Updated 03/13/2012 09:26 AM
Chow: Vegetarian Ramen Rules At Brooklyn's Chuko
Three former chefs from Manhattan’s Morimoto opened a ramen shop in Brooklyn that cooks a vegetarian ramen that's as rich as any pork version. CHOW.com Contributing Editor Pervaiz Shallwani filed the following report.
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Chuko is a top-notch ramen shop in Brooklyn. Located in a one-time diner, Chuko has been redesigned with the ramen joints of Japan in mind. The menu is small, with no more than a dozen dishes. With a long wooden bar and square tables the design is simple, making sure the ramen is the focus.
When it’s on the menu, a bowl of Chuko’s kimchi pork ramen rivals any in Manhattan, but I’m a big fan of the surprisingly rich vegetarian version, which is every bit as good.
Vegetarian ramen too often means tasteless, watered-down broth. But chefs James Sato, David Koon and Jamison Blankenship, the Morimoto-trained trio who own Chuko, wanted to change that. They created a vegetarian broth that’s as thick and rich as their standard pork one.
They start by making Kombu dashi, the go-to Japanese broth. Seaweed is soaked overnight to give the broth flavor. The entire mix is then brought to a simmer and seasoned with sea salt to bring out natural MSG.
The broth is then ladled into a pan with a scoop of miso and a healthy squirt of house made ginger scallion oil, and then emulsified. It’s transferred to a bowl, filled with noodles and topped with whatever vegetables happen to be in season. These days, it’s garnished with shards of bamboo, roasted parsnip, fresh cabbage, pickled Chinese broccoli, kabocha squash and shredded scallions.
It’s deceptively hearty, with layers of flavor that include salt, seaweed and butter. The ginger scallion oil and miso give the broth the creamy texture that makes meatier ramens taste so good.
You can order it topped with tender pieces of roasted Berkshire pork or better a poached egg, or both, but they’re not needed. Instead, use the condiment of spicy Rayu. Add it mid-way through to transform the second half of your ramen bowl with a spicy, garlicky kick.
Chuko is located at 552 Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
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You can also follow Pervaiz Shallwani on Twitter at @pervaizistan.