This spicy, creamy, sesame rich authentic Tantanmen is simple and delicious! The famous Japanese spicy noodles dish is a perfect comfort food everyone will enjoy. Ready in just 20 minutes!
Tantanmen is Japan’s famously popular spicy noodle dish. When I think of tan tan men ramen I always think of Iron Chef, a famous Japanese cooking show. It was one of the first competition cooking shows and widely broadcasted in the US, the UK and Australia.
My partner, Andy, loves the drama and excitement of this show! His favourite iron chef was Chén Kenichi, who was dressed with the golden costume and specialised in spicy Chinese influenced dishes. Don’t you think he always came up with amazing dishes, but was always humble and kind to his opponents?
Chén Kenichi’s father Chén Jiànmín (Kenmin) was a Chinese cuisine master chef in Japan. He contributed to the development of tantanmen in Japan. Tantanman was originally inspired by Schezwan noodle in China, but the master developed that Chinese noodle to a noodle soup style which is more suited to Japanese people.
What is tantanmen ramen?
Japan’s tantanmen ramen originated from Schezwan noodle in China. But there are a few key differences.
Japanese tantanmen ramen is served in a large ramen bowl with lots of soup. Whereas, Chinese noodles is served with less soup and is more like a noodle dish.
The less soup noodles was initially started in schezwan, China where vendors sold it on the street, carrying it on a pole over their shoulder. That’s why it had less soup because it was lighter to carry.
Tantanmen ramen (sometimes also referred to as tan tan noodle) is blended with sesame paste and chili oil. The typical ramen adds minced meat, nuts and vegetables.
Japan’s popular tan tan noodle broth is blended with sesame paste and a chili oil. The ramen tops up minced meat, nuts and vegetables.
Plant based topping and noodle soup
This tantanmen is vegetarian friendly, and it’s as authentic as possible.
The good thing is that this spicy, sesame rich ramen noodle dish can be enjoyed in summer as well as winter. The noodle is oddly refreshing in hot weather, but real comfort food in the heart of winter. It’s homemade, you can control the amount of spiciness.
Why You Will Love This Tantanmen
What makes this spicy Japanese ramen stand out is the harmony created by a rich sesame paste and rayu (Japanese red chili oil).
This spicy tan tan ramen recipe is umami rich. You’ll enjoy the noodles and the soup. The secret to the vegetable ramen soup is umami rich Japanese kombu and shiitake dashi based ramen broth. It’s blended with the ramen sauce and creamy soy milk.
What you will love about this spicy tan tan ramen is:
- The rich and creamy sesame flavor
- It’s quick and easy to make with ingredients that are easy to find in your local or Asian grocery store
- The umami rich Japanese dashi
- The spicy and creamy combination of the soy milk ramen
Selected ingredients for tantanmen recipe
Ramen Noodle: Choose only eggless noodles from the shop. Either fresh or dried noodles work. I prefer fresh ramen noodle. If it’s yellowy, that’s good, but check there’s no egg used in it. Ramen noodle can be different thicknesses. This ramen works with the medium thickness.
Sesame Paste: I recommend Chinese sesame cream paste, chimajan. It’s easy to find at your local super market. Japanese sesame paste, nerigoma, is also very good if you can find it.
Can you use tahini instead of chimajan?
Chimajan is toasted sesame paste while tahini is raw sesame seed paste. Tahini doesn’t work as well for this recipe. I tried both pastes but chimajan and nerigoma give it a fuller sesame flavour. And this dish is all about strong flavor.
Soy Sauce: I use Japanese soy sauce, “Kikkoman Yuki Organic Soy Sauce”. Any koikuchi (dark coloured) shoyu works. Japanese dashi works well with soy sauce. Lots of grocery stores have gluten free soy shoyu now, so just substitute if you need gluten free. Kikkoman also makes gluten free soy sauce.
Rayu (Japanese red chili oil): Rayu is a must for this recipe. You can easily find rayu at a local Japanese supermarket. It’s also getting common to find it at your everyday local supermarket these days.
Japanese Sake: Sake induces umami from dashi and creates a harmony with soy sauce and dashi. You can use it for many other dishes with such as teriyaki sauce, ponzu sauce, other ramen noodles or other types of vegetable cooking. I use an everyday drinking sake from a local shop for cooking.
Sesame Oil: Use only toasted sesame oil which is perfect for ramen. Choose dark coloured sesame oil. The yellow coloured sesame oil is not toasted and has less flavor.
Crumbled Tofu – For topping, I made tofu mince which is cooked with soy sauce, powdered pepper and sake. You can use a pressed firm tofu. I freeze it first to remove the excess water and improve the texture. When the firm tofu is frozen, the texture completely changes. It become firmer, chewy and meatier. I’ve made tofu nuggets with it. Try it!
This Japanese cooking method is called kouri tofu, which has been practiced since ancient times in Japan. Just leave tofu in the package over night in the freezer and defrost it in fridge or with running water. You can easily remove water by simply squeezing tofu
Bok Choy and crushed Peanuts: Any vegetables can be served for the topping. My recommendation for this tan tan noodle ramen is bok choy, spring onion, corn, spinach, sprout and crushed peanuts.
How to Make Tantanmen Ramen
This tan tan noodle has four main components:
- Tantanmen sauce
- Ramen topping
- Tantanmen soup
- Ramen noodle
Each component needs to be prepared and cooked in order. Then they are combined into delicious ramen. With this, there is no complication. I will explain it for you step by step.
