I’ve been waiting for three long months for some Prairie Noodle Shop ramen, their last pop-up in November. Proclaiming that I was on #TeamChicken* versus #TeamPork was a tough call for me and to be honest, when I heard that their third set of 100 bowls would be vegetarian, I didn’t know what to think. No pork? No chicken? God forbid, no umeboshi egg?! The horror. Read on for the recap of last night’s Prairie Noodle Shop’s third pop-up: vegetarian miso cheese!
Moving from the set up at Get Cooking, host of the last two pop-ups, Prairie Noodle Shop made its vegetarian debut at the Pourhouse Bier Bistro on Whyte Avenue. Dimly lit, a cool vibe, the space was a much better fit, in my opinion, for serving the 100 bowls in four seating schedules (6, 7, 8, and 9pm). Tickets were booked on Eventbrite as per usual, although this time there was a limit of two tickets per holder. Talk about ticket-buying anxiety! Tickets were sold out within 5 minutes. There are ramen-hungry vegetarians out there! Or just ramen-hungry people. All the more reason why you need to follow Prairie Noodle Shop on Twitter and Instagram for news of their next pop-up!
Let’s head straight to it. The ramen. Inspired by the team’s trip to our west coast, Vancouver’s style of ramen can be quite rich and heavy and most suitable for cold, windy weather. The tonkotsu, or pork bone, broth is traditionally a heavier, creamier style and was something the team was initially striving to make. Consultant and Chef Wendy Mah quickly persuaded the team to go in a completely different direction, thinking hey, we can have that same richness and creaminess from a miso-based broth. And cheese. Loads of cheese. Let’s make this vegetarian! A Chinese-style vegetable broth and red miso formed the base, the miso adding a depth of umami flavour more suitable in hearty soups, braises, and glazes. The noodles, as per past pop-ups, were made fresh in Edmonton only a couple of days earlier by Prairie Noodle Shop’s secret old Chinese lady. Toppings this time around was… well. Cheese! I couldn’t even see noodles underneath that mountain of cheese! Not that this a bad thing. Supporting local producers continues to be a focus at Prairie Noodle Shop, the smoked gouda sourced from Sylvan Star Cheese. Tossed into the mix were fermented bean sprouts, pickled Chinese radish, and Chinese chives. A generous portion of freshly pressed garlic was served on the side of the bowl to be mixed in to the diner’s liking.
I’m going to be honest, I didn’t have the highest hopes for this vegetarian bowl (cheese? what’s going on?!) but everything worked. The Gouda was slowly melting into the broth before you mixed it all in, creating a rich, creamy base that coated the fresh noodles mimicking a pork bone broth. Super comforting and appropriate for the cold(er) weather that seems to have hit Edmonton in the face. I appreciated the different methods of serving the cheese, some shredded, finely grated, random chunks of Gouda here and there. Texturally, it was awesome! And those pickled Chinese radishes? Boy did they cut through nicely to give you a contrast in flavour. Every time I got those in a bite, my mouth did a little bow of gratitude. A side of kimchi and pickled leeks were also available for that contrasting hit of texture and acidity, delicious on its own really. I had tried all these bites without mixing in the pressed garlic first, just to try and taste everything in its purity. As I slowly mixed in the garlic paste, it totally changed the bowl. I’m a garlic lover and the addition of garlic made the vegetarian ramen really stand out. Nobody will ever forget that bowl! By the end of the meal though, my portion of garlic paste was a bit too much even for me, overpowering any of the miso or even cheese flavours. In all fairness, we were warned to add and mix it into the broth as per our liking. Next time, I won’t add so much!
As part of their core menu, the vegetarian ramen when compared to all other options of vegetarian ramen out in Edmonton is stellar. Nobody wants a plain bowl of vegetable broth with no toppings just because somebody chooses not to eat meat! The smoked Gouda and pickled Chinese radishes were great additions to the miso base, the garlic (when added in smaller portions) perfect for finishing the bowl! Tonight’s bowl was substantial: a lot of noodles, a lot of cheese, a lot of garlic. Whoa Nelly! A lot of ramen goodness! I noticed most diners at our 6pm seating finished their entire bowl and some, not a lick of broth left! Congratulations to Prairie Noodle Shop for completely their third successful pop-up and creating a completely different bowl of ramen. I’m not a vegetarian, but this was one good solid bowl.
So what am I looking forward to next? Prairie Noodle Shop is already in the works for their next pop-up although details are secretive. Next host might be at NAIT’s kitchens if all pans out well, and they’re striving to make more bowls. 300 bowls to be precise. Yeah, you heard me. Arden and the Prairie Noodle Shop team are hoping to pump out an offering of the last three ramen bowls (Alberta pork, chicken, and tonight’s vegetarian) and test a fourth bowl in June. So excited!! Thanks to the Pourhouse Bier Bistro for hosting and providing great service and hospitality, and here’s to another pop-up event!
Prairie Noodle Shop
Instagram: @YegNoodles *For the record, I’m still #TeamChicken. 🙂