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Tan Tan Noodles: One of China’s most popular street food that you can make at home

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

Tan Tan noodles, also known as Dan Dan noodle, are one of the rare food items that has been constantly evolving and is now so different from how it started that almost every recipe can claim being the original, even though they aren’t.

Traditional Dan Dan noodles are Sichuan noodle dishes with green onions, preserved vegetables, ground pork, and spicy red chili oil soup. The ground pork noodle variant is especially delicious, spicy and hot!

The traditional recipe is so delicious that a lot of other cultures from around the world have made their own versions of the famous Tan Tan noodles. This dish is perfect for cold winter days. It will effectively warm up your body. Salty, sweet, rich and spicy, you will find a lot of layers filled with flavor. It matches very well with blanched greens or a simple boiled egg.

Most people say that there is medicinal value in chili, ginger, and garlic. If this statement is true, then the Tan Tan noodles is indeed a force to be reckoned with. If you have had this delicious dish before, you are well aware of the sinus-clearing flavor and otherwise strong properties of this dish.

What is Tan Tan Ramen Noodles?

Tan Tan noodles originated from the Szechwan region of China. This name refers to the pole, or tan tan, which was used to carry them through the streets and then sold by food vendors. The pole held two pots – one for the noodles and the other for the sauce. This dish eventually made its way to Japan, where it is a staple dish today, and also to the US where you can find it at any Chinese food outlet.

Just like every other dish in the world, Tan Tan noodles have been adapted to fit the modern and local tastes of people. For example, you can easily create a vegetarian variant of Tan Tan noodles by adding fresh vegetables, tofu, and vegetarian broth. You can make use of Sirachi instead of chili sauce, which will give you a different texture and is less oily.

There are people that look for broth that has the consistency of soup, while others prefer a more spaghetti-like dish. In short, there is no dearth of variety when it comes to Tan Tan noodles, with each of them having their own taste and looks.

Two Tan Tan noodle ingredients that make the dish stand out from the others

Tan Tan noodles are traditionally served with peas or fried soy beans. You will achieve the highest level of crispiness with these ingredients. Usually, a large batch is fried each time. You can also mix the rest with sugar or salt for a snack. If you do not anything to do with frying, you can easily make use of crushed or toasted peanuts.

Ya-Cai is one of the three most famous and important preserved vegetables in Sichuan cooking. The other two are a black salted turnip and pickled Zhacai. Preparing different types of preserved or pickled vegetables is a daily cooking chore in the Sichuan province. Traditionally, they keep large jars of these ingredients.

Sichuan red oil makes the Tan Tan noodles slightly numbing and spicy. Even if you are not a fan of spicy ingredients, at least a half tablespoon of Sichuan red oil must be used to achieve the overall flavor of Tan Tan noodles. Since the red oil has to be made a minimum of 24 hours before use, the red color and the capsicum should be well-mixed within the oil.

Other Tan Tan noodles recipe ingredients

Some other ingredients of the Tan Tan noodles include:

  • Two servings of fresh egg noodles
  • Pork stock or chicken stock
  • Blanched vegetables
  • Chopped scallion

For the fried soy beans, you will need:

  • Cooking oil for frying
  • ½ cup of soy beans

For the pork topping, you will need:

  • ½ tablespoon chili powder
  • One tablespoon of ya-cai
  • 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon of minced garlic
  • ½ tablespoon of minced ginger
  • Two tablespoons of cooking oil (separately from the fried soy bean oil)
  • ½ tablespoon of light soy sauce
  • ¼ tablespoon of white pepper
  • ½ tablespoon of salt
  • One cup of minced pork, with a little fat attached

For mixed seasoning, you will need:

  • One tablespoon of minced garlic
  • One tablespoon of sugar
  • A small pinch of salt
  • One tablespoon of black vinegar
  • One tablespoon of chili oil
  • One tablespoon of sesame oil
  • One tablespoon of light soy sauce
  • One tablespoon of sesame paste

How do you make it?

There will be three sessions of cooking for making the Tan Tan noodles. We will go through them one by one:

Frying the soy beans

  1. Pre-soak the soy beans and remove them only after they have doubles in size. Take them out, drain them with a kitchen towel and dry them.
  2. Add three tablespoons of cooking oil into the wok. Once the oil has started heating up, add the soaked beans and stir till you hear a crackling sound.
  3. Once done, take the soy beans out and set them aside to cool down naturally.

