Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen

Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen

Today’s Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen combines three of my favorite things: Japanese food, Korean food, and vegetarian-friendly food because I am friendly with many a vegetarian. For those of you who are perplexed by the fourth word in today’s recipe title, don’t panic. It’s nothing weird or hard to make. In fact, it might actually make the recipe easier. Mazemen is a type of ramen that is served without broth. Yeah, no need to make soup. It’s typically served during the summer, or at least it is here in Toronto, and it often features a variety of toppings as well as a sauce. The idea is to admire the bowl for a moment before piling in sauce and giving it a good swoosh. Yes, the old pile and swoosh.

Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen

If you’ve never heard of mazemen ramen, don’t feel bad. The ramen world is vast and complex. I’ve been reading obsessively about it for the better part of a decade and I still feel like a clueless noob. Eight years ago I had no idea what real deal ramen even was. And ever since the ramen wave hit Toronto, I feel like I’ve been in a perpetual state of catch up and that’s because I am.

Korean Fried Tofu - Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen

If you grew up white in Canada, as I did, chances are your understanding of ramen began and ended with Mr. Noodles. Those instant noodle cakes with sodium-rich instant soup packages were a coveted item in my household along with Gushers and Wonder bread. They were coveted because we almost never had them. My mom, like, cared about us and stuff, so she insisted that we eat healthy most of the time. I vividly remember complaining about her homemade bread…Pssh! Ingrate. Anyway, once I grew up and got a life, North American ramen did too. We started getting the kind of stuff you’d find on the streets of Tokyo. And we came to see ramen for the complex art form it is. As carefully crafted as perfectly made sushi rice or tamagoyaki. Have you seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi? The Japanese take food preparation very seriously.

Korean Fries Tofu - Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen

While I may hop around the whole damn world, culinarily speaking, fumbling to mimic the flavors of the cuisines I admire. Many Japanese food professionals pick their discipline at a young age and work to perfect it throughout their entire lives. The likes of sushi, ramen, and yakitori are each complex and diverse enough to provide an individual with a life’s worth of work. And yet we eat sushi at the grocery store, heat instant ramen on contraband dorm room hot plates, and greedily clean a skewer of yakitori as if it were nothing more than a kebab from our own backyard.

Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen

It sounds like I’m bitter, but I’m not. I am a firm believer that food, both high and low, has merit and is capable of meaning something to someone and therefore has value. I just find it interesting. There is such a vast dichotomy between the venerated and the mindlessly consumed in Japanese cuisine. And the fact that many of the dishes maintain the same moniker further illustrates this point.

Red Swiss Chard - Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen

This is not to say that this doesn’t happen in other countries and cuisines. We North Americans are notorious for watering down other people’s food. But I think it is the borderline obsessive nature of the highest echelons of the Japanese food world that makes the divide seem so vast.

Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen

All of this is to say that ramen, once upon a time, was nothing more than a cup of soup with addictive noodles to me. And now, it’s a date night meal, a show-my-love-by-making-it-my-own-damn-self meal, a meal worth researching for. And dude, when you scratch the ramen surface, you’ll be blown away by how large the world is. There are a multitude of broths, differently sized noodles each with their own unique texture. There’s ramen that should be dipped, ramen that should be chilled and ramen that should be served bone dry. That last one is the reason we’re all here: mazemen ramen.

Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen

To be honest, today’s Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen was meant to be a summer dish – I just failed to get my sh*t together. But in some ways, I like this ramen as an early fall dish more. It has a lightness to it that suits the bizarro heat-waves that can hit in October. And yet, it’s more substantial with ample comfort provided by the fried tofu and its accompanying sauce. This Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen is lightweight yet cozy. It’s kind of the fall jacket of ramens.

Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen

Now, you’re probably wondering where the Korean Fried Tofu came from. Well, you see, I wanted it, so I put it in the bowl. I’m serious! I wish I had a more profound response. I thought the sweet and spicy gochujang-based sauce that typically accompanies yangnyeom-chikin would work well on ramen. And I chose to give tofu the fried chicken experience because I like tofu and I wanted to include the vegetarians in the crowd.

Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen

The last component that I’ll mention is the sauteed red swiss chard. This was simply a ploy to make this dish more fall-appropriate and, man, did it work. Not only did the vibrant hue of the swiss chard improve the overall appearance of this noodle bowl it also brought a refreshing bitterness. Not surprisingly, Korean Fried Tofu is heavy, so having a bitter green, like red swiss chard, helps even the bowl out. Plus, leafy greens of any kind are adept at soaking up an ample amount of fish sauce…that’s a bonus if you’re me, by the way.

So, that’s the low down on this Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen. It’s equal part refreshing and hearty, cooling and cozy. In other words, it’s the dish you need while the weather struggles to pick a side.

Enjoy!

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Korean Fried Tofu Mazemen Ramen

Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 20 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 700g, 25oz package of frozen ramen noodles
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2-3 red chilies thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch red swiss chard washed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 batch Korean Fried Tofu see below
  • 1 batch Sweet & Spicy Sauce see below
  • 2 scallions thinly sliced

Korean Fried Tofu

  • 1 350g, 12oz package of extra firm tofu, cut into fingers
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1-inch knob ginger, julienned
  • 2 teaspoons salt divided
  • 3/4 cup corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder divided
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cold vodka
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2-3 cups canola oil
  • 1 batch Sweet & Spicy Sauce see below

Sweet & Spicy Sauce

  • 1/4 cup gochujang
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil

Instructions
 

For the Tofu

  • Place the tofu in a large bowl and add the ginger. Pour 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce over top and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk 1 teaspoon of the salt, a 1/4 cup of the cornstarch and 1/2 a teaspoon of the baking powder together. Add the tofu to the bowl and toss to coat. Set aside and let rest for an additional 30 minutes.
  • In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk the remaining cornstarch, salt, and baking powder together. Form a well in the center and pour in the water and the vodka. Whisk until a thin batter forms.
  • Pour the canola oil into a large cast iron skillet. Heat the oil to 375°F and do your best to maintain this temperature.
  • One by one, take the tofu pieces out of the dry mixture, shake off the excess and dip it in the thin batter. Once fully coated, transfer the tofu to the oil. Fry 4-5 pieces at time until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning once. Transfer the fried tofu to a plate lined with paper towel and keep warm in a 150°F oven until ready to serve.

For the Sauce

  • Hot Tip: Whip up the sauce while the tofu is marinating and store in the fridge.
  • Place all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and stir to combine. Cover the sauce with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge until ready to serve.

To Assemble

  • Heat a quarter-sized amount of canola oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add the garlic and chilies and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the swiss chard, soy sauce and fish sauce and saute until the chard leaves wilt and the stems are tender. Remove the chard from the heat. Cover and keep warm.
  • While you're cooking the chard, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for 3 minutes or until al dente. Drain the noodles and set aside.
  • While the noodles are cooking, place the corn in the microwave and cook until hot. This took 45 seconds in my microwave.
  • Divide the noodles amongst four bowls and top with swiss chard, sweet corn, 3-4 tofu pieces and sliced scallions. Serve immediately with a small bowl of the Sweet & Spicy Sauce on the side.

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