I have written in a prior blog about my Sichuan ancestry and the spicy food that was a part of my upbringing. Dan Dan Noodles is a Sichuan street food that became well known all over China. Traditionally it is made with ground pork, but today I made it with 99% fat free ground turkey in an effort to curb our red meat consumption. It turned out to be absolutely delicious. I made it for lunch, but Peter asked me to make it again for dinner. I was watching a beautiful film called Five Days in Maine at the SF Film Festival when I received a text from Peter, “ These noodles are so fantastic that I can’t stop eating them.”
This is a dish best made with fresh ramen, which gives it the extra chewiness and elasticity. I bought mine at a Chinese supermarket on Clement Street. It comes in a package of 2.2 pounds divided in 4 bundles. Each bundle is about 2 servings. You can replace it with other noodles or pasta such as fettuccine if fresh ramen is not available.
I usually make Dan Dan Noodles with a spicy pickled mustard called 榨菜 Zha Cai, but today I used a crunchy pickled lettuce that comes in a jar from the Chinese supermarket. It adds flavor and crunch to the minced meat.
Dan Dan Noodles
4 oz 99% fat free ground turkey or ground pork, beef, or chicken
1/3 cup Chinese pickled lettuce, chopped (Chinese market, see photo)
1 teaspoon pickle juice from the same jar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons chopped green onion
1 teaspoon, grated or finely minced ginger
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon Shao Xing cooking wine
1/2 teaspoon tapioca or corn starch
8 to 9 oz fresh ramen noodles (Asian super market)
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons ground peanuts
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
sliced red chilies, sesame seeds & chopped green onion for garnish
Ingredients for Chili Oil:
3 tablespoons oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
4 to 5 dried red chili, chopped or 2 teaspoons chili flakes (more if you like it very spicy)
1 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn
Ingredients for Sauce:
1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 heaping tablespoon tahini sauce
2 teaspoons dark sweet rice vinegar (Chinese market)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 coves garlic, peeled and very finely minced
Mix the first 9 ingredients in a bowl, cover with saran wrap and set aside in the fridge.
Heap up the oil in a small pot on high. When the oil is piping hot, add the chili, Sichuan peppercorn and crushed garlic. Close the lid and turn off the stove. Let the oil sit on the stove for 5 minutes before filtering out the chili, peppercorn and garlic and keep only the oil in a bowl.
Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce with the chili oil. Set aside.
Boil a large pot of water to cook the noodle to el dente. Rinse in cold water and drain completely. (Fresh ramen cooks fast. Make sure you check the doneness often.)
Heap up 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or pan on medium high. Stir fry the minced meat mixture until done.
Mix the noodles, the chili oil sauce, the cooked minced meat together. Top with chopped green onion, chili flakes, sesame seeds. and serve with cucumber slices. Mix about 3 tablespoons chili oil sauce with the noodles first and taste it before using the rest of the sauce just in case it’s too strong for you.
You can also mix the noodles with the chili oil sauce first. Separate into two serving bowls. Then top them with the cooked minced meat and the rest of the other goodies.