Ramen that satisfies

Tantanmen features a milky, nutty broth and can be on the table in under 30 minutes

My son whined on Friday morning, “I don’t want to go to school today,” so I told him, “If you be brave and stick it out just one more day, you can stay home EVERY day next week.”

His eyes lit up and he promised with a gummy smile to behave and work hard for just one more day. He didn’t yet understand the concept of spring break, so I thought while I still can get away with this parental trickery, I could use it as leverage to persuade him to change his attitude, and it worked exceedingly well.

I don’t feel bad … it’s probably the only time this trick will ever work. Honestly, I should have thrown a clean room in to sweeten the deal.

His first spring break will include some travel to see cousins, plenty of late mornings, and many excursions on the crusty snow. We might have a pool day, we might meet friends for lunch (and I’ll let my boy eat his body weight in tortilla chips and salsa), and we will definitely stay up a little late with some popcorn and a new movie. Spring break is special, and I’m so lucky I get one too, so I can spend it with my little buddy.

By Friday night I was exhausted and not in the mood to cook anything elaborate, but I wouldn’t have been satisfied by a boxed meal or leftovers, so I found a recipe for a 30-minute meal that doesn’t sacrifice flavor or wholesomeness for speed. Tantanmen is a popular ramen soup variation that has a milky, nutty broth flavored with tahini and chili oil and can be on the table in under 30 minutes.


Ingredients for two dinner servings:

2 servings fresh ramen noodles (find them near the tofu)

½ pound ground chicken, pork, turkey, or crumbled extra firm tofu

2 heads baby bok choy (bigger ones are better)

½ large carrot, fine julienne

4 stalks green onion, chopped for garnish

3 cups chicken or mushroom broth

2 cups milk or unsweetened dairy free substitute

4 cloves garlic, finely minced

2-inch-long piece of fresh ginger, finely minced

1 tablespoon gochujang

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons tahini

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons mirin

2-plus tablespoons chili oil (more or less as desired)

2 tablespoons soy sauce


Put your meat or crumbled tofu into a mixing bowl and add the garlic, ½ of the ginger, the gochujang, salt and pepper, and 1 teaspoon mirin. Mix until well combined.

Cook the meat until browned and crispy. I cooked it until browned and then kept the heat on medium and stirred often until ready to serve so there were plenty of crispy, almost burned bits. Trust me, this is important for flavor.

Combine the tahini, sugar, chili oil, the rest of the ginger and soy sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the stock and milk until steaming, but not boiling. Do not allow the broth to come to a boil at any point.

Cook your noodles according to package instructions. Drain the noodles then rinse them under cold water, scrubbing with your hands to remove as much of the starch as you can.

Just before serving, quickly boil the baby bok choy whole until soft, then remove and stage on a cutting board.

When you are ready to serve, divide the tahini mixture evenly into two large, wide bowls.

Pour over the steaming broth until the bowls are half filled. Stir gently to mix the tahini paste in.

Reheat the noodles with hot water before placing neatly on one side of the bowl.

Spoon in the cooked meat in a neat pile, lay on the carrot, and quickly chop the bok choy before adding last to the bowl. Pour on more of the broth if desired.

Top with the chopped green onion and maybe an extra drizzle of chili oil if you like it spicy (you know I do).