Sichuan Dan Dan Noodles – Dan Dan Mian
I know I always say this, but dan dan noodles (担担面) are one of those great, quintessential Chinese foods that everyone needs to try at some point. It’s a dish that is ubiquitous – enjoyed all over the country in some shape or form, and eaten as comfortably on the streets as it is in a well-to-do restaurant. It’s messy, spicy, quick-to-make, and best of all stupidly tasty – no wonder Fen was so pleased when she saw I was making it.
Let’s take a moment to talk about what this dish consists of. Dan dan noodles are (you guessed it) a noodle dish, tossed through with a tongue-tingling sauce made of chilli oil and Sichuan peppers (not unlike salvia chicken), and traditionally containing minced beef and preserved vegetables (either ya cai or tianjin). As with most things spicy, the dish hails from Sichuan province, and is named ‘dan dan’ after the the long poles that street venders used for shifting their stoves, bowls, and ingredients around town. The dish comes from a long street food tradition that continues to this day – visit any Chinese city and you will find streets teeming with venders cooking this dish, surrounded by little tables of hungry Chinese gobbling it up.
Dan dan noodle ingredients
In terms of ingredients, it may be a little tricky to assemble everything you need for dan dan noodles. The noodles themselves should be fine – any dried Chinese wheat flour or fresh noodles are fine, or if you go to a Chinese supermarket you may even find noodles labelled ‘dan dan’. Yai cai (or fermented mustard green stems) may be harder to find, so ask the staff at your supermarket – I find it usually comes in small, cat food shaped sachets. Tianjin is a good enough substitute though, and in the UK at least often comes in a larger, bulbous-shaped jar. One thing you will definitely need are the Sichuan peppercorns – again available at your local Chinese store – that’ll lend the dish that faintly mouth-numbing kick.
Most recipes will tell you to mix the sauce well into the noodles, but the traditional way to serve this is to actually lay the sauce on top and let the diner mix the sauce themselves – not for any reason as far as I’m aware other than to add to the sense of anticipation. I’d also recommend small servings as the dish is incredibly filling – my last batch kept me and Fen going for at last three days!
- 1tbsp cooking oil
- 3 Sichuan dried chillies
- ½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns
- 25g ya cai or tianjin
- 100g minced beef
- 2 tsp light soy sauce
- 200g dried wheat flour noodles
- ¼ tsp ground roasted Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 tbsp sesame seed paste
- 3 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 4 tbsp chilli oil with sediment
- Heat oil in a pan with a medium heat, then add Sichaun peppercorns and chillies. Stir-fry until cooked and fragrant. Add the ya cai and continue to stir fry
- Add the beef, pour in the soy sauce and cook until the meat is browned and a little crisp. Season with salt, then remove and set aside
- Cook the noodles, then tip into a colander and drain. Place them in a serving bowl
- Mix the sauce ingredients in a mixing bowl, then tip on top of the noodles without mixing together. Sprinkle the meat mixture on top. Serve, and allow your diners to mix together the sauce and noodles
Based on a recipe from Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice