Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lunch Week 31: Dan Dan Noodles

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it, unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided.

So my lunch for the week: Dan Dan Noodles
I was going through my Bon Appetit magazine this month and came across a recipe for Dan Dan Noodles. It seemed fairly easy to make and I had more of the ingredients. Besides, I was looking forward to mixing up the lunch and having something Asian this week.

Dan dan noodles is traditionally a Chinese Szechuan cuisine with long noodles with pork and preserved vegetables in a spicy sauce. The Americanized version is less spicy with more of a sesame taste (usually in the form of a paste). I suspect that this version that I'm using errs more towards the Americanized version.

I started off with the noodles which I had purchased from my local Asian grocer. The recipe calls for Shanghainess noodles or udon noodles. These particular noodles come fresh but freezes very easily. When ready to use, just defrost overnight in the fridge.

I dropped the fresh noodles in a pot of salted, boiling water. They cook for about 3-4 minutes. Drain then rinse with ice cold water. I like to rinse the noodles for about 5-10 minutes to wash the starch out. It helps prevent it from sticking together. You can also immerse it in ice water.
I reused the noodles water to cook my vegetables. I added some vegetable oil to the boiling water, then the wash bok choy.
When the vegetable soften and turn bright green, drain, and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. The bok choy should remain crunchy and fresh.
And now the sauce. Here some ground pork that browning in a pan with oil. I seasoned it with salt and pepper.
Cook until the pork is half done (still pink).
Then add the chopped ginger and finish cooking the pork until it's completely browned through.
Next take your wet ingredients (tahini, szechuan peppercorns, chicken stock, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, sugar, and chili oil) and it to the pan.
Bring the pork mixture to a boil and simmer until the sauce thickens. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
Once the sauce reduces and thickens, taste for seasoning. The heat should be slow but noticeable.
And now prep the bowls. Add a handful of noodles to the bottom of the dish. Then line the sides with the cooked bok choy.
Spoon the pork mixture with sauce on top of the noodles.
Lastly, top the dish with some freshly chopped scallions and roasted peanuts.
And there you go, dan dan noodles. Add more chili oil on top if you like more heat. But definitely taste first.
The noodles were bouncy and retained their texture. The cold rinsing helps that. The pork sauce was both spicy and tangy. It wasn't a hit your face kind of spicy. It was more like a mellow spice that coats your throat. The ginger helped in that situation too. I enjoyed the lunch but I would do a couple of things differently next time. First, I would grate the ginger instead of chopping it. Second, I need to brown the pork more. Third, I would use Chinese pickled vegetables in it. And last, I would add more chili oil at the end for that in-your-face kick. For now, a squirt of sriracha will suffice.

Recipe Courtesy of Bon App├ętit (
Issue October 2011) &

Dan Dan Noodles
by Peter Chang
Tasty 2

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 teaspoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
Pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions

Ingredient info: Shanghai-style noodles, udon, and chili oil can be found at better supermarkets and at Asian markets. Sichuan peppercorns are available at some specialty foods stores and at Asian markets. Tahini is available at better supermarkets and Middle Eastern markets.

Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water until just tender but still firm to the bite. Drain; transfer to a large bowl of ice water and let stand until cold. Drain well and divide between 2 bowls.

Heat vegetable oil in a medium 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. Stir in chicken stock and next 6 ingredients; simmer until sauce thickens, about 7 minutes. Pour pork mixture over noodles; garnish with peanuts and scallions.


  1. uh where is my portion? why else would i buy you ingredients for it? yum yum pork & noodles!

  2. @TT: I offered you some. You didn't want to travel for it.

  3. YES! I've been waiting for this post. It looks great, H

  4. Nice dan dan mein.
    Will you be making a spicier version in the future? :P


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