I’ve covered a lot of styles over the past year or so, but one style I continue to get asked about is Tantanmen. Based on dan dan noodles from China, tantanmen is an interesting variant of ramen, in that it borrows even more chinese influence than your standard ramen styles. There are a number of variations on tantanmen as a result, but at its most primary form, the dish consists typically of a light, clear broth, with sesame paste, vinegar, soy sauce, and then sometimes szechuan pickles or rice wine. Chili oil is used as an accent on top to provide color and flavor. Topped with soboro, bok choy, and onion, it’s got some heat, some intense flavors, and some visual flair.
There are some problems to me with this approach. For one, chili oil is not usually that spicy in the context of things, and it coats the palate without introducing flavor to the broth directly. I wanted to add heat throughout the dish, so this version also includes a dry spice blend you add to the bottom of the bowl, in addition to the chili aroma oil. Next, the sesame flavor is often overwhelming. To get the creamy consistency of a tantanmen with a subtle, more balanced sesame flavor, I opted for a Paitan base, which emulsifies animal fat into the broth, creating some opacity that can be used instead of sesame. From there, it’s all a matter of preference.
Other changes from previous recipes are in the noodles and chashu/egg below. Scroll down for more.
There are a lot of components to do this dish. But go slowly (actually, some of these components are BEST done in advance, particularly toppings, noodles, and oils/seasonings). And ramen glory will be yours.
Here we go:
Since this is a tori paitan base, it uses the same standard recipe as my previous technique, just not using carrots in this pass. Here are the steps for reference:
4 lbs chicken backs or one whole chicken, broken down into sections
2-3 lbs chicken wings (around 6 wings total)
2-3 lbs chicken feet, toes removed
White ends from two bunches of green onions
A 2 inch piece of ginger
10 garlic cloves
Steps (takes around 8 hours total):
Two hours prior to cooking, soak the chicken parts in cold water. This helps remove some of the myoglobin, though chicken tends to have less than pork. Soak for two hours.
Drain the water, place the chicken parts into a stock pot, cover with water by two inches.
Place on the stove over high heat, bring to a boil
Skim the scum that comes to the surface until little to no scum rises, around 15 min of skimming
Cover, cook on medium high heat, making sure the pot is boiling rapidly, around 6 hours. Refill with water as needed, and stir occasionally to avoid the debris scorching on the bottom.
One hour before completion (at least 6 hours later, I went 8), remove the lid, add aromatics, and boil uncovered for 1 hour. The broth should barely be covering the bones by the time this boiling process is done. If not, continue to boil on high heat until reduced appropriately.
Strain the broth and reserve as needed. You can optionally at this point insert an immersion blender to whip things up and help the emulsification further.
Tare is sort of a misnomer in this dish. It’s actually just some stuff you throw into the bottom of your bowl, along with around 300 ml of broth. You can make it in big batches if you’d like, but it’s dead simple.
1 tbps tahini paste
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine vinegar (you can also sub some of this out for chinese black vinegar).
That’s it. No miso, mirin, or anything else. Sesame is the main focus and fish is not a component here. Some recipes add in rice wine or szechuan pickles. Feel free to do so if you dig that, but I keep it simple here, because of the next component:
Spice is an integral part of tantanmen, it’s spicy after all. To layer the flavor, I add it in two phases. The first is the spice blend, which consists of fresh ground spices:
8 dried chinese chilies, whole.
2 tbsp togarashi
1 tbsp whole szechuan peppercorns
Optional: 2 tsp white peppercorns
In a spice mill, blend the above ingredients one by one. Combine in a small bowl. Reserve until needed. To a bowl, you’ll add around 1-2 tsp of the spice blend, depending on your heat tolerance.
Chili oil is actually dead simple. I cook mine, you don’t necessarily have to, but I also like to add aromatics to play on the aroma oil concept, and that sort of keeps things safe. You can use whatever fat you like, I use duck or chicken fat and vegetable oil, but you can use whatever you have on hand provided it’s neutral in flavor. Note that this in large quantities will form a skin on the top of your ramen if you use animal fat, so sometimes vegetable fat is beneficial.
