Japanese Noodles: Tantanmen vs. Tanmen vs. Ramen
Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup originating from the noodle dish called Nankin Soba (南京そば).
Nankin Soba was served in Chinatowns founded in ports such as Yokohama, Kobe, Nagasaki, and Hakodate in the early Meiji period (Meiji: 1868 to 1912).
Ramen vs. Tanmen vs. Tantanmen
Today, ramen has become Japan’s most popular comfort food, and the dish has also established its position in overseas countries.
Ramen is a dish of noodles served in a soup.
The noodles are made of wheat flour mixed with an alkaline solution called Kansui (かん水), which gives ramen noodles a distinctive texture different from udon noodles.
Nowadays, the broth comes in various flavors, but the classics loved for a long time are Shoyu (醤油: soy sauce), Miso (味噌: fermented soybean paste), Shio (塩: salt), and Tonkotsu (豚骨: pork bone).
Besides, as each region of Japan has its specialty ramen with featured ingredients, the dish is available in countless varieties.
However, for that reason, some other types of noodle soups are often confused with ramen, and one of the representatives is Tanmen.
Tanmen is neither a bowl of ramen nor a Chinese food but is a Japanese noodle soup that originated in the Kanto region around Tokyo.
Nonetheless, many ramen shops and Chinese restaurants around the country are offering the dish.
Tanmen looks like ramen. Specifically, the noodle soup is similar to salt-based Yasai (野菜: vegetable) ramen.
But as I wrote in this article, it is different primarily in cooking methods from Yasai ramen.
Although the Tanmen broth is originally salt-based, some ramen shops offer miso-based ones,
among which Mouko Tanmen, a spicy Mapo-tofu-topped Tanmen offered by Mouko Tanmen Nakamoto, is especially popular.
Then, what is Tantanmen?
Tantanmen has a similar name to Tanmen.
But they are different things, and Tantanmen is the Japanese version of Dandan noodles, a dish from Chinese Sichuan cuisine.
It was created by Chen Kenmin (1912-1990), a Sichuan-born Japanese chef who altered the original Dandan noodles to suit Japanese tastes.
Unlike Sichuan Dandan noodles, Japanese Tantanmen has a broth.
The soup is light compared to the original, but the addition of La-yu chili oil and Tahini sesame paste makes it flavorful.
Many restaurants in Japan prepare ramen noodles using Kansui for Tantanmen.
And the dish’s meat miso topping typically consists of fried minced pork seasoned with soy sauce, sake, doubanjiang, and Tianmian sauce.
But there is no clear definition of the dish, so it comes in many variations (like this).
In Japan, Tantanmen can be enjoyed in Chinese restaurants, and there are even shops that specialize in the dish.