Best Tantan-men in Melbourne.
First things first.
The Chinese owns Dandan-mian.
No debate about that.
The ‘Dan’ refers to the poles street vendors used to carry the noodles and sauces on each side.
You hail them down, they scoop the noodles from one basket, and top it with the sauce from the other basket.
It was street food.
Due to the specific spices found in the dish, the Chinese wiki pinpoints 1841 as the year Mr. Chen Bao Bao made it famous from east Sze-Chuan.
So the Chinese owns Dandan-mian.
When stripped bare, it’s simply minced pork with spicy sauce with carbs.
I’m pretty sure if you order it at a fancy Chinese <cough> Din Tai Fung <cough> restaurant, it’s grounded from their worst cut of dumpling meat, because, you know, spicy sauce covers everything.
See also: Chinese business.
I have not been to the east of Sze Chuan so I cannot say that I’ve eaten the authentic dish from China.
But I’ve eaten the Japanese version many times.
When you see a staple historical Chinese dish, there’s sure to be a cluster of bastardisation under the table - a Taiwanese version, a Korean version, a Thai version.
I mean, the dish ‘went viral’ 160 years ago, coupled by the way Asians migrate in this world, you can’t really expect to claim a dish as your own.
( Except for Singapore. Singaporeans claimed Hainanese Chicken Rice as their own and that’s a dick move. )
The Japanese calls the dish Tantan-men, with a T.
Ha, no one will suspect a thing!
But to be fair they’re not trying to be sneaky, they openly categorise the dish under ‘Japanese Chinese cuisine ‘.
It is not as spicy as the Sze Chuan version.
Instead of using real peanuts like the Chinese, they add sesame paste to give the broth a milky appearance.
( Some ramen restaurants do that to fake the white pork broth look. )
Bok Choy is a must, next to your default soft-boiled egg.
Now this is a very, very long winded introduction to the best Tantan-men in Melbourne.
But I need to provide the context, because I don’t want some Shanghainese saying Diaoyutai Islands Tantan-men belongs to China and some other dipshit saying this Dandan-mian is not as spicy or nutty as the one they had in Beijing.
So based on my experience with the Japanese interpretation of a Chinese spicy minced pork noodles, Shizuku Ramen takes the belt in Melbourne.
And get this, I don’t think the kitchen team is Japanese at all.
We went in on a Thursday night at 10.30pm and maybe because it wasn’t crowded it had a very heavy Malaysian / Singaporean vibe going on.
But when it comes to flavours, the spicy ones, the balance of MSG, I trust the Malaysians to get it right.
The only improvement I can suggest, is to add bean sprouts to the dish.
But you know, that’s just being really picky.
They should really up the font size of the menu.
When you print words so small, I can’t bring my parents here.
Also, they will think you’re trying to skimp on paper.
FYI for other Tantan-mens in Melbourne, Gekkazan comes a close second, Little Ramen bar third.