One of the greatest successes of fusion cuisine would have to be tantan-men (担担麺), the Japanese version of dan dan noodles, a Szechuan specialty. Sisen Ramen is a chain of about eight ramen stores in Osaka which serves nothing but variations of tantan-men. Woohoo!
By the leg of this trip, we were staying at Swissotel Nankai which is probably the most luxurious hotel in Osaka, and luckily, Sisen Ramen and CoCo Curry were only across the street! (Pssst, I'll be blogging about Swissotel soon!)
It's a charming little restaurant, simply furnished with communal tables and stools flushed against both walls. The decor includes some quaint Chinese touches but has a modern appeal.
There's also an assortment of condiments to suit any tastes, including salt and pepper, vinegar, chilli oil, ground fresh chilli, pickled cabbage, shichimi and deep-fried garlic chips.
We're here just after the lunch rush and witness the last few businessmen slurping up their ramen.
The waitress brings out oshibori, glasses of icy water, sets of menus for all of us and one token English menu. It says "soup base used for our ramen are cooked by boiling pork and chicken bones and vegetables. Rich source of vitamins, minerals and collagen".
"What's good about sesame: Sesame is a source of high quality protein and has the 12 times the amount of calcium than milk, 5 times the amount of iron of spinach and other vitamins as well. It also contains sesame lignin, said to destroy active enzyme linoleum and oleic acid said to remove cholesterol, helping your body with anti-aging and keeping in good balance."
Wait. So it's tasty, and good for us?
Some of us have the Tantan-men Shinaji lunch set (¥820) which is their recommended ramen. It is a bowl of mild and spicy sesame based broth with chunky roast pork, Chinese cabbage and firm thin threads of ramen plus a side of fried rice. The flavours are rich and nutty and and the pork is divinely flaky and moist.
Others, have the Tantan-men Motoaji lunch set (¥820) which is ramen served in a vivid red broth topped with thinly sliced spring onion, Chinese cabbage and pork mince plus a side of fried rice.
I order the Tantan-men Motoaji ramen only (¥700) and add a side of gyozas. The gyoza are deliciously crisp and the filling of mince and cabbage is fragrant with sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and garlic.
My lips slightly burn from the hotness (a combination of heat and spicyness) but I can't help but continue to slurp the ramen which is tangled within this sensationally punchy rich broth.
The frozen lychee served with each bowl of ramen cleanses the palate and completes this very satisfying tantan-men experience, and we head back out into the heat, glad to have ticked an authentic tantan-men ramen experience off the travel to-do list.
四川辣麺 (Sisen Raamen)
(Opposite Swissotel Nankai near Namba station)
日本, 〒556-0011 大阪府大阪市浪速区難波中１丁目１８−１０ (1-chome, Naka Naniwa Naniwa-ku, Osaka, Japan)
Phone: +81 06 4396 7755
Other branches: search 四川辣麺