The second stop of my mini ramen crawl last week was to Hokkaido Ramen Santouka. This was actually my third visit to the Hokkaido Ramen Santouka location on Robson as I’d been previously during visits to Vancouver a couple of months back. On this visit I met up with my foodie friends, Grayelf and A la carte for lunch. I had arranged this lunch at Ramen Santouka because so far it is my favourite place for ramen in Vancouver and I was looking forward to getting either one of my two favourite ramens there. At the same time, I was half hoping the Tan Tan Men would be available for me to try. I had heard that Ramen Santouka is one of the few places in Vancouver that offers Tan Tan Men, which is sometimes also known Tan Tan Ramen. The Tan Tan Men is actually the Japanese version of the classic Chinese Sichuan dish, the Dandan Noodles or Dan Dan Mian. I was really curious to try the version from Ramen Santouka as I wanted to compare it to the Chili Goma Ramen from Shikiji in Calgary. As luck would have it, the Tan Tan Men was actually available at Ramen Santouka on this visit.
Since I had tried the Toroniku Shio Ramen and the Toroniku Kara Miso Ramen on my previous visits already, it was a no brainer that I had to try the Tan Tan Men on this visit, especially since it’s only available during the winter months. The Tan Tan Men ($10.95) has a soup base made of pork broth, soy sauce, sesame paste and chili oil. Both Grayelf and I decided to try it as neither of us has tried this version from Ramen Santouka before. Like always, we asked for our noodles to be firmer. Our bowl of Tan Tan Men came topped with tender ground pork that had been tossed in a slightly sweet sauce, diced scallions, sesame seeds, and chili threads.
I should have done my homework and read the reviews before ordering the Tan Tan Men at Ramen Santouka. Since they do such a fabulous job with the Shio broth and the spicy Kara Miso broth, I just automatically assumed the broth for the Tan Tan Men would be to the same exacting standards at Ramen Santouka. I did not know that while the chili oil floated on the top, the creamy, nutty sesame paste actually sank to the bottom. After the first few sips of the broth, I thought the Tan Tan Men would actually become my new favourite as I really enjoyed the creaminess and nuttiness of the soup along with the slight heat from the chili oil and chili threads. Unfortunately, I didn’t realized how much creamy sesame paste there was until I got about halfway through the broth. It was then that I started tasting the bitterness of the rich sesame paste. Personally, I found the bitterness of the creamy sesame paste to be rather overwhelming. I just wish that I would have known so that I would stir the soup thoroughly before starting. I’ve never had to stir the Chili Goma Ramen from Shikiji in Calgary, which is basically their version of Tan Tan Ramen, so it never crosssed my mind the sesame paste would be an issue. Looking back, even if I had properly stirred the soup before starting, I think this version of Tan Tan Men at Ramen Santouka would probably still have had a slightly bitter edge, although probably not as pronounced. I would never have thought but personally, I think the Chili Goma Ramen from Shikiji in Calgary is actually better tasting and more balanced than this version of Tan Tan Men at Ramen Santouka and I’ve never detected any bitterness from the sesame paste in the Chili Goma Ramen.
My foodie friend, A la carte, decided to get a small order of the Kara Miso Ramen ($8.45 for small; $9.45 for regular; $10.45 for large). The spicy Kara Miso Ramen basically had the same toppings as the spicy Toroniku Kara Miso Ramen that I had during my previous visit except that instead of toroniku (slices of simmered pork jowl), it came topped with a slice of cha siu (Japanese style roast pork).
We couldn’t go to Ramen Santouka without ordering our favourite item there, the Toroniku ($5.45), which is slices of simmered pork jowl meat. Since our Tan Tan Men didn’t come with a choice of toroniku, Grayelf and I decided that we would get two side orders of the toroniku to share amongst the three of us. The toroniku slices were as good as we remembered them to taste. They were flavourful and just melted in our mouths.
As well, we decided to share a side of the Shibazuke ($2.00), which is a mixture of cucumber and eggplant pickled in shoyu (soy sauce) and ume vinegar along with the addition of red/purple shiso leaves. It was my first time trying Shibazuke and I really enjoyed the crunchy texture and tanginess. The acidity and tanginess from the Shibazuke acted as a palate cleanser and really helped to cut the creaminess of the Tan Tan Ramen broth as well as the fattiness of the toroniku.
I’m really glad I got to try the Tan Tan Men at Ramen Santouka as now my curiosity has been satisfied. However, from now on, I think I’m going to stick to ordering the Toroniku Shio Ramen and the Toroniku Kara Miso Ramen at Ramen Santouka as they remain my favourites.
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
1690 Robson St