Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dan Dan Noodles

This is a great, fast recipe for weeknight dinners. I joked with the boy that it's like a quick Asian version of bolognese sauce — ground meat fully flavored with a luscious poignant sauce, but made on the fast. I've never had the authentic Chinese Dan dan version, and so can only imagine that this is most highly Americanized version courtesy of Bon Appetit — but I just loved its wonderful flavor! I used the suggested substitute of Japanese udon noodles, as I couldn't find traditional Chinese cu mian (thick fun) noodles called for in the original recipe. I think next time I might Americanize it even more by trying linguine (sacrilege, mais non?!?) as I might prefer a more substantial bite to the noodle than the somewhat mushy udon provides.

But back to the flavor — it is fantastic, yet somewhat subtle. Again, I did more substituting with Aleppo pepper flakes standing in for Sichuan peppercorns. This is starting to sound like a bad Epicurious recipe review where every ingredient is substituted out for something else and then the reviewer is so sadly disappointed in the "recipe," and yet, this is not, and — I am not!

You will find all kinds of threads online saying there is no substitute for Sichuan peppercorns. Alas, I could not find them conveniently, so resorted to my favorite hot pepper, the Aleppo, and just loved the overall result, but I am sure you could also give plain ol' crushed red pepper flakes a try, though I may start with just a 1/2 teaspoon as they are significantly spicier than Aleppo. This dish is truly yummers and you get the picture: Make do with what you have and try this delicious noodle dinner. I served it with a quick pickled cucumber salad to cool the fires on your tongue.

Dan Dan Noodles
Serves 3
Adapted from Bon Appetit

8 ounces Shanghai-style noodles (cu mian) or udon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 ounces ground pork
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped peeled ginger
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons (or less) chili oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns or Aleppo/crushed red pepper flakes
Large pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions

Cook noodles in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water until just tender but still firm to the bite, about 10 minutes. Drain; transfer to a large bowl of ice water and let stand until cold. 

Combine chicken stock and next six ingredients for sauce.

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pork, season with salt and pepper, and stir, breaking up pork with a spoon, until halfway cooked, about 2 minutes. Add ginger; cook until pork is cooked through and lightly browned, about 2 minutes. 

Add sauce and simmer until sauce thickens, about 7 minutes. 

Drain noodles well and add to simmering sauce. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. 

Divide between three bowls and garnish with peanuts and scallions.


  1. I'm making this for dinner tonight! Not sure if my little grocery store has ground pork, so I might need to use ground turkey instead. It just sounds so good to enjoy on this nasty weather day.

  2. I think ground turkey will work well — let me know how it goes!