In a saucepan, combine the following:
3 tbsp coarsely ground togarashi
4 dried Chinese chilis
1 tsp szechuan peppercorns
8 cloves garlic
1 2-inch piece of ginger, sliced
½ a small onion
1 cup fat of choice
Cook over low medium heat, making sure the ingredients are only sizzling slightly, until the oil turns a nice bright red color, anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Strain and reserve in the fridge until needed.
Tokyo Style Ramen Noodles:
The noodles for this one are essentially tokyo style, semi-wavy. There have been a lot of changes to my noodle method, and i think these noodles are STELLAR. But they require some work and odd ingredients. These include egg white powder, which promotes translucency and chew without making the dough harder to nead. Egg proteins don’t denature until being cooked or heavily beaten, which means they don’t get stretchy necessarily when raw, unlike gluten. Using them in powder form is more accurate, but you can use normal egg, you’ll just need to reduce the water content.
The method itself can be used for almost any ratio of flour/water/egg/kansui etc, but below is my standard Tokyo one I’ve been using over the last few months.
Per portion: measure everything by weight
99g King Arthur bread flour (12.7% protein by weight)
1 g vital wheat gluten (aprox 77.5% protein by weight)
1 g egg white powder
38 g water
1 g salt
1.2 g baked soda or powdered kansui (more info on baked soda here) (For me, I use 20% Potassium carbonate and 80% sodium carbonate, aka baked soda, here. But all baked soda will work quite well)
Optional: Pinch of Riboflavin (a literal pinch, less than .01 gram is all that’s required)
Add kansui powder and salt (and riboflavin if using) to the water, dissolve completely. I like to add one at a time, these alkaline salts actually release a small amount of heat when hitting the water and will form small chemical bonds to themselves if not added gradually, which results in it clumping up. Go slowly, stir constantly until clear. This will take awhile, but eventually things will work out.
In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, add your flour, wheat gluten, and egg white powder. Turn the mixer to “stir” and run for 30 seconds.
While running the mixer on stir, add two thirds of your water mixture slowly, in an even stream. Let the mixer stir for 3 minutes.
Add in the remaining water mixture with the mixer running, run for another minute, until small clumps begin to form.
Remove the bowl from the mixer. Cover, and let this rest for 30 minutes. This gives the flour granules time to fully absorb the water and alkaline salts, rests some gluten (which, believe it or not, you developed while mixing this dough) and allows some trapped air in the dough balls to escape, which is called “degassing.” An air free starch gel results in better texture. Don’t skip this.
Knead it. The hardest part of noodles, hands down. Currently I use an electric pasta machine to sheet the dough, going through the largest setting, then the 2nd, then the 3rd. I then take the dough and fold it, sheeting under the 2nd widest setting, then fold it again and sheet it under the widest setting. I then repeat this again, until the sheet is quite smooth and not ragged. You'll notice interesting horizontal lines running along the length of your dough if you do the folding right, suggesting your gluten strands are running the length of your dough. This is good, it will help with texture of the noodle. If sheeting with a machine isn’t an option for you, I used to throw the mix into a plastic bag and step on it repeatedly.
After kneading, cover with plastic, and rest at room temp for another 30 minutes. This gives the gluten time to relax.
Pull out your dough. Portion into workable sizes, and roll out to desired thickness, using potato or cornstarch as you go to prevent sticking. Do this with a pasta machine, it is borderline impossible without a machine. An electric one will save you an incredible amount of effort.
Cut your noodles to your desired thickness.
Place in the fridge and allow to rest for at least a day, but preferably at least two. In this image they had rested 5 days, and they were superb. This final resting phase ensures even hydration and helps make an even starch gel, promoting better texture. Enzymatic activity in the flour also helps build flavor, and the alkaline flavor of the dough subsides somewhat.
(toppings can be found in the next comment)
Any reason to use tahini over neri goma, other than it's probably a lot easier to find tahini?
Yeah that'd be about it. Additionally, If you're grinding your own sesame, sometimes it's hard to get the texture as fine as the paste. But feel free to go at it.
