OK, so they’re really called Tan Tan Men, and I usually have them for lunch. But let’s push ahead anyway!
During the winter months I eat a lot of ramen noodles for lunch. While I’ll go anywhere nearby, most often I find myself at Fujiyama, a family-run joint that totally reminds me of a cozy, 70s-era department store cafeteria. Fujiyama is located on the second floor of the Aeon grocery and department store which was built in the 80s and honestly looks like it was immediately out of date even then.
The Fujiyama menu features lots of options, but I usually order the same thing: Tan Tan Men, a spicy (ish) version of ramen with curly noodles, ground pork, steamed boy choy, thinly sliced negi green onions, an opaque broth thickened with miso and sesame paste, and topped with chili oil.
Over a year ago when I tried tan tan men for the first time I used Google Translate to try and figure out what it was. Google Translate helpfully returned “Responsible Peoples’ Noodles” as a translation, resulting in yet another round of me muttering and swearing at my phone. A Japanese friend later explained that the dish comes in five different levels of heat, and it’s up to the customer to decide the appropriate level of spiciness. In a responsible manner, one presumes.
The original Dan Dan Noodles hail from the Sichuan province of China, known for its spicy cuisine. The Japanese version are spicy by Japanese standards, which means not spicy at all. And I like it that way! I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy food in that I like to taste my food instead of suffer as a result of eating it. So Japanese-spicy is perfect for me: hot enough to add flavor, but not enough to cause pain.
Last week I planned my errands to allow for a pause around noon for yet another bowl of steamy deliciousness. I whipped out my Fujiyama point card for frequent diners and ordered the usual. Most ramen dishes comes with slices of braised pork loin or belly called chashu that the diner easily grabs with chopsticks. Since tan tan men features ground pork instead it’s served with a slotted spoon for scooping up the delicious bits of pork that elude chopsticks and regular spoons.
It was delicious, as always.