Chinese food is a cuisine, like Indian food, or South American food, is something about which I know barely anything. I mean, statistically, purely based on the geographical distance separating all the poeples of these places, there must be a huge range of diversity among their food. And I know there is, just from cursory research and reading whatever scraps I find when they pop up, because I am nothing if not obsessed with food. I find this an incredibly bummer, because as a greedy person I feel like I’m missing out on a lot of delicious eating opportunities. And I thank the lovely Mandy of Lady and Pups for remedying this a little bit on her blog.
But, let’s be real, this is all just a long lead up to my apology for the probable lack of accuracy in this recipe. My Dan Dan Noodles are not based on a whirlwind tour of china that I did during my Uni gap year (gap year still going strong, by the way). This is a cobbled together take on the 15 or so different versions I could find in cookbooks and online which took my fancy. And then I promptly forgot all of that and just did my own thing in the kitchen, taking notes as I went. So this is Dan Dan Noodles, but a version that is regionally specific to a very small area AKA my kitchen.
The one thing that seems to be consistent among most, though not all, iterations of the dish was that it comes in three component parts. First into the bowl goes a salty black sauce, heady with sesame and garlic and a SHITLOAD of szechuan pepper. Next goes the wheat noodles and any blanched greens you might like to add. And finally, everything is topped off with a sizzling pile of heavily seasoned crispy pork. Toss everything up together as your bowl hits the table, and eat it quick, while the textural contrast between springy noodles, sizzling pork and silky greens is at it’s most delicious.
This is the kind of food that I love. The kind that really insists on focus from the eater. This isn’t a long, drawn out meal, perfect for catching up over. This is face-in-bowl time. No chit chat. You’ve gotta get those noodles in your face while the iron is still hot. Grab a set of chopsticks and have at it fool. And speaking of fools, the other cool thing about this recipe is that it’s so simple. Like a lot of recipes that have tons of ingredients, it’s mostly just mixing things together.
I think this is the kind of thing that’s awesome for a Friday night. Grab some cold beers on the way home, and make up a few bowls of Dan Dan Noodles. It’ll give you the non-talking decompression time that I always felt was necessary on a Friday night when I worked in an office, and it’s also spicy and salty which makes it goes down so easy with those ice cold beers. Happy happy Friday!
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
- 1 tbsp szechuan peppercorns
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
- 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tsp sesame paste (get the Chinese one if you can, otherwise use Tahini)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp peanut oil
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
- 4oz (125g) minced pork
- 1 tsp chinese five spice
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 6oz/150g chinese wheat noodles (or use Udon or Hokkien noodles in a pinch)
- 1 large handful Gai Lan (chinese broccoli) or your favourite greens)
- Coriander + peanuts, to serve
- First, make the sauce. Place the oil and szechuan peppercorns in a small saucepan over a low heat. Cook until the oil heats up, and the peppercorns darken in colour - about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- When the oil is cool, stir the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl, then add your pepper oil to taste (add a bit, taste it, add some more if you want it). Divide the sauce between two serving bowls and set aside.
- Place a large saucepan filled with water on to boil for the noodles and greens.
- Place a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the peanut oil, the garlic and the ginger and cook until the garlic softens. Add the pork and five spice, and cook until the pork has all changed colour, and is just beginning to get crispy (about 5 minutes).
- Throw the noodles into the pot (mine take 5 mins to cook) and after another few minutes, throw in the greens.
- When the pork is looking really dark and crispy, season it with the sugar and soy sauce, and keep stirring. It should be very dark brown, crispy and fragrant.
- Drain the noodles and greens and divide between the two bowls. Top with the crispy cooked pork, some peanuts and coriander leaves if desired.
- Toss everything together when you're ready to eat, and chow down.