Dan Dan Noodles (担担面) is the new inclusion into the hot and numbing Sichuan dishes that I obsessed lately.
It is a dry noodle dish with a strong savory flavor as a result of the combination of Sichuan peppercorn, chili oil, minced pork, vinegar and siumiyacai (green mustard pickle), perfect as a side dish or as the main for a larger bowl.
The name of the noodles is derived from how the street food vendors were carrying the noodles around the streets in the old days. ‘Dan Dan’ is a Sichuan dialect of the shoulder pole they use to carry the noodles. The noodles are kept on a stove at one end and chopsticks, condiments, bowls at the other end. Gradually, customers started to name this type of street food as Dan Dan noodles.
The vendor would precook the minced meat, get ready the chili oil, constitute the sauce for the Dan Dan noodles and blanch some vegetables. Once everything is in place, he would be able to assemble a bowl of Dan Dan noodles in a flash and keep the remaining ingredients for the next day.
How to make Dan Dan noodles in four easy steps
In this Dan Dan noodles recipe, we will do the same ways as the old fashioned street vendor, prepare each component separately and assemble at the end.
1. Making the chili oil.
If you have tried the Sichuan chili oil, you may wonder what are the mysterious ingredients in the recipe that give the numbing, aromatic oil a complex flavor of spices.
So here is the recipe to decode this elusive flavor of the chili oil.
You can use the store-bought chili oil to simplify the cooking, but nothing is more satisfying than experiencing the aroma rising from the pan while preparing the chili oil.
There are a few spices to infuse the oil. The list can vary from one person to another, but this is my favorite list.
- One tablespoon star anise
- One piece of cinnamon bark
- Three bay leaves
- One tablespoon of Sichuan peppercorn
- 1/4 cup of chili flakes ( or dry chili cut into small pieces)
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
Here are the steps:
- Put 1/4 cup of chili flakes and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a heat resistant bowl. I use a stainless steel bowl for making the chili oil.
- Heat a half cup of oil the oil in a pan, then add the cinnamon, star anise, bay leaves, and Sichuan peppercorn.
- Cook over low heat until you smell the aroma hitting your nose, which may take about a minute.
- Pour the hot oil into the chili flakes through a wire mesh strainer to capture all the spices. Discard them.
- Let the oil sizzles for a while, let it cool down, The oil is now ready!
You may want to leave the chili flakes alone or remove it to get the pure oil. I prefer to leave the chili flakes there as it adds color and flavor to the oil.
You can make it in advance as the oil is stable at room temperature.
2. Preparing the dan dan noodles sauce
The Dan Dan sauce comprises of many ingredients. You do need to make an effort to get some exotic stuff, but that will assure you will find a bowl of delightful Dan Dan noodles very close to the authentic cuisine is Sichuan.
There are two ingredients which I need to explain- Sichuan peppercorn and sesame paste.
This is the most important ingredient for the Dan Dan noodles recipe.
Sichuan peppercorns look like the regular black peppercorns but slightly reddish, but they impart bursts of that mouth-numbing ‘ma la’ (numb and spicy) goodness.
The traditional Chinese sesame paste is quite thick. Some brands look like peanut butter with a layer of oil on the surface. Mix it well before you scoop it out.
Since it is quick sticky, I always add some water (or stock) to dilute it before mixing with other components.
You should have the rest of the ingredients in the kitchen pantry- light soy sauce, black vinegar, salt, and chili oil. Since chili oil is part of the components of the sauce, I suggest making the chili oil earlier for a better workflow.
Although there are many ingredients in the sauce, once you get everything in place, the method is quite easy.
- First, put the 1 teaspoon of sesame paste in a mixing bowl.
- Add 2 tablespoons of stock to dilute it.
- Then add 2 teaspoons of light soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of black vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a dash of ground white pepper and 4 teaspoons of chili oil.
- Combine all the components, and that is the dan dan noodles sauce.
3. Get ready the mincemeat
Pork is the most common meat for the original Dan Dan noodles recipe, but you can substitute it with chicken or beef if you are a non-pork eater.
The best ratio of lean to fat for the pork is 5:1. Fats help to make the pork more tender, and the oil rendered adds flavor to the noodles.
Here are the steps:
- Finely minced the pork, season with sugar and salt.
- Fry the minced meat in vegetable oil over low heat.
- Separate the meat with the wok spatula to form numerous loose pieces instead of letting them stick together.
- Fry the pork slowly until the fat is rendered completely, and the meat starts to become crisp and brown.
