THE DAN DAN NOODLES
Before we get started, I’d like to make one thing clear. I don’t claim to be an expert in every Chinese food. What a huge country we live in! When I’m determined to master a dish (typically one I adore), I do a lot of studies first. Research the dish’s history, compare recipes, and look at Chinese culinary websites before the final product is accepted by our reviewers. We’ve probably attempted at least a dozen ways to make Dan Dan Noodles. So many Chinese noodle recipes have variations on this meal that you can find them all. Dan Dan Noodles was a recipe I knew I would struggle with.
This recipe isn’t going to be sugarcoated. Making Dan Dan noodles is a bit of a challenge. The meal requires a wide range of ingredients to get a rich and nuanced flavor. It’s possible to think of this dish as having four components: the chile oil, the pork mixture, the sui mi ya cai (pickled veggies), and the noodles. Dividing and splintering is the best strategy. You’ve already won half the battle with this tried-and-true recipe. There will be no glory if you don’t put in the effort.
Now that you’ve taken a deep breath let’s get started on the recipe.
FOR THE CHILI OIL:
- 2 tbsp. of Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 pc. of cinnamon stick
- 2 pcs. of star anise
- 1 cup of oil
- 1/4 cup of red pepper flakes
FOR THE MEAT AND SUI MI YA CAI:
- 3 tsp. of oil
- 8 oz. of ground pork
- 2 tsp. of sweet bean sauce or hoisin sauce
- 2 tsp. of Shaoxing wine
- 1 tsp. of dark soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp. of five spice powder
- 1/3 cup of sun mi ya cai
FOR THE SAUCE:
- 2 tbsp. of sesame paste tahini
- 3 tbsp. of soy sauce
- 2 tsp. of sugar
- 1/4 tsp. of five spice powder
- 1/2 tsp. of Sichuan peppercorn powder
- 1/2 cup of your prepared chili oil
- 2 cloves of garlic (very finely minced)
- ¼ cup of hot cooking water from the noodles
FOR THE NOODLES & VEG:
- 1 lb. of fresh or dried white noodles
- 1 small bunch of leafy greens (spinach, bok choy, or choy sum)
- chopped peanuts
- chopped scallion
- Using this method, you can manufacture chili oil: Add the Sichuan peppercorns, cinnamon stick, star anise, and oil to a small pot and bring to a boil. Slowly heat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit over medium-low heat, and then turn off the heat. Remove the cinnamon stick, star anise, and peppercorns with a slotted spoon after waiting 6–7 minutes. Allow the red pepper flakes to infuse the oil before serving. It should begin to emit a pleasant aroma, similar to popped popcorn. Allow the oil to cool completely before using it once it has finished cooling. Even though you won’t use it all in this recipe, having chili oil on hand will come in handy when making other recipes. Keep a glass container in the refrigerator and use it within a few days.
- Over medium heat, a teaspoon of oil in a wok browns the ground pork, which is then added to the pan with the remaining ingredients. Shaoxing wine and five-spice powder are added to the sweet, soy, and black bean sauce. Be sure to cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Set away for a later time. Sauté the pickled veggies (sui mi ya cai) in the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in the pan for a few minutes over medium heat. Remove from consideration.
- Combine the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor to make the sauce. Give the dish another taste to see if the seasoning needs to be tweaked. Adding a little more hot water or Sichuan peppercorn powder can thicken it up a little bit more.
- Noodle and vegetable cooking instructions Drain the noodles once they’ve been cooked according to the package guidelines. Drain the greens once they have been blanched in the noodle water and set aside.
- Noodles and leafy greens should be placed in six bowls (or four if you prefer larger servings). Serving suggestion: Toss in the pork and sui mi ya cai and serve. Add scallions and chopped peanuts, if desired.
- Mix it all up and savor it!