I always have tahini on hand since I make miso regularly, and for that style it helps prevent the miso from clumping in the soup (acts as sort of a buffer or emulsifier? Not sure why tbh, just empirical evidence on that one).
Huh. Some quick research show that there's anything obvious in sesame seeds that would be a traditional emulsifier, but it may have a similar effect without being a known agent.
Hey, Ramen_Lord! Nice recipes! I have lived in Tokyo and eaten a lot of ramen in my days. But now I want to make it myself. I have been thinking a lot about the noodles, and I want to experiment with making the noodles without kansui/baked soda or even baking soda (because reasons). So, the question is, how can I make the noodles as firm/chewy as possible without the use of alkalinity. Could they still be made firm enough to be recognized as ramen noodles? Do you have any thoughts or ideas? It would be really helpful!
Do you mind if I ask why you want to remove the alkalinity?
The problem is that without it, the noodles aren't really in the class of ramen anymore. Alkalinity is a defining characteristic of the dish, although its actual amount varies considerably of course.
So, just know that going into it.
That being said, plenty of noodles don't have alkalinity and are plenty chewy. Most of this comes down to protein content, in the form of gluten and other ingredients, like eggs. Use a high protein flour like bread flour (at around 12% or so), and include egg white to some capacity.
Thanks for your answer! Some of my friends have a hard time digesting alkaline noodles. I guess it is because if one does not produce enough stomach acid the alkalinity will be a problem. Also, it would be nice if one could do it without, so I want to explore that.
I'll try egg whites and high protein flour. And I'm guessing the drier the dough the better?
I wouldn't say that's true about the hydration. Hydration actually promotes gluten development so to a degree you really need it, particularly if you're looking for chew. I'm can't give a perfect recommendation here, but try 40% first, see how it turns out.
I see. That makes more sense given my previous experiences with noodle-making. Thanks for clearing that up!
Am I adding the onions, garlic, ginger, and scallion an hour before the broth's completion as whole pieces or should they be sliced, diced, etc?
Same question for the garlic and 1/2 onion in the aroma oil.
I do some pretty big pieces for the broth, just halving the onion and leaving the remainder whole.
For the aroma oil, I like to chop the onion a littler finer just so that it's submerged. But it doesn't need to be very small, just cutting the onion into 8ths (half, then half, then half) is fine.
Thank you for the continued generous documentation and sharing. I'm just starting to read your content so please excuse me for asking this if you've addressed it in the past.
Can you make the broth in advance and store and/or freeze it? If so, for how long?
Yes! These clear broths freeze quite well. They'll keep for at least a month without issue. I have broths made months ago in my freezer, still great.
You might find that the gelatin separates during thawing. Dump the entire contents in a saucepan and heat to redistribute.
Perfect thank you!
Have you found any good use for the depleted chicken?
Give it to the dog. It's given up its flavour to the broth.
Toppings: (continued from previous comment)
This is a big one. I sous vide my chashu. “Aghhh Ramen_Lord you hipster! WTF??”
Hear me out. Using sous vide makes this so stress free. Pork belly is of course, very easy to cook, and you can braise it if you don't have a sous vide rig, but I love the flexibility I get from this method. You can add garlic or ginger or green onion to the bag, but I keep it mad simple. Here’s the recipe:
½ cup mirin
½ cup soy sauce
1 cup water
1 tbsp brown sugar
¼ cup sake
Preheat the waterbath to 154F.
Sear the pork belly on all sides in a pan until golden brown, then place in vacuum bag.
Deglaze the pan with the remaining ingredients, then reserve this liquid and allow to cool.
When liquid has cooled, add it to the bag with the pork.
Cook the pork belly sous vide for at least 24 hours, but up to 36 hours. You do NOT have to vacuum seal this, just use the water displacement method to remove excess air, and clamp the edge of the bag to the pot or vessel you’re sous-viding in.
Remove from the bath, and shock in ice water to chill quickly. Reserve in the fridge if needed.
