Asian Recipes/ Japanese/ Lunch/ Pasta & Noodles/ Recipes

Tantanmen Ramen – Japanese Tantan Noodles

03/12/2020

Creamy Tantanmen Ramen is a Japanese take on a classic Sichuan noodle dish. Chewy ramen noodles meet a nutty sesame broth and spicy pork mince, ready to eat in just 10 minutes. Now there’s a quick lunch!

A bowl of noodles topped with pork and wilted greens.

Why We Love This

While this recipe has a few different elements going on, it’s actually super easy to make. You can bring it all together in around 10 minutes, making it an awesome flavour-packed dish for lunch or dinner

It’s also easy to scale up or down, so you can serve two or feed a crowd with no real extra effort.

Tantanmen has all the deliciousness of Japanese ramen and Chinese dan dan noodles in one beautifully balanced dish. Its soy milk and sesame seasoned broth is a creamy and nutty counterpoint to the spicy pork garnish.

Top down view of two bowls of Japanese noodles next to a pair of chopsticks.

What is Tantanmen Ramen? 

Tantanmen is a Japanese version of Chinese Sichuan Dan Dan Noodles. It consists of fresh wheat-based ramen noodles served in a savoury broth of sesame or peanut paste and soy milk. It’s topped off with crispy minced pork cooked in a mouthwatering blend of seasonings including garlic, ginger and doubanjiang (fermented bean paste). 

Where the Sichuan-style recipe is like a fiery explosion of heat and flavour in a thick, saucier base, the Japanese style has more emphasis on the creamy soup broth to balance the spicy kick. Similar to Japanese miso ramen, it’s still spicy, but it won’t melt your face off!

There’s lots of variations to both styles of the recipe, from the choice of ingredients and heat level in the broth/sauce, to how the dish is served in individual regions or restaurants. Sometimes you’ll find it with the noodles served IN the broth and topped with spiced pork (as we’ll be doing today) or with the noodles and broth served separately, similar to another Japanese noodle dish called tsukemen.

Today we’re sharing our method for a simplified version of tantanmen ramen noodles, where we’ve substituted some of the harder to find ingredients for easier alternatives. See the ingredients section below for the full details.

What You’ll Need

It might seem like tantanmen require a lot of different ingredients, but most can be prepared in advance and/or pulled together in minutes. Here’s what you need to know about some of the key ingredients:

  • Ramen Noodles – This recipe traditionally calls for fresh wheat-based ramen noodles which can be sourced from an Asian grocery or market. But to keep things easy you can use either dry ramen noodles or shelf fresh noodles cooked to packet directions. You don’t even have to use ramen – you could use homemade udon noodles if you prefer. The key is to make sure they’re wheat based noodles, which have that delicious chewy texture and will hold their shape in the broth much better than rice noodles. 
  • Sesame Paste – Most versions of tantanmen or dan dan noodles will use Chinese toasted sesame paste or peanut butter. We prefer to use tahini, which is made from un-toasted sesame seeds, so it has a less intense roasted flavour. Use any version you can most easily get your hands on. 
  • Rayu (Sesame Chilli Oil) This delicious Japanese condiment is the perfect blend of sesame oil and chilli without being over the top spicy. You can easily make rayu at home, find it at Asian groceries or buy online if needed. To substitute, just use regular sesame oil with a sprinkling of chilli powder to taste. 
  • Soy Milk – If possible, use fresh, unsweetened soy milk. You can find this in small or 2L bottles at supermarkets/Asian markets or you can make your own homemade soy milk if you have the time. 
  • Pork – The amount is intentionally small, as it’s more of a garnish than the main star of the show. You can double this amount if you like. 
  • DoubanjiangThis is the one ingredient we recommend hunting down rather than substituting. This Chinese condiment is made from salty and spicy fermented broad beans, and can sometimes be labelled as douban, toban-djan, broad bean chili sauce, or fermented chili bean paste. For a milder, sweeter flavour you could use sweet fermented bean paste (tian mian jiang) instead. In a pinch, you could substitute with red miso paste or gochujang – the flavour will be different but it will still give you a delicious umami zing. Head to an Asian grocery for these options – if you can’t source them locally, you can also buy them online.  
  • Cooking SakeThis is a type of Japanese rice wine for cooking. You can substitute with Chinese cooking wine, a regular dry white wine or 1 tsp sugar if you need. 
  • Greens – We love using blanched boy choy, choy sum, gai lan, or even frozen spinach, as they’re all readily available at our local supermarket. Traditionally this dish is served with pickled mustard greens known as zha cai or sui mi ya cai. Find them at your Asian grocery store, online, or leave it out.
Ingredients laid out for tantanmen ramen.

