Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dan Dan Noodle (担担面)

The Chinese really do have the science of balance down to an art form. Even something as simple as a noodle served cold becomes a masterpiece of flavor. The sauce for this dish from the Sichuan province offers the typical flavors of the region. Fire hot chili oil, numbing pepper, garlic, pickled vegetable, as well as black vinegar to name a few. These are all flavors commonly found in most Sichuan dishes. The Dan Dan noodle vendors keep their own particular recipe a secret, and I've found most Chinese chefs, and cooks alike do as well. Lucky we have the Internet or many of these amazing dishes would still be a secret. This is one dish that does tend to differ ever so slightly from recipe to recipe, and vendor to vendor, but the basic recipe is here. The name Dan Dan noodle derived from the noodle peddler that carried his supplies for making these noodles in hanging baskets from a pole tossed across his shoulder. In one basket the stove would hang, and in the other, he'd have the noodles and ingredients for the sauce. Dan Dan is the Chinese word to describe this kind of pole and basket.

Dan Dan Noodles


3 Tbsp sesame paste

1/2 Tbsp sesame oil

3 Tbsp Zhenjiang vinegar*

2 Tbsp light soy sauce

1 1/2 Tbsp dark soy sauce

1 1/2 tsp roasted flower pepper (numbing pepper or  Sichuan pepper)

4 Tbsp chili oil

1 Tbsp chili paste

1 Tbsp sugar

Pinch of coarse salt

1/2 tsp minced garlic

2 Tbsp of cilantro

1/4 lb chopped pork belly

1/2 tsp zha cai (Sichuanese Pickle)**

1/2 cup finely chopped roasted peanuts

16 ounces fresh chow mein, or Shanghai style noodles


1. Add the first 12 items into a bowl and whisk together until they are thoroughly combined.

2. Fry the ground, or finely cut pork belly with the ya cai together in the wok until the pork is cooked through, and crisp.

3. Add the oil mixture to the meat, and cook till it's fragrant.

4. Cook fresh chow mien, or Shanghai noodles until they are tender.

5. After you drain the noodles pour the sauce over the top of the noodles.

6. Top off the bowl of noodles with the pork belly and ya cai mixture.

7. Sprinkle the crushed peanuts over the top, and garnish with a sprig of cilantro and diced scallion. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Cooks helpful hints:

Pork belly is extremely high in fat content. When it is fried it creates a bacon bit type texture. The reason for pork belly in this recipe is because you want the crispness of bacon, but the morsels of meat will be tender inside, and soak up the sesame flavors, and the pickled vegetables.

*Zhenjiang vinegar is a typical black Chinese vinegar. Very similar in taste to balsamic.

**Zha cai is a type of pickled mustard vegetable plant. It has a slight pungent bitter taste when added to this dish. It can be purchased in any local Asian grocery, and comes in a jar or a foil package for under $3.00 usually.

After cooking the noodles, make sure you do not rinse off the starch from the noodle. This is what makes the sauce adhere to the noodles.

If it's possible to acquire raw peanuts they add a better flavor in this dish, because when peanuts are raw they 
have a more legume taste and texture, than when they are fried.


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