It’s been a very long time since I last visited Momofuku, which is partly due to the absurdly long lines and partly due to the lack of vegetarian options (which seems to be very David Chang). There’s the $14 ginger scallion noodles, but that doesn’t sound very exciting at all.
Anyway, while watching the David Chang episode of “The Mind of a Chef”, I suddenly remembered that Momofuku added the hozon chickpea ramen to their menu last summer as part of their 10-year anniversary celebrations. I had really wanted to try the hozon as it’s been getting rave reviews even from carnivores, but didn’t want to deal any lines. After putting it off for some time, I finally made it to Momofuku for lunch! At 12:15pm on a Tuesday, Momofuku was quite crowded, but solo diners like myself could easily find a seat at the bar.
Momofuku and Ippudo are the two ramen hot spots that skew more pricey. A bowl of noodles will set you back at least $14 here, but it’s a very large and delicious bowl of noodles. This is “new age” ramen though, so you’re a ramen traditionalist, go somewhere else. David Chang once said that Momofuku “wouldn’t be where [they] are today if not for the pork bun”. That’s a must order item for meat eaters, and I was thrilled to see a shiitake version on the menu.
My mushroom loving heart started to beat a little faster when these babies were placed in front of me. Soft, fluffy buns stuffed with shiitake mushrooms, hoisin sauce, cucumbers, and scallions ($10). The thinly sliced mushrooms were crispy and savory, while the bigger pieces were quite meaty. The shiitake buns are slightly steep at $5 each, but every bite was magnificent. I would prefer more cucumbers and scallions for an extra crunch though.
Now on to the main attraction: the Hozon Ramen ($15). Hozon is a fermented product, similar to miso, but made from chickpeas instead of soybeans. I would love to get my hands on a bottle of that stuff for home cooking. Eater has a nice article with more about hozon and how Momofuku prepares this meatless dish.
Momofuku’s hozon ramen is basically vegetarian tonkotsu. The broth has an earthy mushroom base, and I have not had a meatless ramen that is this rich, silky, and umami. The noodles were a bouncy al dente, which were wonderful in the creamy broth. Fried chickpeas, crispy crackers, and garlicky kale add some nice texture. I happily slurped up every last drop.
I’ve had plenty of meatless ramen in NYC, but nothing compares to this bowl. The broth feels very buttery, but I hope it does not actually contain butter as the hozon can definitely stand on its own. I’m betting that this ramen will impress even the meatiest of meat eaters. I definitely need to come back soon!