Dan Dan Noodle

Dan_Not enough can possibly be said about the merits of this oddly named and fiercely flavored Sichuan dish.  Like a lot of the Sichuan dishes that I have run into, this one is a oil-based, chili-fueled piece of culinary perfection.  Chili oil and black vinegar create the foundation for the sauce, which is used quite sparingly.  We prefer to accent our sauce with plenty of Sichuan pepper, which provides an astringent and numbing quality that is a type of flavor, I guess.  Ground pork is a pretty common topping and rounds out this richly flavored and wickedly spiced  household favorite.  The blend of flavors in the sauce are such that they really deserve fresh noodles in order to really shown them off, but dried egg noodles will do in a pinch.  Wider noodles work better, I think.

There are a couple of things that need to be noted about this recipe.  The first is that the use of  Black vinegar is not optional; it is a must.  It is very particular flavor that would be hard to find a substitute for.  Fortunately, it is fairly common at Asian groceries.  There is a brand sold on Amazon as well if you have trouble finding it; Black Vinegar.  Another thing to note is that one of the cornerstone ingredients is a good chili oil.  The better quality of oil, the better and richer this dish will taste.  I really recommend making your own chili oil for this sort of thing; here is an article on how to make Chili Oil.  It’s easy and fun. Just do it.  The last thing to note is the use of “preserved vegetables” in the recipe.  Preserved vegetable, in Sichuan cooking is a short-brined assortment of mixed vegetables.  It is not difficult to make, but is a bit more specific than I would usually have on hand for use.  I have found that turnips or dikon radish out of kimchi (which I typically do have on hand) serves just fine.  I have also used some diced turnip or radish marinaded in vinegar with good results.

Well, I guess there is one further note.  Sichuan peppercorns.  You will need them for this dish.  They are available from the fine folks at World Spice.  Incidentally, they are produced by a thorned shrub that does very well in the Pacific Northwest, so I suspect it can grow most places.  Anyway, you will want to toast these suckers before you grind them.  This is best accomplished using a small cast iron skillet on high to medium-high heat.  Simply place an ample supply of peppercorns into the pan and dry fry them, stirring constantly, until they smoke.  You do not want to toast them so long that they become bitter, but you do want them to smoke a bit.  When satisfied with the toasting, grind them immediately in a spice grinder.  The ground produce will stay flavorful for up to 5 days, but is best used immediately.

I really hope that you try to make this dish.  It is excellent for those that like hot, spicy food and has become one of the preferred noodle dishes at our house.  As always, if you can manage to make your own noodles, the quality improvement will be really noticeable.  I think that this is true of most oil-dressed noodle dishes, especially ones that use the oil-based sauce so sparingly; the quality of the noodle really counts.  Enjoy.

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Dan Dan Noodle
 
Recipe type: Noodle
Cuisine: Asian
Serves: 2 to 3
Ingredients
  • ½ lb. fresh pasta or 4 to 5 oz.dried egg noodle

  • For Sauce
  • ¼ cup preserved vegetables (such as pickled turnips), minced
  • 3 to 4 oz. scallions, sliced
  • 2 Tbs.soy sauce
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. chili oil
  • 1 Tbs. Black vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. roasted Sichuan peppercorns, ground

  • For Topping
  • 4 oz. ground pork
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
Instructions
  1. In a medium wok, heat 1 Tbs. oil and fry preserved vegetables over high heat until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and combine with other sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a medium wok, brown pork over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and drain most off the fat. In a small bowl, combine pork with the mirin and soy. Set aside.
  4. To serve, plate a portion of cooked and cooled noodles, covering then with 2 to 3 Tbs of sauce and topping with pork topping. Can be reheated, if desired.

 

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