When you go into different restaurants, you’ll find each chef has their own interpretation on Dan Dan noodles.
In Sichuan restaurants in China, the Dan Dan noodle dish is more of a snack than a main and is usually served in a small bowl. The noodles are soupier — mostly immersed in a thick red broth made with chili oil, with a small amount of pork on top. The broth can sometimes be too spicy to handle for most people, but it depends on the chef. Sometimes the chef will mix Chinese sesame paste into the chili oil to make the sauce creamier and mellow out the spiciness.
If this is your first time cooking with Chinese sesame paste, you will find it is quite solid and very difficult to dissolve into the sauce.
The best way to mix the sauce is by adding the sesame paste first, then mixing in the liquid ingredients little by little. Whisk the mixture with a pair of chopsticks (or a spoon) until the solid paste is fully blended with the liquid. Then add more liquid and repeat.
The ingredient list might look overwhelming, but the dish can be practical to cook even on a weekday evening if you’re organized enough.
The best workflow is:
- Chop and prep all the vegetables
- Mix the sauce (make chili oil if needed)
- Start boiling water for the noodles
- Use the noodle-boiling water to quickly blanch the vegetables
- Heat up chicken stock in
- Serve everything family-style, so everyone can assemble their noodles to their preference
If you’re preparing this dish for a party, I highly recommend you prepare the sauce and the pork ahead of time, and they will stay good in the fridge for a couple days. Simple boil the noodles and heat up the pork and broth in the microwave right before serving.
- 4 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste (or unsweetened original peanut butter)
- 4 tablespoons light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
- 4 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 stalks green onion, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons honey (or agave syrup)
- 2/3 to 1 cup homemade chili oil with flakes (or to taste)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 cups chicken stock, heated
- 10 ounces (300 grams) dried egg noodles (or 1 pound /450 grams fresh noodles)
Whisk sesame paste and light soy sauce until fully incorporated. Add Chinkiang vinegar. Keep stirring until mixed. Then mix in garlic, green onion, and honey. Add homemade chili oil, 1/3 cup at a time, mix and taste the sauce. Add more chili oil if you want more spiciness. Add toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Taste while you mix, until you can taste the numbing-ness but can still handle it. The more chili oil you add, the more Sichuan peppercorns you need.
Cook noodles according to instructions. Bring the chicken stock to a boil. For each noodle bowl, ladle 1/4 cup heated chicken stock into the bowl. Add 1/4 cup noodle sauce and mix with the stock. Add noodles, top with a few spoonfuls of the cooked pork and some of the spinach. Garnish chopped coriander.