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Tantanmen

36hrs in Food Paradise – Hour 1, Tantan

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Tantanmen

I haven’t been out to Düsseldorf enough and always only heard what insane food paradise in regards to Japanese cuisine it’s supposed to be. Since being so close this week I decided to make a stopover and visit a very fun friend of mine, who just happens to live right in the midst of Little Tokyo, the area neighbouring the Düsseldorf main train station, which is home to many Asian (predominantly Japanese) shops, restaurants and people.

After dropping my stuff at the apartment and throwing in a quick cold one with my friend and his brother we headed around the corner to get some dinner at one of the ramen shops in the area. To my delight, there was a queue out front, which is always a good sign, and luckily it kept on moving quite fast too. Not long and we were sitting down and I started smiling just browsing through the menu.

We had a little selection of appetizers to go around before the mains and we were off to a good start. We had crispy and succulent tori karaage, some juicy gyoza and nutty gomaae with a thick sesame gravy. All washed down with a cool asahi from the tap and I, still smiling, was ready for my first ramen bowl since way too long.

My sin of choice was a spicy Tantanmen with extra f.o.c. tamago and veggies. Oh goodness, this mince infused broth was thick and rich like a gooey katong laksa with a mud-like sediment of the best kind. Strong sesame flavours my taste buds, instantly but gently numbed by the chilli oil and fibres. Loved the noodles, implied curly and the chewy bouncy kind I use to admire. Just the egg didn’t quite make the mark and was lacking that particular waxiness of your usual flavoured ramen tamago. Nevermind that, I’m head over heels crazy about this place and am already planning my next visit.

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Get Your Grub On!

Naniwa Noodles & Soups
Oststraße 55
40211 Düsseldorf
Germany
p: +49 211 161799
http://www.naniwa.de/

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Bavarian ramen.

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Tan Tan Men

It was the last weekend of Wiesn in Munich and I went back to the beer tents at freaking 7:30 a.m. in the morning to meet my friend from Hong Kong and her hilarious entourage from Spain, Belgium, Ireland and England, from whom most had never been to the Oktoberfest before; no reservations, no choice. After a bit over an hour wait, we actually made it into the Augustiner beer tent and…well let’s just fast forward for a couple of hours and a few emptied stones. Our little group split up; some went missing, some went home and a few continued on their german beer quest. I, even though ready for an extended nap on the couch, made a little detour to my favourite ramen shop in Germany to date, Takumi in Maxvorstadt, just a little train ride away.

I was obviously lucky today, unlike on other occasions, as the place was actually open and no waiting in the queue either. I sat down and ordered my favorite, the Tantanmen. I have tried others, but so far no bowl could beat that red and rich, spicy broth. Portions are huge here and I was a bit overwhelmed when the piping hot bowl showed up, doubting I could actually finish it, I was wrong. The broth was awesome, savoury and spicy, thick and rich, loaded with peanut and sesame flavors and loads of that deliciously spiced minced meat. I absolutely loved it. Now let me talk about those noodles; I do come here almost everytime I’m in town, but these were hands down the best ones, they’ve ever made for me. Maybe because the place was not as packed as usual, maybe they improved generally or I was just darn lucky, but these noodles were very very close to perfect. Speaking pasta terms, they were absolutely on spot al dente, chewy and with this unique texture, that only ramen noodles have. Not that they have ever been really bad before but more often than not, they were a little on the softer side. Not stopping there, even the eggs went through some sort of evolution here and seemed more beautifully waxy than ever. So awesome guys, keep it up.

Service here has always been super nice and everybody is offering you smiles and it was exactly the same today. Staff is friendly and service is pretty fast and efficient. If I would need to pick on something negative it would be the fact that your ordinary ice tea here comes by the glass for EUR1,80, which gets quite pricey if you (like I) tend to drink loads while eating big bowls of hot soup. In the end, it’s just water, so I would rather pay a bit more for a free flow of my jasmine tea rather than order over and over again, but maybe that’s just me being used to free flow tea and water in these kinda places. Other than this little blemish, I totally love it here and see no reason why not to come back again and again and again.

