Here's an easy peasy, one-pot meal that comes together in under 30 minutes and is made with humble ramen noodles. And yet, it's elegant enough to serve for a special dinner: my vegan Ramen in a South Indian Coconut Stew.
On cool Fall evenings, my stomach begins to growl for something hot and delicious that I can slurp up from a bowl. Although I've left college far behind, ramen noodles often find their way into my pantry, partly because they were so popular in India when I was growing up. When I was working my first job in Bombay as a journalist, my co-worker and friend Rajee and I would sometimes make a dash to her home after work and stir up a quick meal of Maggi noodles (the brand name ramen was available by in India). We'd sputter a few mustard seeds in a saucepan, add some hot green chilies, diced tomatoes, and green peas, and pour in the cooked noodles. It was not a square meal by any means, but it was easy, filling and delicious.
This dish of vegan Ramen in a South Indian Coconut Stew is a far healthier meal, and it's far more adult. It's incredibly easy, and even better, it does not require a long list of special ingredients. You do need curry leaves, though, and coconut oil, because they play a huge role in creating that wonderful flavor and are an integral part of cooking in Kerala, the south Indian state this stew belongs to.
In Kerala, this coconut stew is often served with idiyappam, a thin noodle made with rice flour. The ramen noodles are far easier to acquire here, and they add even more deliciousness to the stew. You can vary up the vegetables: I used carrots and green peppers, but you can also add potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, or green peas. Just make sure the veggies aren't ones that take eons to cook. I used fresh veggies, but you can use frozen-- no one will be able to tell the difference. For more protein, I sometimes add some tofu to the pot, although I didn't this time.
I don't often make political statements here on the blog, but I'll close today with an appeal to those of you who live here in the United States to go out and vote, if you haven't already. There's too much at stake in these elections for the animals we all love.
Vegan Ramen in a South Indian Coconut Stew
- 6 ounces ramen noodles, flavor packets discarded and noodles broken into smaller pieces (read the ingredients list to ensure the noodles are vegan friendly. There are vegan brands available at Whole Foods and Top Ramen's Oriental noodles are vegan)
- 1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 sprig curry leaves, about 12 individual leaves
- 2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
- 1 inch piece of ginger, cut into very thin strips
- 1 large carrot, julienned
- 1 green bell pepper, julienned
- 1 red onion or 2 shallots, cut into thin slices
- ½ green chili pepper like jalapeno, thinly sliced
- 1 14- oz package of firm tofu, optional
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan or wok.
- Add the curry leaves, coriander leaves and ginger and saute for a minute, stirring frequently.
- Add the onions, carrots, bell peppers and green chili pepper and saute over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes.
- Add black pepper, then half the coconut milk and two cups of water. Bring to a boil, then drop in the noodles.
- Cover and cook two to three minutes or until the noodles have cooked al dente.
- Add remaining coconut milk and salt to taste along with the tofu. If the noodles have absorbed most of the water, add some more so the noodles are soupy.
- Warm through but don't let the liquid boil.
- Turn off the heat, ladle into bowls, and garnish with more coriander leaves, if you wish.
- Serve hot.
Noodles from the archives: