Tantanmen is a delicious dish made with chewy ramen noodles served in a spicy and nutty broth. You won't believe how quick and easy it is to make, so impress your friends and family with this ramen restaurant worthy dish. I have a surprise ingredient too, so let's get started!
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What is tantanmen?
Tantanmen is a delicious, spicy and nutty ramen dish topped with ground pork and pak choi. The broth has a rich sesame flavour and the meat is seasoned with Chinese chilli paste for an extra kick.
It's probably one of my favourite ramen dishes, although for most Japanese people, it's not the first thing to pop to mind if someone says "ramen". Tantanmen is in a league of its own!
Tantanmen is inspired by a Szechuan Chinese dish called "Dandan mian" noodles. If you've tried dandan noodles before, you might realise that they're pretty different to Japanese tantanmen. Dandan noodles are spicer and served in a sauce rather than a broth, and uses a thin kind of noodles rather than the curly yellow noodles used for ramen.
A brief history of Tantanmen
The history goes all the way back to one of the most famous Chinese chefs called "Chén Jiànmín (陳建民)" who came to Japan in the 1950's. He's literally the biggest contributor for well loved Chinese dishes in Japan and Tantanmen is one of the example dishes that he introduced to Japan and modified to Japanese tastes.
Other famous dishes he introduced include Mopo Tofu (麻婆豆腐), Ebi chilli and Ebi mayo. Since then, Tantanmen has been loved for decades and now different forms of Tantanmen have been created in different regions such as:
- Katsuura Tantanmen (勝浦タンタンメン) in Katsuura, Chiba (Extra spicy and hot)
- Shirunashi Tantanmen (汁なし担々麵) in Hiroshima (Soupless Tantanmen)
- Odawara Tantanmen (小田原系担々麺) in Odawara, Kanagawa (Thicker soup with sweeter taste)
And of course, if you go to supermarkets or convenience stores in Japan, you will definitely see multiple instant Tantanmen! That kind of shows how much we love Tantanmen!
Tantanmen VS Ramen: What are the differences?
You might be wondering there are any differences between ramen and tantanmen. Long story short, there aren't any. That is because ramen is just a broad term for Japanese noodle dishes inspired by a Chinese cuisine and tantanmen is just one example of many types of ramen.
For example, in Japan if I say "I want ramen in a restaurant", I would be asked "What kind of ramen?". Each type of ramen has its own name and distinct broth such as miso ramen and tonkotsu ramen.
Of course, when you're making any type of ramen, you should use ramen noodles. I'm not talking about the instant cup ramen either, I'm talking about proper ramen!
Luckily, I have a hack recipe which shows you a secret tip on how to turn spaghetti into ramen style noodles. It sounds crazy, but it works and it's great, I highly recommend it! Check it out how to make ramen noodles from spaghetti here!
Tantanmen ramen ingredients
To make this Tantanmen recipe, I use the following ingredients which can sometimes be a little hard to find if you don't have access to an Asian supermarket.
- Sichuan chilli paste (I use LLK Doubanjian which you can find on Amazon)
- Chinese sesame paste
- Ground sesame seeds
- Tsuyu sauce
- Rice vinegar
- Chinese chicken stock powder
- Ramen noodles
Luckily, these ingredients are quite easy to substitute. I actually tried making this dish with all substitute ingredients (except doubanjian) and it tasted amazing!
Sichuan Chilli Paste: Doubanjian
I'll start with the most difficult substitute first... Sichuan chilli bean paste called “la doubanjian” (also can be spelled tobanjan). It’s easy to find in supermarkets in Japan because Szechuan style food is very popular here.
It’s a pretty popular ingredient in Chinese cooking so if you live near an Asian supermarket, look for a label with “辣豆瓣酱” or ask for Douban paste/Sichuan chilli bean paste. I’m sure you’ll find it! You can also buy it on Amazon here.
I recommend buying doubanjian, not only for this recipe but it's also useful for dishes such as "Mapo Tofu" and "Ebi Chili", but if you really can't, I have a few options for you.
Substitute: You could try substituting doubanjian with chilli pastes from other countries such as Sambal Oelek (Indonesian), Gochujang (Korean) or even try mixing miso paste with chilli flakes. (Note: All of these will create very different flavours to the original recipe and it's main aim is to replace the spiciness and depth of flavour, not the actual flavour itself.)
Sesame paste can be substituted with peanut butter
Sesame oil, sesame seeds, sesame paste... various forms of sesame seeds are often used in Chinese cooking. It's toasty and nutty and I just love the flavour of sesame. This recipe calls for "Chinese Sesame Paste" which is made from toasted sesame seeds and has quite a strong flavour. You can buy Chinese sesame paste on Dokodemo.