Takumi München (open all week)
Heßstr.71
80798 München
Germany
Tel: +49 89 528 599
http://www.takumi-noodle.com/index.html

New branch is open for business!

imageToday I went for lunch at Orchard Central at the new branch of Nantsuttei and had my old favourite Hot Miso Ramen Extra Hot Tanmen again. It has been a very long time since I had this lovely spicy bowl of awesome but i must say they still got it and it tasted exactly the same as at their Parco Mall location. Additionally the new shop is more bright and modern, a tad bigger and by far much more convenient for me to get to. Great to have you around.

Nantsuttei
181 Orchard Road
#07-12/13 Orchard Central
Singapore 238896
Tel: +65 6337 7166
http://www.nantsu.com/sg/

Spare the Calories

imageI was running some last minute errands before my Germany trip and came by Ngee Ann City just about when I felt a slight appetite growing in me. I didn’t feel too hungry so I wanted to get a small bowl of cold udon at this shop my friend recommended in the basement just to realize it’s a branch of ‘Tsuru-koshi‘ which I already visit too frequently during my lunch hours. So a bit more hungry now I recognized a small ramen shop in the corner that offered ‘Tantanmen‘ and even that I wasn’t in the mood for something that heavy I still queued up.

They had a tantanmen special with a super spicy version but since I had a twelve hour flight in front of me I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risk and therefore chose the standard one which the very friendly waiter reckoned should be spicy enough. When my bowl arrived it looked rather ordinary and I was not quite sure if I made the right choice. I tried a few slurps from the bright orange broth which was not particularly bad but didn’t have much of a sesame taste and hardly any heat kicked in. I appreciated the huge amount of sprouts and the eggs were nicely waxy. The chashu was alright but had an unpleasant aftertaste, the bamboo shoots looked terribly thick and brown that I didn’t touch them at all and the noodles were overcooked and way too soft.

It was worth a try but I am not really considering coming back here anytime soon. Not alone because of the average taste but also because of the above average price of S$20 per large bowl which is much more than most of my favorite ramen shops are charging.

Baikohken Ramen Restaurant
391A Orchard Road
#B2-01-04 Takashimaya Food Court
Ngee Ann City
Singapore 238873
Tel: +65 6235 3483

The Ten Levels of Fury!

imageToday two of my colleagues invited me to join them for lunch around the corner from the office in Shinagawa Seaside. In the foodcourt at the Jusco supermarket there is a small cantine like noodle shop with some really decent ‘Tantanmen‘ – ‘Tantanmen Tenshin’ – which I had tried some years back when I was here the last time.

This shop has ten levels of spiciness for their noodles and as my colleagues warned me upfront and they took levels one and two, I didn’t dare going any further than level three which turned out to be a very smart move. Picking up my bowl from the counter I realized that it had the most drops of red chili oil swimming on the surface compared to the ones from my colleagues. Now this was nice. The creamy sesame broth was rich and thick and strong in taste and the heat, even that not overwhelmingly painful, instantly squeezed out some sweat drops from my forehead. The noodles were good but not the homemade kind and surprisingly bright yellow in color. The minced pork gave it all a nice meaty touch and some chinese greens added extra layer of texture and something cooling to the otherwise heaty pot. After I had finished everything I wondered if I should have taken it up a notch on the spice scale but my stomach proved me different by growling for the rest of the day.

imageThis is a simply shop I wish I had also close to my workplace but maybe it’s better that way as I probably would have it to often which either would drive my weighing scale through the roof or leave me with holes in my stomach whilst trying to push the levels up. BURN.

Tantanmen Tenshin        
Foodcourt Jusco Shinagawa Seaside
4-12-5Higashishinagawa
Shinagawa                        
Tokyo 140-0002                
Japan

Crazy or Super Crazy?

imageMy first week in Japan was nearly over and my friend was so nice to take me ‘Tantanmen’ hunting on Friday. I found this place in Kanda on the internet and as it looked great and promised to be super spicy we head for Ogawamachi station directly after work. I have never been in this area before and here were heaps of little restaurants found around every tiny corner. After taking a couple of wrong turns we eventually found ‘La-Show-Han’ by the red sun logo on the door which I recognized from a blog. This place has only few bar seats and first we were the only ones and so had the chance to have a little chat with the master who was actually hilarious and very kind.

