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Spicy noodles add flavor to easy meal out

Date Posted: 2008-10-31

Tan tan-men is everyone’s favorite.

From youngsters to the geriatric set, the words tan tan-men are on the tips of tongues everywhere in Japan. The nationwide ramen chain is actually Ichibantei, but at least on Okinawa, everyone talks about going to Tan tan-men.

It’s not difficult to select from the menu, which has a half-dozen basic ramens with variations to individual palates. There’s a bowl just for you, regardless of your “chicken level” of adventure.

Tan tan-men is a spicy ramen noodle dish with a superb blending of miso and sesame flavors. Add in minced pork and some hot peppers, and there’s a wonderful meal. The dish is believed to have originated in Schezwan, China many hundreds of years ago.

The beauty of tan tan-men is that the heat intensity can be cranked up to suit your palate, without destroying the essential flavors of the noodles. That’s often a problem in some restaurants, with some recipes, but not at Ichibantei. You can take the basic dish, which is mildly spicy, kick it up a notch with a red soup called Super Tan tan-men, or really set the sweat glands in motion with a choice of three higher levels of pepper pots. All dishes are well under ¥1,000.

The restaurant also offers soy and miso ramen dishes, as well as a pork driven dish, Paitanshan-men. The Paitanshan-men is filled with slices of roast pork, a soft boiled egg, and black oil, nominally priced under ¥700.

Our favorite appetizer is pot stickers, or gyoza, served in varying sizes to include a platter of 20. Inexpensive, filling, and delicious. The other side of Ichibantei’s appetizer-on-the-table is a complimentary kimchi with a real zip.

Beverages include beer, which goes great with the spicy dishes, and there are fried rice to accompany meals. Desserts include ice creams and other super sweets.

Tan tan-men, or Ichibantei, is an inexpensive family dinner location. A filling evening for a family of five runs Y4,000~5,000, depending how firm the parental parties are in saying ‘no’ to the desserts. Service is fast and efficient.

There are four Ichibantei on the Island. Naha’s restaurant is on Highway 58 at Shintoshin, a second is the Mihama branch in Chatan Town, while a third, the Misato branch, is in Okinawa City. The fourth is to the north, in Nago City. A special plus for foreigners is at the Mihama branch, where the menu is in English. The stores typically open at 11am, and close late night, between midnight and 3am. To confirm hours, call Ichibantei at 098-983-7655.

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