1. Tantanmen sauce
Start making the sauce first. The important thing is to add the ingredients in order to keep the flavour.
- Place soy sauce, rice vinegar and then chimajan in the ramen bowl you are going to eat with.
- Then add rayu in the end and combine it a little by chopsticks in a circle 5 times.
The key is not to over combine the ingredients. Chimajan and rayu should not be heated up. This helps keep the intensity of their flavour and aroma!
Cook crumbed tofu with soy sauce, miso, sake and pepper in the pan until the moisture of the ingredients disappear. Tofu crumbles absorbs all the umami of the Japanese ingredients contain.
3. Tantanmen soup
The important thing to remember for making the dashi is to simmer the kombu and water mix on a low heat. This enables the rich kombu flavourto infuse into the water. The umami is extracted.
If you soak kombu in water over night, kombu dashi becomes more flavourful and thicker. Otherwise, leave a piece of kombu in the water on a pan for at least 15 minutes. Discover further details about the recipe of this ramen broth if you are interested.
- Simmer the kombu and water mix at the lowest heat. Remove the kombu just before it’s boiled. Kombu dashi is ready. Set aside.
- Simmer sesame oil, vegetable oil, ginger, garlic, onion powder and spring onion. Then add the kombu dashi, sake, salt and soy milk, and keep cooking until it’s boiled. The tan tan ramen soup is ready. Set aside.
4. Cooking ramen noodle
Cook ramen in the boiled water in the large pan. Follow the cooking instruction on the package. I prefer little less time to keep the firm texture. Two things are very important:
- Ramen noodles need to swim thoroughly in the hot water.
- Drain water completely.
I cooked bok choy together with the noodles for 30 seconds.
5. Blending all
Add the soup into the bowl and add the ramen noodle. Then top up with tofu crumbles, bok choy, spring onion and crushed peanuts. I added one more tablespoon of rayu to spice up and for the colour. This is only if you prefer a spicy and hot noodle!
Serve immediately. Enjoy!
Ramen Recipe Collection
- 2 tbsp chimajan (sesame paste or use Japanese nerigoma)
- 1½ tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp rayu (Japanese red hot oil) (or use homemade rayu: note 1)
- 1 tbsp spring onion
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp spring onion
- 1 tsp ginger
- ½ tbsp garlic
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 cup *kombu dashi (247ml, see note)
- 2 tbsp sake (30ml)
- salt (pinch)
- ⅓ cup soy milk (75ml)
- ½ cup extra firm tofu (80g)
- ½ tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tbsp sake
- ½ tsp miso
- pinch of powdered pepper
Toppings & Ramen Noodle
- 1 ramen noodles (or rice noodles for gluten free)
- 2 leaf bok choy
- 1 tbsp peanut (optional)
- Soak kombu in water and leave it in the fridge overnight. You can also just soak kombu in water for 15-20 minutes if you haven’t pre-prepared.
- Topping – cook your favourite vegetables and be ready. Finely chop three tbsp of spring onion. One for the sauce and the other two for. (note 2)
- Tofu Crumbs – Make crumbed tofu by hand. Place the tofu, soy sauce, sake, pepper and miso in the pan. Cook until the moisture of the combined ingredients disappears. Set aside.
- Place soy sauce, chimajan, rayu, rice vinegar and finely diced spring onion in a ramen bowl. Mix them only a little, like staring circles 5 times with chopsticks or a spoon. Set aside.
- Kombu dashi – simmer the kombu and water mix over the lowest heat. It's takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the kombu just before it's boiled. (note 3)
- Place sesame oil, finely chopped spring onion, garlic and ginger. Cook them over the middle heat for 2 minutes. Add onion powder, kombu dashi, sake, salt and soy milk. When it boils, the soup is ready. Set aside.
- Cook ramen in the boiled water in the large pan by following to the package instruction. I prefer little less time to keep the firm texture of the noodle. Ramen noodles need to swim thoroughly in the hot water. Drain water completely.
- Pour the boiled soup into the noodle bowl and roughly combine with the sauce. Add the noodle. Top up tofu crumbles and your favourite vegetables. If you prefer spicy ramen, add one more tablespoon of rayu.Serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Add one more tbsp rayu for topping if you like spicy. Chinese sesame paste, chimajan, is recommended because it’s easy to find in your local supermarkets and tastier than tahini for this dish. Japanese sesame paste, nerigoma, is also very good. Chimajan and nerigoma give the fullness of sesame flavour.
- You can top up any vegetables you desire for topping. I boiled bok choy for 1 minute. Added chopped spring onion and crushed peanuts.
- Making kombu dashi – Place 1×3 inch kombu into 1½ cups of water (300ml) in the fridge overnight. Or if your havne’t pre-prepared just soak the kombu in water at least for 15 minutes. Simmer the kombu and water mix at a low heat and remove the kombu before the water boils. Kombu dashi is ready. It takes about 10 minutes. Keep the ‘low heat’. This enables the kombu’s component to infuse into the water. The umami is extracted.
- Keep ramen noodle warm – Ramen needs to be served when it’s hot. So make sure that the ramen topping ingredients, the soup and the sauce are all ready before you started cooking ramen noodle in the boiled water.