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Dan Dan noodles a Sichuan classic


    Dan Dan Noodles, from a recipe by Katie Workman.

Dan Dan Noodles are a Chinese classic originating in the Sichuan province. Noodles have been part of Chinese cuisine for over 4,000 years, and long strands symbolize longevity, one of the nicest things you can wish for on the Lunar New Year (Feb. 16 this year).

Dan Dan Noodles are essentially long skinny noodles topped with a flavorful sauce built on ground pork and seasoned with pickled vegetables, chilies, soy sauce and a bit of Chinese wine and vinegar. This dish was originally a street food. Dan Dan refers to the pole on which street vendors in Sichuan would carry the pots of food: one for the noodles, another for the sauce.

This dish has many versions. Some are brothier than others, some include peanut butter, sesame, ginger or Szechuan peppercorns. Sichuan cooking is often quite spicy, and these noodles are no exception. If you’re feeling a little timid about the amount of chili paste, dial it back a bit — these noodles definitely pack a kick.

By Katie Workman

  • 16 ounces fresh Chinese wheat noodles or 8 ounces dried Chinese noodles
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 cup chopped, jarred, Chinese pickled vegetables or small diced pickles (see note)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped arugula (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing, available at Asian markets) or dry sherry
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • >> Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup chili-garlic paste
  • 1/4 cup vegetable, peanut or canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar (chinkiang, available at Asian markets) or other vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 scallions, minced
  • >> Garnish: 1/4 cup crushed roasted peanuts, 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions.

>> Note: Chinese mixed pickled vegetables are called ya cai, zha cai or Tianjin dong cai; available in Asian markets or in Chinatown. Substitute pickled mustard cabbage. Otherwise jarred pickles work just fine.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook according to package directions (fresh usually take about half as long as dried). Drain. Set aside.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Set aside.

Heat the 1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil in a large skillet or wok over high. Add pork and saute until browned, about 3 minutes. Drain any liquid in pan.

Stir in preserved vegetables or pickles, arugula (if using) and garlic; cook another minute.

Add rice wine and stir until it evaporates, about 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a simmer; remove from heat.

Stir sauce to re-combine, then add noodles to sauce and toss to coat. Add pork mixture and toss again.

Serve hot, in shallow bowls, sprinkled with peanuts and sliced scallions. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 687 calories, 29 g total fat, 8 g saturated fat, 76 mg cholesterol, 1,628 mg sodium, 73 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 28 g protein.

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