We were only two people but not knowing when we would return to this place, we pulled three different bowls and a couple of beers from the vending machine outside. My friend ordered the ‘Spicy Green Hot Pepper‘ version but the master recommended her an off menu option which he called ‘Mala Tantanmen‘ and described as a Sichuan/Thai fusion dish as it used Sichuan pepper, bird’s eye chilis and sesame. This one was my favorite, the sesame broth was nicely thick and the heat was moderate enough to still taste the ingredients and enjoy it. Also the bird’s eye chilis kicked in in a very unfamiliar way. Great stuff.

1368784328268The second bowl was the ‘Sesame‘ version which was delicious. This one wasn’t spicy at all and tasted lovely and obviously like sesame with a nutty finish coming from crushed peanuts sprinkled on top. I also liked the sort of sprouts topping every dish seem to have and that were giving it a cool and fresh twist. Okada san said that he uses the same noodles as his favorite ramen shop does and they were wider than usual and cooked until nicely chewy and springy.

1368785426208-origLast but not least Okada san brought us the ‘Premium Sichuan Style‘ Tantanmen which was the initial reason to come here. He checked twice if we really wanted to have this particular one and noted at a sign mentioning that this was only meant for “crazy people”. He left out the spicy extras at first, for us to try the milder taste first before turning it into the full version. It was more of a dry type and tasted great. The soup at the bottom was much thicker than in the bowls before, lovely creamy and rich and after some slurps we handed the bowl back to the master and he worked his magic. He sprinkled a lot of ground Sichuan pepper on the noodles and finished with a generous drizzle of homemade Sichuan infused vegetable oil. The noodles now were covered under a generous layer of cracked red pepper color and looked much more intimidating than before/. I tried to be courageous and started with a big slurp of noodles. Oh, they were dangerous. The pepper instantly numbed my outer mouth, inner mouth including tongue and everything else that was touched by the noodles. It all became cold and hot at the same time, made me sweat on my head and made my ice water taste very odd. It all tasted brilliant though and very different to every Tantanmen I ever had before but I might just have overestimated my tolerance for spice in this case. There is also a ‘Super Crazy‘ version which I politely skipped after tasting this bad boy.

La-Show-Han Front (1 of 1)This was a great find and even that i had to realize that apparently I am not “super crazy” I absolutely loved it here. Besides the great and eye opening super spicy food we really felt very welcome here and it was nice talking with the master who took his time explaining and answering all of our questions. When I will be back in town I’ll make sure to pay this place another visit to try some of their other options working on my craziness.

http://lashowhan.com/

La-Show-Han 辣椒漢
Kanda Nishikicho 1-4-8
Chioda-ku
Tokyo 101-0054
Japan

Long Udon with Longer Names!

imageI recognized ‘Tsuru-koshi’ the last time I had lunch with my colleagues at the IMM in Jurong East and so I suggested to try it out today and since nobody had a better idea there we went.

As it seems common for udon shops we had to place our order before taking out seats and I chose their S$12 lunch set with ‘Atsu Atsu Tan Tan Udon‘ – pretty long huh? – together with a bowl of ‘Soboro Don‘. The ‘Don‘ was nothing I would desire having again, the minced meat tasted pretty boring and a bit greasy and the rice wasn’t as sticky as I had hoped for. The udon on the other hand, despite using the same plain minced meat tasted interestingly good. They sat in a lightly flavored sesame broth, which mixed with the meat and especially the very soft boiled egg turned into a flavor I quiet liked and never had tasted before and the udon were also nice and chewy. Even that this was the lunch set and the bowls were obviously smaller than the a la carte ones this was still a pretty big portion that I hardly could eat my ‘Mud Pie Mc Flurry’ after. Not.

The setting is no thrills, the little service you get is alright and fast enough and I still like udon very much which gives me enough reason to add this to the list of appropriate lunch places close to work. Cold udon next.

Tsuru-koshi Udon
Jurong East Street 21        
#01-19 IMM Building          
Singapore 609601