twists.
There are only a few ingredients used in these types of ramen, but each stock has a unique flavor that makes them either light or tangy, salty or sweet, clear or cloudy and so on. Again, the following types can be made vegan-friendly by limiting the animal by-products in the broth.
This is originally from Sapporo, Hokkaido with miso as the main ingredient. This stock is savory and looks cloudy with a strong flavor and aroma. There are also different varieties to choose from including soybean miso, barley miso, red miso, and white miso.
This type of ramen originated from Fukuoka and has spread across Japan including the Tokyo region. Tonkotsu is made from pork bone broth that was boiled for several hours to achieve a cloudy appearance.
Shio or salt ramen has a transparent soup made from boiled chicken bones with seafood flavors such as bonito flakes, dashi stock, and dried sardines.
This style of ramen is based on soy sauce with other varieties that are popular across the United States. The flavor is salty and sourish, making it a perfect flavoring for a bowl of fresh noodle soup.
This is cooked with thick ramen noodles and tare broth, but you can choose from different flavors including seafood and salty pork.
Can Vegetarians Eat Oriental Ramen Noodles?
Oriental ramen noodles are good for vegans, however, the broth or flavoring might not. Ramen is basically made of stock and noodles, some seasonings include animal by-products. Many instant ramen packets in the market are flavored with shrimp, beef, chicken, and pork.
If you look hard enough, you can find some ramen cup noodles that are vegan. Generally, ramen noodles are 100% vegan except that there is one gray area to consider. Ramen noodles are usually flash-fried using palm oil, an unsustainably-farmed oil.
While palm oil is plant-based, it’s important to understand that some products that contain palm oil have an exploitative nature. Moreover, the broth in many commercial ramens contains animal meat powder and other unhealthy seasonings.
The ramen game, however, is not at all unsuitable for vegans because there are vegan options you can choose from. Some of the popular ramen flavors that you should not eat include Maruchan Ramen, Top Ramen, Missin Ramen, Shin Ramen, and Samyang Ramen.
You can safely enjoy the oriental flavor because this type of ramen is completely vegan. In fact, you can safely consume instant ramen noodles that are labeled vegan. For Nissin ramen, the vegan options include the Soy Sauce, Oriental, and Chili flavors.
What Are The Best Vegan Alternatives?
Oriental flavor ramen may not be the healthiest meal due to MSG and high sodium content, but there are great alternatives for vegans who want to enjoy a healthy bowl of ramen noodle soup without guilt.
Mainstream brands usually offer non-vegan instant ramen cup noodles, so it’s important to make some effort to choose exclusively vegan brands. If you want to enjoy some incredible flavors and vegan ramen at the same time, you can try Dr. McDougalls and Nissin.
Koyo also offers vegan options including Shiitake Mushroom, Garlic Pepper, and Lemongrass Ginger flavors. Another favorite brand when it comes to vegan ramen noodles is Thai Kitchen. They have the best instant noodles that vegetarians can enjoy such as the Thai Ginger, Garlic and Vegetable, and Spring Onion flavors.
If you really want the oriental flavor, you can buy the soy sauce ramen noodles since they are basically the same flavor. But the ultimate way to make sure you are eating 100% plant-based ramen is to prepare it yourself at home.
The ramen noodle home recipe only takes around 10 minutes to cook, and your family can enjoy a healthy noodle soup in an instant. The secret to making soy sauce-flavored or oriental ramen is to add vegan seasoning without the additives.
Some of the vegan noodles you can use include buckwheat soba ramen noodles or Nongshim vegan ramen noodles that are certified vegan and gluten-free.
Wrapping It Up
When it comes to noodle soup, ramen is one of the most popular choices that people enjoy. The oriental ramen is generally vegan, but many brands are using seasonings that contain animal by-products and high sodium and MSG.
You can try this vegan ramen recipe at home to make sure you are eating 100% plant-based ramen noodle soup. You can also add some toppings like spring onions, garlic, or chives for a healthier finish.