Substitute: You might be surprised, but my recommended substitute ingredient for Chinese sesame paste is smooth peanut butter! I know it's strange, it's nothing like sesame... but it's nutty and delicious and it works amazingly well. I was surprised when I tried it because I honestly didn't think it would work, but actually I might actually prefer it to the sesame paste. I highly recommend trying this recipe with peanut butter even though it's not very authentic, it really tastes great! (I used Skippy Creamy Peanut butter.)
Ground Sesame Seeds
I don't remember seeing ground sesame seeds when I lived in England, but they're pretty common in Japan. You can't substitute it for regular whole sesame seeds because the ground ones are more like a powder and it adds more flavour to the soup. That being said, if you can't get them grounded, you can crush the sesame seeds yourself using a mortar and pestle. Just made sure they're the toasted kind for the best flavour.
Tsuyu is a concentrated dashi based sauce that is often used in Japanese cooking, it adds umami! If you're planning on using tsuyu in other dishes too, we have a recipe for how to make tsuyu sauce from scratch here. But if you're only making it for this recipe, I think it's not really worth it.
Substitute: An equal amount of soy sauce.
Rice vinegar is actually easy to find, but if you don't already have it, it's a bit annoying to buy a whole bottle for just one recipe. Rice vinegar adds a little sourness to the tantanmen but a very small amount is used so you could substitute with a different vinegar or omit completely.
Substitute: White wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or omit.
Chinese Chicken Stock Powder
While Western chicken stocks often add extra herbs that go well with Western style cooking, Chinese chicken stock is usually a bit more simple and chicken-y. It's definitely better for Chinese style cooking but I've tested both types and I found that they both work well for this recipe. (You can buy Chinese Chicken Stock on Amazon.)
Substitute: One Knorr chicken stock cube.
Watch our video for how to make 15 minute Tantanmen RamenPrint
Easy 15 min Tantanmen Ramen (担々麵)
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 2 servings
How to make easy Japanese style tantanmen ramen in just 15 minutes! Delicious ramen noodles served in a spicy, nutty broth and topped with seasoned pork mince and blanched pak choi. (Serves two)
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 150g pork mince
- 15g Welsh onion (white part)
- 1 pinch salt & pepper
- 1 pinch sugar
- 1 dash soy sauce
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 1 tbsp Sichuan chilli paste (doubanjian)
- 15g Welsh onion (white part)
- 4 tbsp Chinese sesame paste (or smooth peanut butter - I used Skippy Creamy)
- 2 tsp ground sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp tsuyu (or soy sauce)
- ½ tsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp chili oil
- 4 tsp Chinese chicken stock powder OR 1 Knorr chicken stock cube
- 600ml water
- 220g fresh ramen noodles (or 110g dry - see note)
- 1 whole pak choi (bok choi)
- Welsh onion for garnish (green part)
- Start by taking 30g of Welsh onion (only using the white part) and cut into thin strips, then cut those strips into a fine dice. (See video for cutting instruction)
- Heat a frying pan on a medium heat and add 1 tsp sesame oil.
- Once the oil is heated, add the pork mince and add a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Fry the pork until browned.
- Next, add half of the minced spring onion with a dash of soy sauce, 1 tsp ginger paste, 1 tsp garlic paste, 1 tbsp doubanjian to the pan and stir.
- Cook until the liquid is mostly gone.
- Remove from the heat and put a lid on to keep it warm.
- Take your serving bowls and add the following to EACH bowl. 1 tbsp tsuyu (or soy sauce), 1 tsp ground sesame seeds, ¼ tsp rice vinegar, 1 tsp chili oil, 2 tbsp sesame paste (or smooth peanut butter) and share the leftover minced Welsh onion between the two bowls. Mix well.
- Boil 600ml water for the broth.
- Pour it into a jug and mix in the chicken stock until it's dissolved.
- Pour 300ml into each bowl and mix well.
- Wash the pak choi and cut off the end piece.
- Boil your noodles for 1 minute less than the amount of time stated on the package. If you're using fresh noodles, this should only be a few minutes.
- Once the time is up, add the pak choi to the noodles and cook for the remaining 1 minute.
- After 1 minute is up, divide the noodles and ground pork between each bowl.
- Add the pak choi to the top and sprinkle with chopped Welsh onion for garnish.
Using dry noodles will increase the cooking time. If you're using dry noodles, start cooking them just as the pork has browned so that everything is ready at the same time.
If you can't find ramen noodles, try our ramen noodle hack using spaghetti!
NOTE: the nutrition facts below are based on when you drink up the whole soup (which we don't really do when it comes to ramen)
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cook Time: 10 mins
- Category: Noodles
- Method: Boil
- Cuisine: Japanese / Chinese
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So delicious and easy to make! Will definitely be making this a lot from now on!
Thank you so much for the review, I'm so happy you liked it! 😀
This was super easy and tasted phenomenal! I was curious about the peanut butter but it turned out delicous. I will be making this again.
Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed the recipe 🙂