Tim says: “Tantanmen, the Japanese iteration of Sichuan dan dan noodles, is one of the best ‘quick’ ramen dishes to make at home because much of its flavor and body comes from added seasonings rather than long simmers and infusions. With this recipe, I wanted it to be as simple and quick as possible, so that everything is done in one pot – even washing up is easy. Traditional tantanmen is made from sesame paste toasted, but peanut butter is not unheard of and a more than adequate substitute, something I discovered when I had a craving for tantanmen but there was no sesame paste in the home.
- 2 servings ramen or egg noodles (or any Chinese-style wheat noodle)
- 1 large or 2 small pak choi (bok choi), washed and quartered
- 50g bean sprouts
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 150g minced pork
- 1 cm fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
- 1½ tablespoons red miso
- 1½ tablespoons of Shaoxing wine
- ¼ teaspoon sanshō or finely ground Sichuan pepper
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 550ml chicken stock
- 70g peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons korean pepper flakes (hot pepper)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more to taste
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- ½ teaspoon of vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
- plenty of chili oil, to taste
In a large pot, cook the ramen according to package directions, but stop just before it’s al dente – it should be a little undercooked. In the last minute of cooking, add the pak choi and bean sprouts.
Drain and rinse the noodles and vegetables well under cold water to remove excess starch and stop the cooking. Separate the bok choi from the noodles and bean sprouts, then set aside while you prepare the rest of the dish.
Rinse and wipe out the pot you used to cook the noodles (no need to wash it properly).
Place skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Add the minced pork and ginger and sauté for about 6 minutes until cooked through and beginning to brown. Stir in the miso, Shaoxing wine and peppers and continue cooking until the liquid has completely reduced.
Remove from the heat and scrape the mince into a bowl. Pour the chicken broth into the skillet along with the peanut butter, Korean chili pepper, sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce, mirin and vinegar.
Bring to a boil and use a whisk or hand blender to stir the peanut butter into the broth (the method you use will depend on the consistency of your peanut butter). Taste and adjust seasoning with soy sauce if needed.
To serve, return the noodles and bean sprouts to the broth for about a minute to warm through, then remove from the heat. Divide the noodles and broth between two ramen bowls and top with the ground pork, bok choi, sesame seeds, spring onions and chili oil – lots and lots of chili oil. Slurp while it’s really hot! It can, however, last up to three days in the fridge if you keep the broth separate from the noodles and toppings.
JapanEasy Bowls & Bento by Tim Anderson (£25, Hardie Grant) is now available