How to Make Tantanmen:

This dish is all about the layering. We start with a paste of tahini, soy sauce, vinegar and rayu oil added to the bottom of each ramen bowl. 

This is layered with a simple broth of soy milk and chicken stock that is simmered until warmed through. 

Freshly boiled ramen noodles go in next, followed by the fried pork mince. Top with blanched boy choy and garnishes (usually crushed peanuts, spring onion, fried shallots etc). Then mix through and enjoy!

A bowl of noodles in creamy sesame broth topped with crispy fried pork.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Blanching – For bok choy, boil the firm stalks first for 10 to 20 seconds and then add the leafy parts. 
  • Noodles – These can be cooked in the same water as the bok choy to save dishes (and time). Cook them according to packet directions. 
  • Pork – For a delicious texture as well as flavour, fry the pork until dark and crispy. 
  • Broth – This may separate a bit when you add the hot noodles into the bowl. It’s totally okay. Stir it all through and it will reincorporate.

FAQs

What’s the difference between tantanmen and ramen?

The biggest difference is the spice level. Even though tantanmen isn’t as intense as Chinese Sichuan noodles, it is spicy compared to regular ramen. Most traditional ramen dishes have no heat and focus more on rich soupy broths for flavour.

What’s the difference between tantanmen and dan dan noodles?

Dan dan noodles have a really intense flavour and heat, so if you are an avid spice lover, you may prefer that style. Dan dan noodles also include Sichuan peppercorns, which have a uniquely ‘numbing’ effect. Tantanmen noodles are less intense, and the broth is thinner and creamier, more like a soup.

Can I make this in advance?

If you’re making this for a group of people, you can make the paste and cook the pork in advance, as both of these will last a few days in the fridge. Then prepare the broth, noodles and blanched greens fresh just before serving.

Variations & Substitutes

  • Make it More or Less Spicy – Amp up or tone down the heat by using more or less rayu chilli oil
  • Optional Garnishes – Top with crushed peanuts, spring onion, fried shallots, extra rayu chilli oil, zha cai pickled greens or shichimi togarashi spice blend. Add some red pickled ginger (beni shoga) for a zingy burst of refreshing flavour.
  • Can’t Find Doubanjiang? – Make a quick homemade version from 1 tbsp red miso, ½ tsp sugar, ½ tsp soy sauce and ½ tsp sesame oil. This amount is suitable for the recipe below (2 servings) so scale this up if you need to serve more people.
A bowl of tantanmen garnished with crispy pork and rayu chilli oil.

More amazing Japanese noodle dishes to try next:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment & star rating below!

Close up shot of tantanmen noodles in broth topped with pork and wilted greens.

Tantanmen Ramen – Japanese Tantan Noodles

Creamy Tantanmen Ramen is a Japanese take on a classic Sichuan noodle dish. Chewy ramen noodles meet a nutty sesame broth and spicy pork, ready to eat in just 10 minutes. Now there's a quick lunch!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Course: Lunch, Pasta
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 2 serves
Calories: 613kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $10

Ingredients

  • 150 g ramen noodles 5.2oz, fresh, or 50-100g / 1.7-3.5oz dried

Soup Paste:

  • 2 tbsp tahini sub with Chinese sesame paste or peanut butter
  • 1.5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 2 tsp rayu chilli oil sub with sesame oil and a sprinkling of chilli powder to taste

Soup Stock:

Pork Mince:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 200 g pork mince
  • 1.5 tsp garlic chopped
  • 1.5 tsp ginger chopped
  • 1 tbsp doubanjiang sub with tian mian jiang (sweet bean paste) or gochujang
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sake sub with Chinese cooking wine or dry white wine

Veggies:

  • 1 bok choy small, quartered or chopped

Optional toppings

Instructions

Pork Mince

  • Heat the vegetable oil in a frypan. Add garlic and ginger, fry until fragrant (around 30 secs to 1 minute). Add the pork mince and fry until browned. For crispier pork, keep cooking until darker. Add doubanjiang, soy sauce and sake, and cook on low-medium heat until the liquid has fully absorbed.

Soup Paste

  • Mix together tahini, soy sauce, vinegar and rayu chilli oil in a small bowl. Divide into two serving bowls.

