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Tahini Tantanmen Ramen with Crispy Shiitakes

by Alexina Anatole from Bitter

For a super speedy twist on a tantanmen ramen, look no further than this deeply flavourful bowl of comfort. To give it real depth, the broth is flavoured with kombu and dried shiitake mushrooms, while soy milk and lashings of tahini add a gorgeous silky texture.

Introduction

This recipe is inspired by tantanmen ramen – a Japanese take on Sichuan dan dan noodles, with a broth made from soya milk and sesame – but it is by no means authentic. Typically, this would have a proper stock as the base and be topped with minced (ground) pork, but I got attached to the idea of a ramen that could be knocked up quickly and that remained vegetarian/vegan. I also wanted to use udon noodles (again, untraditional), because I love their texture: big, fat, slippery, chewy – is there anything more satisfying?

This is a perfect lunch or dinner for two, in part because the mushrooms and leeks benefit from not being overcrowded when you cook them. It is best to use a Middle Eastern brand of tahini for this recipe.

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Ingredients

For the broth:
500ml (17fl oz/scant 2 cups) vegetable stock
3 medium–large dried shiitake mushrooms
1 x 5mm (¼in) piece of fresh root ginger, skin on
1 x 5–7cm (2–3in) piece of kombu seaweed (optional)
250ml (8½fl oz/generous 1 cup) soya milk
1 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce), or to taste
70g (3oz/⅓ cup) tahini
1 ½ tsp sesame oil
To assemble:
vegetable oil, for frying
½ leek, sliced about 5mm (¼ in) thick and rinsed
100g (3½oz) mixed mushrooms (I like oyster and chestnut/cremini), torn into even bite-sized pieces fine
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g (7oz) ready-to-eat udon noodles (or noodles of choice)
2 soft-boiled eggs, halved (optional)
1 tbsp peanut rayu
2 spring onions (scallions), cut into strips

Method

For the broth, bring the stock to the boil, add the shiitakes, ginger and kombu (if using) and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave to steep.

Meanwhile, set a large heavy-based frying pan (skillet) over a medium–high heat and allow to get hot – around 5 minutes. Fish the rehydrated shiitake mushrooms from the broth, remove the stems and thinly slice.

Coat the pan with oil, increase the heat to high, then add the leek and all the mushrooms (including the rehydrated shiitake). Do not move them around much – they will take around 10 minutes to get golden and crispy in places. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper about 5–10 minutes into cooking.

Fish out the ginger from the broth and discard, then add the soya milk, tamari, tahini and sesame oil. Bring to a simmer and allow to bubble for 3 minutes, then check the seasoning and add more tamari if desired. Add the udon noodles and take the pan off the heat, allowing them to warm through in the broth.

To plate, use tongs to divide the noodles between two bowls, then ladle over the broth. Top each bowl with half of the crispy mushroom and leek mixture, then add two halves of the soft-boiled eggs (if using). Drizzle each bowl with half a tablespoon of the peanut chilli rayu and garnish with the spring onions.

TIP: When cooking mushrooms, there are three rules: 1. high heat; 2. refrain from moving them around too much; 3. only salt them in the last couple of minutes of cooking. This helps to ensure that they properly caramelise.

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