- Add the green mustard pickle called suimiyacai, a specialty item famous in Sichuan.
- Season the minced meat with 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine.
The endpoint of the process is when you smell the aroma from the pork, and the fat is fully rendered.
You can fry the meat a day before and store in the refrigerator, or cook more for other Sichuan dishes like Dry Fried French Beans with Minced Pork, which I published earlier.
The best Dan Dan noodles recipe should include suimiyacai in the ingredient list. You may have difficulties to get suimiyacai, which is a kind of mustard green pickles. It is available online, or try to ask from the shop keeper of the Asian grocery store. The easiest way is to show them the image in this article. If it is not available, try to look for Zha Cai, another type of pickles as the substitute.
What if both items are not available? You have to settle with just frying the minced pork, but trust me it is delicious, although it is not the authentic way how the Sichuan people are cooking.
4. Assemble the noodles
There are three ingredients for the topping for the noodles- bok choy, thinly sliced scallions, and crushed peanuts.
- Bok Choy. Cook it together with the noodles in the same pot of boiling water,
- Scallion. Use it to garnish the noodles and give a crunchy mouthfeel.
- Crushed peanuts. You can either break them with the mortar and pestle or with the back of the clever on the chopping board.
There is only one final step left once you have got everything prepared. That is what the dan dan street vendors were doing when they serve the customers – assemble the noodles.
- Place the noodles in the boiling water along with one or two stalks of bok choy.
- Place the noodles in the bowl once they are al dente. Arrange the bok choy at the side, and scoop the dan dan sauce onto the noodle
- Add the fried minced pork on the noodles.
- Garnish with sliced scallions, crushed peanuts, and more chili oil.
After all the work, it times to enjoy 🙂
The Dan Dan Noodles recipe
Now it is your turn to prepare your Dan Dan noodles. The traditional Sichuan vendors would serve it in a small bowl, which is only enough for two to three slurps. Nowadays Dan Dan noodles have evolved into a main dish especially outside China. Fill up a big bowl for lunch and dinner. You will not be disappointed!
Chili oil (A)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorn
- 1 tablespoon star anise
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 stick cinnamon bark
Dan Dan noodles sauce (B)
- 1 teaspoon sesame paste
- 2 tablespoons stock
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons black vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 4 teaspoons chili oil
Minced pork (C)
- 60g pork
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 20g suimiyacai
- 200g noodles
- 1 stalk bok choy
- 2 tablespoons crushed peanuts
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallions
- Put the chili flakes and salt in a heat resistant bowl.
- Heat the oil in a pan.
- Add cinnamon, star anise, bay leaves, and the Sichuan peppercorn.
- Cook over low heat until aromatic.
- Strain the hot oil through a wire mesh strainer into the chili flakes.
The dan dan noodle sauce.
- Mix the sesame paste with the stock.
- Add the remaining ingredients in B and combine.
- Cut the meat to small pieces and chopped it finely.
- Season the pork with some sugar and some salt.
- Fry the minced meat with some vegetable oil.
- Separate the meat with the wok spatula to forms many small pieces.
- Fry until it becomes crisp and slightly brown.
- Add the suimiyacai.
- Splash the pork with some Shaoxing wine. Dish out.
Assemble the noodles
- Cook the noodles in boiling water and boil it until it is soft.
- Add a few of bok choy inside as well.
- Remove the bok choy first when it is ready.
- Place the noodles in the bowl, add some bok choy at the side.
- Top with the dan dan noodles sauce, the fried minced pork, crushed peanuts, some scallion, and chili oil.
(Note: If you encounter any audio / visual problem of viewing this video, you can view it from YouTube by clicking this link, which will open in a new tab)
- McCormick Crushed Red Pepper, 1.5 oz
- Soeos Authentic Szechuan Peppercorns (4 Ounces), Grade A Red Peppercorns, Sichuan Peppercorns, Chinese Peppercorns, Less Seeds, Szechuan Flavor Peppercorns, Szechuan Pepper for Mapo Tofu
- Yi Bin Sui Mi Ya Cai - YiBin SuiMiYaCai - Dried Vegetable, 8.1oz (230g)
- Gold Plum Chinkiang Vinegar 18.6 fl oz
- Blank Slate Kitchen Szechuan Chili Oil | 8 ounce | no MSG, no preservatives, non-GMO
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Amount Per Serving:Calories: 941 Total Fat: 78g Saturated Fat: 9g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 64g Cholesterol: 33mg Sodium: 1388mg Carbohydrates: 44g Fiber: 6g Sugar: 3g Protein: 22g