Looking for a tasty vegan bowl of noodles while in Tokyo Station? Then look no further than T’s Tantan Ramen for a delicious and spicy meal.
A delicious, spicy bowl of vegan tantanmen. - image © Florentyna Leow
Vegan travelers tend to have a tough time in Japan. Outside of Buddhist vegetarian cooking (shojin ryori), there’s never been a strong tradition of vegetarian - let alone vegan - eating in Japanese society. Most dishes contain dashi fish broth, and vegetarianism as a lifestyle choice has not been widely understood outside of major cities. Plus, ramen is one of those dishes you almost never see in vegan form. Ramen is usually the antithesis of veganism: It’s bone broth-based, topped with egg and meat slices. So most vegans and vegetarians never get to enjoy the sublime delights of a hearty bowl of ramen.
Their vegan credentials are clear - no animal products whatsoever! - image © Florentyna Leow
However, much has changed in the last decade or so, in part due to a society-wide trend towards healthy, organic eating. While vegan options are still relatively few, it’s much easier these days to find delicious vegan restaurants, at least in Tokyo. And, I finally have another cool restaurant to recommend vegan traveler friends coming to the big city - T’s Tantan.
The interior of the Tokyo Station outlet - it’s busy! - image © Florentyna Leow
T’s Tantan’s original shop is in Jiyugaoka, and they expanded to Tokyo Station a few years ago - a smart move, since the station is a major hub for travellers. They specialize in variations of vegan tantanmen. Tantanmen, derived from the Chinese dandanmian, is a spicy minced meat noodle bowl with a sesame-based broth. It’s a far cry from its Sichuanese origins, having evolved to become a much heavier dish in Japan. T’s Tantan substitutes soy meat for the traditional pork in its noodle bowl, but keeps the robust sesame base. T
Tokyo Station can be overwhelming, but things are very clearly signposted in English. - image © Florentyna Leow
The restaurant is inside the JR station gates, making it a great pit stop if you’re commuting on the JR Line, or if you’re coming in from a long bullet train journey. Wherever you’re coming in from, you’ll need to follow the signs to the Keiyo Line. Eventually, you’ll find yourself on Keiyo Street, and T’s Tantan is located near the escalators.
It’s a ramen joint, so turnover is fast. On a Saturday at peak lunch hours - around 1pm - the restaurant was full, but I was still seated within 3 minutes.
The English-language menu has photos for easy ordering, and the other side has the same in Chinese. - image © Florentyna Leow
They have English, Japanese and Chinese-language menus. You can choose between varieties of their tantanmen at various levels of spice and heat. There’s also a tonkotsu-style ramen which looked particularly intriguing, if only because tonkotsu broth is based entirely on pork bones. Next time, I’d like to see how they would veganize that!
Shiro tantan ramen bowl, vegetable toppings and deep-fried soy meat. - image © Florentyna Leow
I ordered the shiro tantan (white tantanmen), which has a huge mound of curly wheat noodles sitting in a spicy, toasted white sesame broth. They paired the rich, flavorful broth with bean sprouts and sliced negi scallions - the sweet, crunchy vegetables were a great counterpoint. Chunks of soy meat soak up the nutty soup well, and I didn’t miss not having pork in there at all! Perhaps it’s the lack of animal protein or fat, but it didn’t leave me feeling bloated or heavy at all.
Chunks of tasty, spicy soy meat tangled up in the noodles - check out that orange-red soup! - image © Florentyna Leow
Incidentally, this ramen bowl is also the spiciest item on the menu. They even threw extra dried chilies on top - they’re not kidding when they say it’s “very hot”! I love spicy food as much as the next person, but my tongue felt like it was on fire. Next time, I would have a less spicy bowl of ramen - perhaps the midori tantan or black sesame tantanmen.
Deep-fried soy meat that was more like sweet n’ sour pork. - image © Florentyna Leow
I wanted a little extra protein with my noodles and decided to try the deep-fried soy meat, which you can add to your bowl for an additional JPY300 to make it a set meal. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite meet my expectations - the crisp coating had been drenched in a sweet sauce, leaving it a little soggy. It tasted more like a sweet n’sour pork dish from an American-Chinese restaurant rather than fried chicken. I hate sweet n’sour pork, so I wouldn’t order this again.
Get your greens today! - image © Florentyna Leow
What I do recommend is ordering a small bowl of green vegetable toppings. This gets you a small bowl of raw mizuna greens, blanched broccoli and some remarkably sweet snap peas. These are all great stirred into the noodle soup, though I did eat the snap peas on their own - they were just so tasty and sweet.
You can also pick up some vegan cup noodles - which might make late-night snacking a little less of a guilt trip. - image © Florentyna Leow
For a non-vegan like myself, choosing vegan food is not about health. It’s about whether it’s delicious enough that I’d want to eat it again. With T’s Tantan, I’m going to make it a regular stop when passing through Tokyo Station!
Name in Japanese:
Keiyo Street, JR Tokyo Station (inside station gates), 1-9-1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo
7am - 11pm
:: Read customer reviews of T’s Tantan on TripAdvisor
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