Vegan Tantanmen With Pan-Fried Tofu
Tantanmen is the Japanese version of dan dan noodles, a Sichuan dish of noodles and pork bathed in a spicy sesame broth. Chinese or Japanese sesame pastes, which are made from roasted sesame seeds and yield a more robust flavor than tahini, are traditionally used in this dish. (But tahini works too; it will produce a mellower, creamier result.) For those who keep doubanjiang, or Chinese fermented bean paste, on hand, add a teaspoon or two to your soup base for even deeper flavor. Slices of pan-fried tofu make this dish feel more substantial, but if you are looking for a shortcut, crumble it up and pan-fry it alongside the mushrooms. For non-vegans, add a jammy egg.
- Serves: 4 persons
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 12ounces dried ramen noodles
- 3to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1(12-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained and sliced crosswise, 1/4-inch thick
- 8large shiitake mushrooms (about 8 ounces), trimmed and thinly sliced
- 4cups vegetable stock
- 1(5-by-6-inch) piece dried kombu (about 1/2 ounce), optional
- 2cups soy or oat milk, at room temperature
- ½cup Chinese or Japanese sesame paste, or use tahini
- ¼cup soy sauce
- 2tablespoons sesame oil
- 2tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2tablespoons chile oil, plus more for serving
- 1cup frozen corn, defrosted and drained, if needed
- 4scallions, finely chopped
- 1tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
Step 1Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add noodles and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain and run under cold water until the noodles are completely cold. (This stops the noodles from cooking further.) Set aside to drain.
Step 2Heat a large skillet over medium-high. When hot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and arrange the tofu slices in a single layer. Generously season the tofu with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and about 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Reduce heat to medium, and cook tofu for 3 to 4 minutes until golden. Flip the tofu, and cook until golden on the other side, about 2 to 3 minutes. (Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to cook your tofu in two batches.) Remove from the pan, set aside on a plate.
Step 3To the same pan, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Pan-fry until mushrooms are tender and slightly golden, about 6 minutes.
Step 4Prepare the broth: Pour the vegetable stock into a large pot and add the kombu, if using.
Step 5Bring to a gentle simmer and cook over medium heat, about 7 minutes. Remove kombu (keep for another use) and turn off heat. Allow to sit for 2 minutes, then gradually whisk in milk, adding a little at a time, so it doesn’t curdle. Once the milk has been added, heat broth over medium until it simmers.
Step 6In a medium bowl, combine the sesame paste, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar and chile oil. Divide mixture across four deep noodle bowls.
Step 7Pour the hot broth over the sesame soup base, dividing it evenly among the bowls. Whisk to combine the base with the broth.
Step 8Divide the noodles across the bowls, and top each bowl with a few slices of tofu, mushrooms, corn, scallions, sesame seeds and an extra drop of chile oil.