For making the pork topping (you can use any type of meat available)

  1. With a ½ tablespoon of light soy sauce, white pepper and a small pinch of salt, mix the minced pork properly and thoroughly.
  2. Heat up one tablespoon of cooking oil. Add ginger and garlic into the pan and stir till you smell the fragrance.
  3. Once done, add the minced pork to the mix and keep on stirring till it is crisp. Then add one tablespoon of dark soy sauce to improve the color of the pork.
  4. Keep on stirring the pork on all sides. While doing so, add one tablespoon of oil. Then add the ya-cai, separate it and mix it quickly with the pork.
  5. Once done, add a little chili powder, which is optional, and mix well. Once done, remove the contents of the pan and keep them aside.

Cook the noodles and serve the Tan Tan noodles

  1. Mix all the seasoning that you will use for serving and divide it into two portions. Remember to put them into different serving bowls, not the same one. Next, pour about ½ cup of the pork stock.
  2. In hot boiling water, cook the noodles according to the instructions given on the package. Add the blanch vegetables directly in the last minute before the noodles are ready to be served. Place the noodles into the serving bowl.
  3. With the pork topping you made previously, top the noodles. Pour the hot pork stock along the edges.
  4. Lastly, add the fried soy beans and the green beans. Remember to serve fresh.

How do you serve the Tan Tan noodles?

You should remember that large ramen noodle bowls should not be used to serve the Tan Tan noodles. You can make use of small bowls and serve with a small amount of tan tan noodle soup bases like pork stock or chicken stock. This way, the noodle can be eaten up within minutes, while the meat is still crisp and the dish is still hot.

Before mixing, the dish should be a little soupy. After mixing, the Tan Tan noodles should look like lo mien.

Other variations of these delicious noodles

Tantanmen is the Japanese version of the yummy Sichuan Tan Tan noodles. The Japanese spicy noodles swim freely in a very well-balanced soup that has the hot spiciness of rayu Japanese chili oil and the mellow nutty sweetness of sesame paste and soy milk.

The difference between  Tantanmen and Tan Tan noodles is that the latter does not come with soup while the former comes with a spicy chili-flavored soup. Both come with chili flavor and miso pork (or any other meat) mince.

The base soup is made out of soy milk and torigara soup. Soy milk makes the spiciness of the rayu a bit mild and more tolerable. The soup also consists of shallots, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame seeds and zasai. Zasai is a pickled mustard plant stem that is also used in many Chinese dishes. Most people like eating it with plain rice, and you will sometimes see a small jar of it in your local Japanese grocery stores.

Chimajan, also known as sesame paste, can be bought in any Asian grocery store. Rayu is Japanese chili oil that is infused with chili. This ingredient is used to make Tantanmen soup and also gyoza dipping sauce. Rayu is a simple ingredient that you can find at almost any major supermarket around the world.

The torigara soup mentioned is chicken stock soup that Japanese people often make use of to make Chinese dishes at home. You can either make this soup from scratch or simply purchase a ready-to-eat package from any Asian grocery store.

Instead of the chimajan, can you make use of tahini?

The chimajan is sesame paste from China and differs from tahini. While tahini consists of raw sesame seed paste, chinajan makes use of toasted sesame seed paste. They both have a very different taste and it is not recommended that you substitute the chimajan.

What kinds of ramen noodles can one use?

You can make use of the dry noodle called Raoh, which comes with a soup sachet that tastes like Tantanmen soup. Although this noodle takes a longer time to cook, it is still better than those 2-minute noodles you can find. Alternatively, you can make use of egg noodles.

What are the different toppings variations?

Classically, pork mince is used with pakchoy and sweet miso paste for the topping. But you can get creative and make use of anything else as well. There are people that like miso egg. Chashu is a great ingredient to consider as well if you are not a fan of pakchoy. You can also try spinach.

What is the main thing you need to remember to make the best tantanmen?

You should remember to keep your timing precise. And make sure of finely chopped zasai and shallots. Make the best use of your time and never be afraid to get creative with your toppings. It will be worth it!

Conclusion

Tan tan noodles are one of the most popular street food items in China. But, as stated above, it is quite difficult to find a truly authentic tan tan noodle dish. While there are a lot of different variations to the dish, the most important thing to remember is that all are very easy to make at home and might end up as one of the yummiest things you’ve ever tasted.

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

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