Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tan Tan Men from Japanese Soul Cooking

I tried another recipe from Japanese Soul Cooking, and again it was a delicious success. The noodles were not the best, but the blame for that goes either to me or the manufacturer - the recipe itself is great.

Tan tan men is a Japanese take on a spicy Chinese noodle soup quite similar to ramen. The more recipes I try the fewer new ingredients there are for me buy and learn about. This time the only new ones were fresh ramen noodles (not exactly an unfamiliar product, but not something I've ever purchased before) and Japanese sesame paste. Japanese sesame paste or Neri Goma comes in black and white versions. I bought the white because the photo in the book didn't look like there was anything black in it, but I suspect either would be fine. I already had some tahini in the fridge and wondered how the two products would differ, so I gave them a quick taste test before I started cooking.  The neri goma is a lot thinner and liquidy, has a smoother consistency, and tastes a little sweeter. It could be drizzled from a spoon while the tahini was thicker and "gloopy" for lack of a better word. The tahini was grittier in my mouth and tasted a little bitter. If you can't find neri goma I think tahini would definitely work, but I'd thin it out by about 50% with water and add a pinch of sugar or honey.

The broth was really flavorful and so fragrant, John could barely wait to eat it. Luckily the whole recipe comes together in just a few minutes. The pork and green onions were perfect toppings, minimal but not lacking anything. The noodles however were kind of a disappointment. They were already cooked, I just needed to warm them up, but they had an oiliness to them that kept them from soaking up the yummy broth flavor, or really even from letting the soup cling to them as we slurped them up. Raku says this can be a problem with store bought noodles, but John inspected the packaging and says I bought yakisoba noodles. (Yakisoba is a stir-fried noodle dish made from ramen noodles) I argued that since it's made from ramen noodles these must be ramen noodles, but he was not at all convinced. Maybe the oil is a special thing for frying, or maybe there are other differences I just don't know about. I guess I'll have to try again and look for better noodles. Our final review was that the recipe is fantastic, but good noodles are essential.

I only made half the recipe, but there was some left over which I had for lunch the next day. When the broth cooled a layer of fat congealed on the top. I scraped this off and threw it away in an attempt to be more healthy. It still tasted really good, but most of the spiciness disappeared with the fat, so be aware if you try something similar.

Ramen (yakisoba?) Noodles and Neri Goma

Delicious Tan Tan Men

How jealous are you right now?


  1. I've found that most prepared noodles do best if you rinse them in boiling water to remove whatever they coat the noodles with the keep them from sticking before you add them to the broth.

    1. That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the tip!