Tanmen vs. Ramen noodles: What is the Difference?

As for Japanese noodle soups, Ramen, Udon, and Soba are not just our comfort foods, but in recent years, they have gained popularity in many countries.

People who have tried or experienced those noodle dishes quite a few times probably know the difference

Among them, Ramen is admittedly the most popular and comes in various flavors/numerous varieties. Because of that, it seems some people think of Tanmen (タンメン) as a variety of Ramen.

Tanmen vs. Ramen

Tanmen looks like Shio (salt-based) Ramen. However, it is generally considered a noodle soup dish different from Ramen. But how?

Today, let me explain how the two types of noodle soup differ for those unfamiliar with Japanese food culture.

Tanmen (タンメン)

Tanmen or Tan Men

First, Tanmen (タンメン) is a Japanese noodle soup dish mainly eaten in the Kanto region around Tokyo. 

Although it is similar in appearance to Shio Ramen with plenty of vegetables, or Yasai Ramen (野菜ラーメン), Tanmen is different from that salt-based ramen in the cooking method.

In Tanmen, ingredients, such as pork and vegetables, are first stir-fried in a wok, then salt-based chicken broth is added and simmered. And lastly, the soup is poured into a bowl of boiled noodles.

Typical vegetables for this noodle soup are cabbage, carrot, onion, bean sprouts, Chinese chive, and cloud ear mushrooms.

Ramen (ラーメン)

Shio Ramen

On the other hand, Raman is the quintessential Japanese noodle soup widely enjoyed throughout Japan.

Ramen has its roots in Nankin Soba (南京そば), a noodle soup dish eaten in Chinatowns founded in cities like Yokohama, Kobe, Nagasaki, and Hakodate in the early Meiji period (Meiji: 1868 to 1912).

As mentioned above, unlike Tanmen, Ramen comes in countless varieties, and representative flavors include Shoyu (醤油: soy sauce), Shio (塩: salt), and Miso (味噌: fermented soybean seasoning). 

The broth is a blend of soup stock (made with pork bones, chicken bones, seafood, and vegetables) and a seasoning sauce called Kaeshi (かえし), such as Shoyu-Dare, Miso-Dare, or Shio-Dare.

The resulting thing is first prepared in a bowl, to which boiled noodles and toppings are added.

While typical ingredients used in Tanmen are stir-fried pork and vegetables, Ramen can use almost any food material.

Where to Eat Tanmen in Tokyo

Mouko TanmenImage: Wikipedia

In the Kanto region around Tokyo, Tanmen noodles are available at ramen shops and Chinese restaurants.

Among them, one of the best and most popular ramen shops is undoubtedly Mouko Tanmen Takamoto (蒙古タンメン中本).

Featuring its spicy soup broth with plenty of Ichimi Togarashi (一味唐辛子) ground red chili pepper, their Tanmen is so addictive that there are many fans of it.

(Reference Pages: Wikipedia ラーメン, タンメン )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

4 Responses

  1. Orenji-san says:

    Thank you for sharing insight about Tanmen and Ramen! I was curious about Tanmen ever since I saw it on an episode of Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. I really thought it was a variety of ramen. It didn’t occur to me that it was entirely a different noodle dish.

    I hope to get to eat a bowl of Tanmen sometime ahahaha 🙂

    • Tomo says:

      Thank you for commenting!
      Tanmen is similar to ramen in appearance, so even Japanese people, many think of it as a variety of ramen!
      In fact, I too assumed so before 🙂

  2. Jack says:

    I also saw tanmen on Midnight Diner! Thank you for explaining the difference. I look forward to trying it! This blog is very helpful. Thank you so much for writing these posts!

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