Soup Base, Green Veggies & Noodles

  • Add the chicken stock and soy milk into a medium saucepan, bring to the boil then turn off the heat.
  • Meanwhile bring a second saucepan of water to the boil. Add bok choy stems and blanch for 10-20 seconds, then add the leafy sections and blanch until wilted. Remove from the water and set aside, then add ramen noodles into the same water and cook according to packet directions. Drain.
  • Pour the soup broth into each bowl. Top with cooked ramen noodles, fried mince and blanched bok choy. Optional: Garnish with sesame oil, rayu chilli oil and sliced spring onion.

Recipe Notes

  • Ramen Noodles – This recipe traditionally calls for fresh wheat-based ramen noodles which can be sourced from an Asian grocery or market. But to keep things easy you can use either dry ramen noodles or shelf fresh noodles cooked to packet directions. You don’t even have to use ramen – you could use homemade udon noodles if you prefer. The key is to make sure they’re wheat based noodles, which have that deliciously chewy texture and will hold their shape in the broth much better than rice noodles. These can be cooked in the same water as the bok choy to save dishes (and time). Cook them according to packet directions. 
  • Sesame Paste – Most versions of tantanmen or dan dan noodles will use Chinese toasted sesame paste or peanut butter. We prefer to use tahini, which is made from un-toasted sesame seeds, so it has a less intense roasted flavour. Use any version you can most easily get your hands on. 
  • Rayu (Sesame Chilli Oil) This delicious Japanese condiment is the perfect blend of sesame oil and chilli without being over the top spicy. You can find it at Asian groceries or buy online if needed. To substitute, just use regular sesame oil with a sprinkling of chilli powder to taste. 
  • Soy Milk – If possible, use fresh, unsweetened soy milk. You can find this in small or 2L bottles at Asian markets/grocers or you can make your own homemade soy milk if you have the time. 
  • Pork – The amount is intentionally small, as it’s more of a garnish than the main star of the show. You can double this amount if you like. For a delicious texture as well as flavour, fry the pork until dark and crispy. 
  • DoubanjiangThis is the one ingredient we recommend hunting down rather than substituting. This Chinese condiment is made from salty and spicy fermented broad beans, and can sometimes be labelled as douban, toban-djan, broad bean chili sauce, or fermented chili bean paste. For a milder, sweeter flavour you could use sweet fermented bean paste (tian mian jiang) instead. In a pinch, you could substitute with red miso paste or gochujang – the flavour will be different but it will still give you a delicious umami zing. Head to an Asian grocery for these options – if you can’t source them locally, you can also buy them online.
    • Can’t Find Doubanjiang? – Make a quick homemade version from 1 tbsp red miso, ½ tsp sugar, ½ tsp soy sauce and ½ tsp sesame oil. This amount is suitable for the recipe below (2 servings) so scale this up if you need to serve more people.
  • Cooking SakeThis is a type of Japanese rice wine for cooking. You can substitute with Chinese cooking wine, a regular dry white wine or 1 tsp sugar if you need. 
  • Greens – We love using blanched boy choy, choy sum, gai lan, or even frozen spinach, as they’re all readily available at our local supermarket. Traditionally this dish is served with pickled mustard greens known as zha cai or sui mi ya cai. Find them at your Asian grocery store, online, or leave it out.
  • Blanching – For bok choy, boil the firm stalks first for 10 to 20 seconds and then add the leafy parts. 
  • Broth – This may separate a bit one you add the hot noodles into the bowl. It’s totally okay. Stir it all through and it will reincorporate.
  • Make it More or Less Spicy – Amp up or tone down the heat by using more or less rayu / chilli oil. 
  • Optional Garnishes – Top with crushed peanuts, spring onion, fried shallots, extra rayu chilli oil, zha cai pickled greens or shichimi togarashi spice blend.  

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Tantanmen Ramen – Japanese Tantan Noodles
Amount per Serving
Calories
613
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
44
g
68
%
Saturated Fat
 
16
g
100
%
Cholesterol
 
76
mg
25
%
Sodium
 
1994
mg
87
%
Potassium
 
1681
mg
48
%
Carbohydrates
 
24
g
8
%
Fiber
 
6
g
25
%
Sugar
 
10
g
11
%
Protein
 
34
g
68
%
Vitamin A
 
19011
IU
380
%
Vitamin C
 
195
mg
236
%
Calcium
 
564
mg
56
%
Iron
 
6
mg
33
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks
Tantanmen Ramen - Japanese Tantan Noodles

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