My egg is also BRAND NEW. It uses a technique called equilibrium brining, which treats the brine as the general flavor you want your brined item to be, not more or less. Though typically used for meat, it works excellently in this application. Through gentle osmosis, the eggs and brine reach equilibrium, where they both have the same salinity and flavoring. This method essentially takes the guess work out of the job in terms of when to pull the eggs, and creates a consistent, edge to edge seasoned egg with no grainy yolks. It’s dead simple, you just need a scale and patience. But these eggs will be perfect anywhere from 2 to 6 days after putting in the brine with no loss in quality.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Add your eggs from the fridge, cooking for 6 min 30 seconds at a rolling boil.
Remove the eggs from the water, immediately shock in ice water and reserve to cool completely, around 15 minutes.
Crack, and peel the eggs.
In a container you plan on soaking the eggs in, weigh your eggs. Add water to cover completely, and record the total weight of the eggs and water. (So, for instance, if I have 3 cooked and peeled eggs that weigh 150 grams, and i cover them completely with 350 grams of water, i’d have 500 grams total).
Add in 10% of this weight in soy sauce and mirin. So, if in the example above, since your eggs and water weighed 500 grams, you’d add in 50 grams soy sauce, and 50 grams mirin.
Soak in the fridge for at least 2 days, and reserve in the brine until needed.
That dark brown ground pork? It’s mega easy. This one uses sweet bean paste, but miso is fine, or you can ommit it entirely.
1 tsp vegetable oil
½ white onion, diced fine
1 lb ground pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 coins of ginger, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp sweet bean paste
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sake
Salt to taste
In a saute pan, sweat the onion over medium heat in the oil until translucent, 3-5 minutes.
Increase the heat to high, and add in the pork. Cook, stirring and breaking up clumps, until starting to brown.
Add in the garlic and ginger, cook until fragrant, around 1 minute
Add in remaining ingredients. Cook until the pork is glossy, fully cooked, and flavorful. Adjust seasonings as necessary.
That’s all the components! Whew! Hopefully you guys like this one! Happy to answer any questions.
Thanks, as always. And because I know you're going to ask, I'm planning on doing another batch of ramen soon that I'll document. Not sure what kind yet.
You are awesome!
Thanks so much for this! Will be trying this weekend for sure.
my egg is also brand new( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
Yeah, I've been using sous vide for chashu pork belly lately as well. I don't do the pre-searing like you do, but instead I hit the sliced pieces with a blowtorch before serving. I like to get them a little char and crispy on the outside for flavor, which you can't get with pre-sear and then cook sous vide as the crisp is lost. You can do post sear like you would cook a steak though.
The post sear isn't a bad idea at all, though with the semi-sugary exterior I wonder if it might burn too quickly? Would be fun to try! The pre-sear is mostly for flavor, not really texture.
Torching is something I will absolutely be pursuing in the future; when I was in NYC Ramen Shack always did it, and I loved the color and subtle char it gave the chashu. Such a pro move.
Most recipes I've seen that involve post sear suggest that you dry the meat off after removing from the bag. It might still burn though due to the sugar content, but maybe less. The alternative is slice first and then sear the inside of the slices. This is pretty close to just cooking bacon though and it's hard to do it right and still maintain the moistness that doing sous vide retains. Same thing can happen if you hit the meat for too long with the blowtorch though.
Is there a chashu recipe you recommend (pork or chicken) that doesn't require sous vide? The recipes I have found online haven't seemed to have gone super well for me. Any other chashu tips are greatly appreciated.
How much pork belly did you use for this recipe?
In sous vide the amount doesn't matter; sort of the benefit of that approach! Very little calculation required for these long cooks. 2 lbs or 3 lbs will cook for the same amount of time as a 10 lb huge belly provided the thickness is generally the same.
I used a 3 lb slab, rolled for half, flat for half. Both cooked for 36 hours.
Just bought an anova this weekend and I'm definitely gonna try this. Thanks!
You can add garlic or ginger or green onion to the bag, but I keep it mad simple.
Do you still skip the garlic, ginger, and green onion? How essential are they, really? I have done sous vide chashu ith them , but I am nervous skipping them!
hey, not sure you will still answer to such an old post: have you tried equilibrium brining the pork belly overnight before you cook it?
