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A guide to Shoki Ramen House for the diet-restricted

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Dining out as a vegetarian or vegan can be difficult. For those with dietary restrictions, modifying menu items or asking for substitutions becomes a normal part of ordering at restaurants.

Many restaurants have menus that accommodate those with food allergies or whose diets are restricted, but the best way to be sure you are not eating foods you are allergic to or you choose not to is to ask.

Shoki Ramen House is a popular destination for vegetarians, vegans and meat eaters alike.

The Sacramento Press recently spoke with a vegan who frequents Shoki Ramen House regularly. His experience prompted The Sacramento Press to do some research and create a guide to Shoki Ramen House for vegans and vegetarians.

The customer said he had been going to the original Shoki on 24th Street for quite some time and that he had learned the right way to order a vegan-friendly meal.

When the new location opened on R Street, he started going there, and after about 10 visits of ordering the same thing he was informed that the bamboo shoots were cooked in meat broth.

He said after that he stopped ordering the bamboo shoots until he was later told that the establishment was no longer soaking the bamboo shoots in the meat broth. On another visit, he was told the bamboo shoots were being soaked in seafood broth.

“I was frustrated about the whole thing, but I love their ramen so much,” he said. “I just wish they would define the dishes more clearly, at least with the term vegan. Honestly, it would be better for the company to just adopt the standard vernacular of the clients.”

When this story was recounted to Kathy Ueyama, part-owner of the business and wife of Chef Yasushi Ueyama, she said, “The company works really hard to be as proactive as it can when it comes to preparing food for those with dietary restrictions.

“All of the employees, from busser to server, are required to take a 55-question exam about the company and its menu to ensure that all customers are well-informed when choosing their ramen,” she said. “They have to get a 100 percent to pass and are motivated with a raise upon passing.”

Kathy Ueyama said that when she and her husband first began the company, it was to be all about the ramen and the original triple soup broth (meat, seafood and vegetable). When Yasushi Ueyama saw customers come in who couldn’t eat any of the ramen because they couldn’t eat meat, specifically a friend who couldn’t eat pork for religious reasons, she said he felt bad and created a vegetarian broth.

That vegetarian broth is actually made of a combination of vegetable and seafood broth. Kathy Ueyama said that as more people started to order the vegetarian ramen, there started being issues that it was not truly vegetarian because of the seafood broth in it.

As a result, Yasushi Ueyama once more worked to create a vegan broth. The concept of veganism was new to Yasushi Ueyama since Japanese culture did not really make that sort of differentiation, Kathy Ueyama said.

Kathy Ueyama explained that when Yasushi Ueyama was creating the vegan ramen, he had customers taste and provide their opinions.

“Yasushi is very health-conscious, but he’s also very flavor-conscious,” Kathy Ueyama said.

They love the business and all of our customers, Kathy Ueyama said, adding that it is very difficult to accommodate everyone, as each person has their own preferences.

“One vegetarian customer may be OK with a little bit of seafood broth, and a so-called vegan customer has been seen eating tomago (sweet fried egg),” she said.

Here are a few tips for ordering at Shoki Ramen House:

1. All the servers are required to ask customers if they have any dietary restrictions, but if they don’t, always tell your server, who can then guide you when ordering ramen.

2. The vegan ramen only comes in one size and flavor, the tan tan men, or spicy ramen. Kathy Ueyama explained that this is due to the delicacy of the flavoring. The flavor can be adjusted by adjusting the spiciness of the dish.

3. While the broth and ramen in the vegan dish are vegan-friendly, not all the toppings are. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you should steer clear of the bamboo shoots (menma), shiitake mushrooms and tomago.

4. When ordering steamed cabbage, make sure it is vegan-friendly by asking. The type of sauce used to season it depends on the ramen ordered.

5. When ordering the spinach (oshitashi), make sure to take off the bonito (fish) flakes or put them on the side.

6. Err on the side of caution and ask questions.

The first and the last of the tips were emphasized by Kathy Ueyama. She said the menu does change from time to time.

Shoki Ramen House also provides a gluten-free option for its customers. Kathy Ueyama said they are in the process of finding a company to provide them with gluten-free noodles, so currently the gluten-free option is actually a gluten-free broth with a side of white or brown rice. This is available in the vegetarian option, but not the vegan.

For more information, call the restaurants directly: 454-2411 (2675 24th St.) or 441-0011 (1201 R St.).

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