Dan Dan noodles for me have always held a warm spot in my heart (and belly). From the chili oil covered wheat noodles of northern China, to the sweet and spicy egg noodle version of Hong Kong cafés, to the Chinese inspired ramen dish of Japan, Dan Dan noodles mean simple, non fussy and local. It’s not touristy, it’s not fancy, it’s just simple good eats. Something you can eat multiple times a week, like dumplings, or rice.
When our favorite tsukemen spot, Tsujita, opened a new restaurant called Killer Noodle that had a menu focused on Japanese dan dan (or tantan) ramen, I was psyched. A place combining my two loves: spice and noodles?? Get out. Like right now. And don’t come back without getting me some.
Upon entering the restaurant, the interior is trés cool. The decor is strictly black and red, and the wall above the bar is adorned with jars of spices and chili peppers. As if to remind you that oh by the way~ food here is spicy.
It’s called killer for a reason. They are known for their six levels of spiciness (from cayenne or black peppers) and numbness (from prickly ash). Both spiciness and numbness can be customized for your desired levels. The ramen here is unapologetically … well… killer. If you’re not a fan of spicy you can always opt for the level 0 or any of the low numbers, but to really experience the full, satisfying flavor, you really need at least a level 3.
Just don’t order too crazy and die on your first time. I know what you’re secretly thinking: give me that umami spice that wants to kick you in the mouth but then seduces you to take some more, like a weird version of 50 shades of …er…heat… No? Ok, so I admit, I do fantasize every so often of trying the ultimate level six challenge, but in this case, the flavor of the sauce or soup is really good and I’m afraid to cover it up with a level any higher than a four for now.
Braver than me? You poor soul, I will mourn you from my own level four dish of spicy fragrant noodles that I can still taste and enjoy.
They have three styles of ramen on the menu, each with an option of with or without soup. The soup version uses thin almost hakata style ramen noodles while the soupless uses a thicker noodle like the one Tsujita uses in their tsukemen across the street.
Their original style is made with a peppery soft tofu and pork, served with a lemon for an unexpected brightness over the normally quite traditional dish. The hubby likes this one a lot. The downtown style has prickly ash as its root of numbness and has more vinegar in its base, topped with a braised ground pork that adds a layer of savory sweetness. I recommend taking this dish with the soup version. The Tokyo style is similar to the downtown but with less vinegar and with an addition of a sesame sauce that adds a richness and nutty sweetness that calms the spice. I recommend the no soup version for this one to truly appreciate the creaminess of this sauce.
Add a poached egg to add a little extra silky richness to any of the ramen dishes, chashu if you like more meat, or cilantro if you want a little freshness. Killer Noodle makes their eggs within the shell so you actually crack the poached egg onto your plate right before eating.
It’s spicy, numbing, and oh so addicting. It’s a little different from perhaps any of the other Dan Dan noodles you’ve ever had but, that’s what Tsujita does so well… the different. Yet, it’s not the kind of different you try once and think, ok, bucket list item: check, then move on. It’s the kind of painful death that a foodie samurai knows is worth reincarnating for just to die in its hot embrace again. And again. And again.
– Aimee, @waisikmommy