Review of Purple Carrot's Fall Vegetable Ramen with Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash
Purple Carrot is a 100% plant based meal kit service based out the Boston area and I gave their Fall Vegetable Ramen with Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash the other day.
Every time i review any plant based service, i feel obligated to disclose that I'm a meat eater; a committed omnivore. Which I'm sure (even just subconsciously) colors my opinions.
Now that said, what's most important, is this dish any good? The short answer is yes!
The first taste of the finished dish actually confused me a bit...and I wasn't sure that I loved it. The truth is, this isn't a super rich/deep flavored ramen with broth that's been cooked down for hours. However, the complexity of the flavor was definitely there and after a few bites I really started to enjoy the recipe. Spicy chilis gave a good amount of heat (that you can control with more or less added in). And that spice was offset by the sweet, roasted butternut squash. The sprouts and Swiss chard provided both a bitterness and a nice texture component. Finally, the smoked nori spice, which I had never had before, gave the ramen an exotic and exciting finish.
Perhaps most important, the ramen noodles themselves were very nice. Any time there's pasta involved I worry about it being soft and mushy, but it was easy to get these noodles al dente, and the texture and flavor was great.
I could have used a little bit more broth in the dish, but fear that if I'd added more water, the flavor would have been too mild.
Despite being underwhelmed with my first taste of the ramen, once I poked around a bit, got a bit of chili, some of the smoked nori, squeezed a bit of the fresh lime, and exposed all the ingredients, the complexity of flavors came through, and I really appreciated it.
The dish took about 30 minutes to make, which is what the recipe card advertised. And none of the techniques were very complicated - everything came out as it should.
While the dish is clearly vegetable forward, I didn't feel cheated without any meat. The heat/spice helps a ton, and the butternut squash provided the "bulk" that chicken, beef or pork would normally have taken.
I happily give this recipe a thumbs up. It screams Fall flavors, it's easy to make, and quite tasty.
Purple Carrot ships their insulated boxes, packed with ice packs right to your doorstep. There were three recipes in my box, with the ingredients for each packed in separate bags, which makes it easy to get everything ready for the recipe.
For the Vegetable Ramen, the only minor issue I had was with some blemishes on the Brussels sprouts; where some of the outer leaves where quite black/brown. Those blemishes where easy to peel off, and didn't effect the flavor of the ramen, but if I was picking out of the grocery store, I would have skipped over the ones I got.
Everything else was really good. And I'd give a special call out to the fresh ramen noodles. Too often, fresh pasta is just plain bad. But I was completely happy with Purple Carrots.
The ingredients included in the box are:
- 6 oz butternut squash cubes
- 4 oz Brussels sprouts
- 2 oz Swiss chard
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 scallions
- 2 fresh Thai chiles
- 11 oz fresh ramen noodles
- 2 tbsp tamari
- 1 tbsp red miso paste
- 1 lime
- 2 tsp smoked nori spice
Making the dish
The ramen took me just over 30 minutes to make (while I was filming) and I don't think many home cooks are going to need much more time than that.
None of the steps are too complex, and aside from the roasted butternut squash, everything is cooked in one pot. One highlight for me, is the ability to "customize" your own bowl of ramen just before eating; adding the nori, chili, lime, and scallions to fit your personal taste.
The well written and easy to understand directions are split up in 6 steps:
- Roast the Butternut Squash: The squash is tossed with some olive oil and salt (they don't suggest, but i would also add pepper), and roasted in a 425 degree oven for 16 - 18 minutes until tender and slightly caramelized. You also start a pot of water to cook the ramen.
- Prepare the Vegetables: Prepping the vegetables requires a bit of knife work, which you can do while the squash roasts. You trim the ends off the sprouts, pulling off a bunch of the outer leaves for the soup, and then chop up the core. De-stem the chard and chop that finely. And finally slice the garlic, chilis and scallions - separating the white from the green.
- Cook the noodles: Perhaps the easiest part for a home cook to mess up is cooking the ramen noodles. The directions correctly state you only need 1 - 2 minutes. If you go longer, they'll get mushy, and the dish will be ruined. So don't walk away, and once drained, run the ramen under cold water to stop the cooking.
- Saute the Aromatics: The broth starts by adding the garlic, scallion whites and half the chili to a soup pot with a drizzle of oil over medium heat. Once slightly softened, add a cup of water, the tamari, red miso paste and stir to combine everything. Add another 1.5 cups of water and season with salt per the directions. Again, they do not tell you to add pepper; but I would do so.
- Season the Broth: Once boiling, you add the Brussels and the Swiss chard, cooking for about a minute. You want to soften, but allow them to maintain some bite to them. Kill the heat and add the juice of half the lime; cutting the remaining lime into wedges to allow people to add more to their own bowl.
- Serve: The ramen noodles are divided between two bowls, and then the broth and vegetables (including the squash) are added to the noodles. It's then up to you to garnish with a bit more chili, the green scallions and more lime. I ended up adding quite a bit of all three.
I gotta say, upon my first taste of this ramen, i was a bit torn. I didn't think there was enough broth, and I thought the flavor was a bit too mild.
But then I added a bit more of the garnish (smoked nori, chili pepper & lime) and I started in on the sprouts and butternut squash. The flavor quickly became more complex, nuanced and enjoyable. This is not a "smack you in the face" meal. It's more subtle at first, and took me a few minutes to fully appreciate.
I still would have liked a bit more broth. But the sweet squash pairs well with the hot chili. The chard and sprouts give a nice bitternesses and the smoked nori adds some complexity.
The notion of Fall comfort food comes screaming out at you. There's a ton of vegetables. And I felt really good about eating this recipe.
Purple Carrot's Fall Vegetable Ramen with Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash
I say give this Fall Vegetable Ramen a try.
It's one of those plant based meals, where even a meat eater isn't going to wonder where the meat is. Obviously you need to like vegetables, but the complexity from the Japenese flavors, chilis, lime, and nori, make this a much more interesting dish, than a pile of steamed veggies.
The directions were clear and it's simple to make.
If you do make it, please let me know how it goes and what you think!