Tantanmen is definitely one of the best-selling ramen in our country. Why are Poles so eager to reach for this type of Ramen? Let's start from the beginning.
Most ramen was inspired by the clear, salty broth with alkaline Lamian noodles that came to Japan with Chinese immigrants. Over time, salt began to be replaced with miso paste or soy sauce, and the broths were divided into clear chintan and milky pai tan.
With Tantanmen it was a little different. Its prototype was not broth with noodles as in the example above, but Dan Dan noodles from Sichuan province. These are thin noodles in a very spicy sauce based on broad bean paste and chilli with the addition of Chinese sesame paste and equally spicy minced meat, the whole thing is complemented by a large amount of Sichuan pepper.
Inspired by this dish, the Japanese began to create their own versions, replacing thin lamian noodles with thicker ramen noodles with the addition of broth, reducing the amount of Sichuan pepper to relieve the tingling sensation after eating it, or abandoning it altogether.
Depending on the region, more and more different versions were created. Sesame paste began to be replaced with, among others, grated nuts or, for example, peanut butter.
In the town of Katsuura (Chiba prefecture), sesame paste was completely abandoned, replacing it with a large amount of lard and focusing primarily on spiciness. It is a style invented in the 1950s to warm the bellies of fishermen and the local ama (海女), female divers who traditionally swam nearly naked in the region's frigid coastal waters collecting valuable fish and shellfish from the ocean floor. This style basically only exists in this one small town where almost everyone eats it.
Coming back to the merits…
Why are we so eager to reach for Tantanmen, especially when we are just starting our adventure with ramen?
In theory, Shio is the most similar to our broth, of course, apart from lightness, clarity and saltiness, it differs in basically everything, but people want to try something different than what they used to eat every Sunday at the family table.
It is different with Shoyu, often to emphasize the taste and bring out as much umami as possible, sea notes are added in the form of e.g. niboshi or katsuobushi, they are barely perceptible, but people are often discouraged by fish aromas, which is a pity.
With Tantanmen on the contrary, it is heavy and dense, and if you like spicy food, then the choice becomes obvious, besides, noodles and minced meat sound quite familiar, right?