I haven't, but I don't see why it wouldn't work. You'll have to play around with the salt ratios though, and probably reduce the salinity of the liquid the pork sits in while it cooks.
A couple (many) things to rave about here. You're an all-star for your details! The equilibrium brine on the eggs is beautiful use of technique. If anyone has ever had an over-brined egg, they know it takes one of the best ingredients on earth and strips away all of its beauty. I truly hope you don't get any "hate" for the sous vide belly - when you're making a bowl like this, with so many steps, it's nice to drop a bag in the water and focus on something else.
I don't have any bones to pick over your post - this is excellent! The only things I would emphasize when talking to others about recipes/procedures are the ingredients themselves (sesame paste, bean paste, miso vs. no miso, ground pork vs. ground beef, etc.) and their respective ratios, are completely up to the preference of the cook. I understand this is a guide to follow, and you did a 10/10 job on that!
Could you come and make some for me please? :)
As always, fantastic post! Your chicken paitan recipe is my favorite ramen to make. I'll definitely be trying this out.
hi /u/Ramen_Lord , ive grown up in my family almost always enjoying tantanmen or the sauce it is in served with a substantial amount of the sauce composition being peanut butter.
What are your thoughts on that?
I've not seen peanut butter used before, but I'm not an expert on this style. I don't see why it wouldn't work for this recipe. If you prefer the peanut flavor, go for it. I think it would work best with unsweetened peanut butter.
err, maybe i should have said chopped peanuts in oil or a paste made from peanuts and sesame oil.
definitely reccomend, its how it's served in my hometown at least!
Innnnteresting. I'd have to give it a go.
This is amazing, thank you for taking the time to write all that out! It looks delicious.
Very cool and thorough thanks as always!
Question on the egg... When you say soak for two days and reserve - do you hold them in the liquid indefinitely since it's an equilibrium brine? Or do you take them out after 2 days?
Hold them indefinitely! No need to remove, transfer, jostle, or anything. So easy, virtually foolproof.
Will a link to this be added to the sidebar along with the other recipes?
If this post gets popular, sure! (Seems like people like it but I didn't want to jump the gun!)
Definitely saving this post, thanks so much for all the detail! What camera do you use by the way?
Nothing special in terms of gear:
Sigma 30mm f/1.4
Canon Speedlite 580EX II
Thank you! Great username, too.
I actually don't take the photos! All that credit goes to my very talented friend who I bribe with noodles. I'm just a ramen cook, not a photographer unfortunately.
Well you two make a great combination!
when i make chinese style chicken feet like what you get at dim sum, i always notice that the water/broth that i boiled them in is white creamy and almost gelatinous.....can this be a broth or beginning to a broth?
For sure! Although that liquid will likely not be as fully flavored as a broth.
That looks amazing
Really, really awesome work!
fwiw fish sauce and oyster sauce add lovely complexity, and some of the umami missing from not having any dried fish or kombu in the broth or tare, and really mesh nicely with the more chinese flavors of tantanmen.
great egg method! cant wait to try it. interested to see how it will work on 100+ eggs at a time :)
Ah interesting point. Do you feel like those ingredients would impact the sesame/chicken flavor too much? They're potent, but I do agree they have loads of glutamates, which this recipe has surprisingly little of.
The best thing about this method for eggs is that it's infinitely scale-able. Provided you have a scale of the right size, you could do a massive batch in a tub of liquid and have no problems.
hm. im not sure how it would go with the tori paitan style broth, my tantanmen is a light chicken/pork tonkotsu. they are used in very small quantities in a liquid tare, but the whole recipe differs from yours significantly, in that it has a traditional liquid tare with soy, sake, mirin and black vinegar as the main components. so the very small amounts of oyster and fish sauce are part of a larger backdrop of more standard tare flavor than your recipe is designed to have. could be worth a shot with tiny bits in a single bowl. not sure how they would go with an almost tare-less tori paitan broth now that you mention it.
Did I miss it? What are the red threads?
Whoops! Chili threads! You can buy them at most spice stores. It's just a garnish tbh... adds almost no flavor.
one of my favorite dishes! looks awesome :--)
This is amazing (as always)!
