When it comes to ramen, there are many tastes and regional variations whether it be shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), tonkotsu (pork bone broth) in Kyushu or miso ramen which is served up in Hokkaido. On top of that come the crazy novelty ones which include things like cheese, coffee, ice-cream, tequila, kiwi, ham, lemon, pineapple, sake and so on. The kind of things that the true ramen masters would most definitely turn their nose up at!
Other than the soup itself the chashu meat and egg are two of my favourite parts of any ramen dish but how would I fare at eating vegetarian ramen without either of those ingredients? Way back in December as Christmas Day was fast approaching, my wife and I stopped off for some food in Ikebukuro station en-route to do something more festive related if I can be so vague! The place I chose was a vegetarian ramen restaurant which in itself is quite a rare thing in Japan (hence the reason for writing about it here!) as it is very much a meat and fish-eating country. In all my years of living in Tokyo I think I have only ever met one or two Japanese vegetarians!
On entering the cosy T’s Tantan store, there is a machine on the left where you purchase (even credit cards can be used!) the little tickets for the dish you require which you later collect yourself from the counter when it’s ready. It’s a fairly simple procedure and one that is most common in Japan. Pictures of the dish are also shown on screen which is a great help when you’re not sure what anything is! For the record, this restaurant is located within the gated part of the JR station (opposite Uniqlo) so it is very much for commuters.
The menu features dishes like golden sesame tantan, white sesame tantan, black sesame tantan, soupless tantan, Japanese yuzu ramen, plus rotating seasonal items and some side dishes like rice, gyoza, coriander and vegan cheese. No fish, meat, egg or milk is used in any of the products, and the tantan noodles (also known as dandan noodles) are made with pure plant-based ingredients.
My wife ordered the golden sesame tantan whilst (after much hesitation!) I chose the black sesame tantan. The former was far more yellow than we were execting with some crispy fried daizu meat in the centre surrounded by green vegetables as you might expect for such a place.
Of course I’ve eaten (and enjoyed) some vegetarian food before but I did wonder what it would be like with no meat and egg in it. I have to say I was most surprised by how good it tasted. You can still feel the richness of the soup without the usual ingredients which make ramen such a popular dish with locals and visitors alike.
T’s Tantan has been officially recognised by some vegan organisation of note, and is a great pit-stop for anyone passing through one of Tokyo’s busiest stations with limited time. It is a place for Vegans and non-vegans to enjoy, and I would happily return to have it again (or even sample another dish) as I enjoyed everything about the experience, Well almost everything! Sadly the price will probably put me off as one doesn’t want to spend over ¥1000 ($7.50/£6) on a dish which is often available for less in Japan.
- Regular readers may have a slight sense of deja vu as this ramen restaurant did feature very briefly in the annual Tokyo Fox ‘Christmas 2022 in Tokyo‘ post.
With the holiday season underway (and lots of high calorie food on the menu in the days ahead!) I had good intentions to eat something slightly more healthy but we were still hungry later on that night so succumbed to the Golden Arches!!
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