You don’t have to take to the streets of Tokyo to get some delicious vegan noodles.

More and more vegan options are popping up around Tokyo (like this vegan convenience store), making travel with dietary restrictions easier than ever. To try out this contemporary culinary development, our Japanese-language writer Seiji Nakazawa decided to officially taste test the vegan tan-tan soup noodles from the Japanese cup ramen company New Touch. It’s one of two varieties (the other being a hot and sour noodle soup) in the lineup, and it contains no animal products, alcohol, or synthetic seasonings.

The other big draw, however, is that it’s completely affordable. Each cup costs about 190 yen (US$1.73). In a society where vegan products tend to come with higher price tags, this can be a godsend for those looking to chow down on some spicy noodles on a budget.

▼ This is about the same size as a cup of rice noodle soup at the convenience store. Not bad!

Seiji has eaten plenty of bowls of non-vegan tan-tan noodles in his life, so he was looking forward to trying New Touch’s vegan tan-tan to see how it compares to regular varieties. Like many cup noodles, the instructions said to pour water over the noodles and dried toppings inside, let it sit for four minutes, then add the soup base and stir.

He was particularly interested in the vegan flavor, since non-vegan tan-tan noodles often contain minced meat. How could they imitate that signature flavor without the use of animal products or synthetic seasoning?

After the 4 minutes of waiting was up and he stirred in the soup base, Seiji gave the yellow broth of the tan-tan noodles a passing grade. It looked legit. Then it was time to taste it.

The first thing he noticed was the spice. It wasn’t a gentle tingling; it was a pretty decent kick. At the same time, though, he could detect the mellowness of the soup. The only thing Seiji found lacking was tan-tan noodles’ signature sesame taste, but that actually made him like it even more!

The only thing people might have trouble with are the noodles. Unlike the typical bouncy and hearty ramen noodle, these were more akin to refreshing and light somen noodles. So if you’re after that signature ramen noodle mouthfeel, you may be left wanting a bit more.

Oh, and the minced meat? It was mimicked with tofu. The texture was so similar to ground beef that Seiji couldn’t even tell the difference! The taste was also rather refreshing.

Seiji’s final verdict: as a standalone vegan product, it definitely passes the taste test. But if you’re looking for the full spicy, savory, hearty, and sesame-y experience of typical tan-tan noodles, you might find this a tad too light to satisfy your cravings.

Of course, that’s not going to stop Seiji from wanting more and from looking forward to what else New Touch has to offer!

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