Few questions for you:
Where do you get those noodle strainers, if on Amazon, can you point me to exact ones? I've seen some in the store but they were low quality.
I know you don't use kansui powder (sold premixed, whatever the ingredients/ratio is and ready to go) nor the liquid stuff, right?
Do you yourself use baked baking soda in this recipe? Or do you actually buy sodium carbonate powder? And i assume you also bought potassium carbonate powder (and then mixed in the 20/80 ratio)? Can you tell us where you buy potassium carbonate, and sodium carbonate (if you aren't using baked baking soda)?
Also these powders have to be "food grade" right? Can't just use regular sodium carbonate /potassium carbonate? Or is there no difference?
Thanks! Let's jump right into it.
I bought them from Korin. They're pricey, around 20 each. The cheap ones on Amazon will work fine unless you start getting ultra serious into ramen. Search "noodle strainer" and pick whichever you like.
I DO use baked baking soda. When you bake baking soda in the oven, the result is sodium carbonate (heat detaches a hydroxl group blah blah). That accounts for 80% of my dry blend for this noodle. I was able to also find powdered potassium carbonate in my local asian grocery, but you might not be able to. And that's ok! Use sodium carbonate alone; works great. The reason I don't use a premade dry kansui powder is because A) I have no idea where to find such a thing and B) different noodles benefit from different ratios of the two salts. For thinner noodles, a higher level of potassium carbonate works better, as an example. But if you can find premade kansui powder, AWESOME, use it! I'm not even terribly against the lye water some folks have shown, you just need to be accurate in how you use it.
Thanks... Your noodles look absolutely amazingggggg.... You shoulda seen mine, they looked terrible and you could taste the baked soda, blechhhh!
One other thing you might want to try is resting them at least 24 hours in the fridge after cutting them. Something about that rest really reduces the alkaline flavor. It also benefits the texture of the noodle. In this post, the noodles have been rested an astounding five days, way longer than usual. But the result is round, fully hydrated, chewy noodles.
Good tip! I'm gonna try resting the noodles for a day next time.
Would you say 5 days is better than 1 day? ie. Did you rest 5 days on purpose or because you couldn't get to it (but they were still good)?
Also, you mean refrigerate, not freeze right? And do you have to wrap the noodles tightly with plastic wrap? I remember putting noodles in the fridge for maybe an hour, just loosely wrapped in plastic wrap and they turned a bit hard...
Airtight container like tupperware is fine. Place them in the fridge in this container for 24 hours. They SHOULD firm up a bit, that's ok. You're evenly gelling some starches, but some evaporation is occurring.
Noodles freeze quite well actually. I would argue that, in some cases, ramen noodles get better after a freeze (and I don't quite understand why this is, but the starch gel becomes even tighter and you get even more translucent noodles. Really nice texture).
I wouldn't say 5 is better than 1... it's different though. The noodles will change over time. Here at least, the yellow color also declined slightly (riboflavin can do that). But a days rest, if not two, is definitely preferable to none at all.
You're a white american. Do you make completely custom made spaghetti or mac n cheese? Why not?
My family and I are from Sichuan and this looks absolutely fucking scrumptious.
hmm looks nice
Where do you shop in Chicago?
Asia on Argyle: Viet Hoa or Broadway Market for pork bones and other goodies
Paulina Meat Market for chicken backs and pork bellies
Joong Boo Market: Lots of Japanese ingredients here
Great, thank you.
Thanks so much for all of this information! It's been difficult finding good Tantanmen in Chicago, so I'm excited to try this. Can you speak to the assembly a bit? Specifically, what's the best way to combine the tare with the stock? Just add a little to the bottom of the bowl, or whisk in with the stock before adding to the spice mixture?
Definitely! I treat this just like I would any other ramen bowl. Tare goes in the bottom of the bowl, then add broth, and then noodles. I know David Chang adds the tare to the broth first and then portions, but this is very different from normal ramen shops.
Chili oil can go in at any stage; for bigger blobs, add on top after the broth is added. For more even dispersion across the top, add to the bottom of the bowl. Purely cosmetic either way.