This is an authentic recipe from our team in China, featured in our Sichuan Recipe Box. The ingredients labeled with a * below are hard-to-find ingredients that we’ve sourced from China and are all included in our recipe box which is available for shipping throughout the USA and China. For more information and to purchase online, click here.
Few dishes can claim a greater status to street food royalty than Dan Dan Noodles. The words Dan Dan refers to the bamboo carrying pole street hawkers would wear around their shoulders. The visual of a hawker with a pole strapped across their shoulders balancing massive bowls are a quintessential element of Asia’s collective memory – for this recipe to be known as the hawker noodles should be an impossible feat. Yet it’s an incredible balance of flavors, textures, and colors has made it the ultimate street noodle in the imagination of a 4000-year-old food culture. Dance with us in that thought for a while.
The anonymous nature of its humble origins makes it hard to trace in official records. Legend has it that it was created by a hawker named Chen Babao in 1841 who migrated from his home village to the Sichuan city of Zigong for better opportunities. Witnessing dan-dan hawkers on his way, he decides to also sell noodles, using his best home recipe
In a true hawker fashion, the dish masters humble ingredients and creates luxurious flavors almost out of thin air. Homemade infused oils and fatty sesame pastes are balanced with the acidic vinegar and served atop perfectly hand-made springy noodles. As this is a hawker recipe, it is done by individual servings, which ensures each bowl has the correct amount of every flavor and spice.
The noodles are served “dry” without a soup, so hawkers could carry more servings on their shoulders at a time. The mountainous landscape of this area prevented a lot of fresh vegetables year-round or livestock-rearing, which is reflected in the simple recipe. It’s likely that the recipe didn’t receive the mince-meat topping until it entered the wealthier region of Chengdu. Though there are endless variants of Dan Dan Noodles, we’ve created our own recipe that captures the true street-flavors in Chengdu – just like we enjoy on our Chengdu Food Tour. If you’re ever in town, check it out.
Just like local restaurants in Chengdu, we always prepare bowls of noodles individually to ensure every serving has the correct amount of flavors and spices. If you’re making these noodles for more than one person, prepare the sauce in separate bowls for each person. Adjust the meat and noodle portions depending on how many bowls you are making. The recipe below is for each bowl, other than the chili oil which prepares a plentiful bowl of chili you’ll be able to keep in your refrigerator for weeks.
Many recipes online say that just about any wheat-based dried noodle will do. They’re lying, and they don’t care about you. Don’t bring spaghetti to a knife fight. In a dish as layered, nuanced, and close-to-the-heart as Dan Dan noodles, you can’t underscore such a central component of the dish. We’ve provided the real deal in your box- if you run out you can always message us for a top-up. The texture of the noodles, the way its surface binds to the sauces, how it’s bite contrasts with the rest of the toppings – not something to mess about with. Everyone in their heart has a dish that needs to be done right, every single time. Make some room in there, because this is definitely one of them.
Items marked with a * are included in our Sichuan Recipe Box.
For the Chili Oil:
1 cup cooking oil (we always use canola oil, but soy or peanut oil also works well)
2 thin slices of ginger, about a 1cm knob
1 green onion
1/2 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorn*
1 whole star anise*
1 cinnamon stick*
1/3 cup chili powder/flakes*
1 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp five-spice powder*
For the Meat:
2 Tbsp cooking oil
4 oz or 120g ground pork
1 tsp cooking wine
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp five-spice powder *
For the sauce:
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame paste*
2 tsp sugar
½ to 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorn powder * (adjust amount based on your spice level)
1 ½ Tbsp of your prepared chili oil (adjust the amount base on your spice level)
1 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup hot cooking water from the noodles
For the Noodles & Veggies:
200g / 7oz fresh or dried white Dan Dan noodles *
1 small bunch leafy greens (spinach, bok choy, or choy sum)
2 Tbsp chopped peanuts
1 Tbsp chopped green onion for garnishing (optional)
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