Szechuan is king of spicy Chinese cooking. But, not only is it spicy, it is incredibly flavorful, garlicky, ginger-y, oily, and tongue numbingly good.
Dan Dan Noodles are one of the classic Szechuan dishes that is pretty much universally loved. You can find them on almost all Szehuan menus (and occasionally on non- Szechuan menus), but they are most delicious if made with a generous pour of chili oil and infused with the numbing spice of Szechuan peppercorns.
We are Szechuan food obsessed over here in the Gourmet Gourmand household. Not a month goes by that we aren’t at our favorite Szechuan restaurant, Spicy City, at least once. But up until now I’d never attempted to recreate Szechuan food at home.I cobbled together a recipe from a few online resources to produce my version of Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles. The universal ingredients in all these recipes were 1) a generous amount of chili oil, 2) Szechuan peppercorns, and 3) sesame paste. The rest of the ingredients were somewhat haphazardly added; I added a bit of Chinkiang Vinegar, as well as Broad Bean Paste with Chili. While you can probably find chili oil and sesame paste (tahini) at a regular grocery store, I highly doubt you’d be able to locate the other ingredients outside of a specialty Asian store; in my case, I went to 99 Ranch and found everything that I needed for this recipe.
Some Dan Dan Noodles recipes call for a ground pork meat topping and also a fermented vegetable (called Sui Mi Ya Cai) accessory. I prefer my Dan Dan Noodles vegetarian, and I have to confess that I searched high and low for fermented vegetables and couldn’t find them, so I decided to omit them from the recipe. If you *must* have fermented vegetables in your recipe, you should probably order this because I highly doubt you’ll be able to locate this item unless you can locate a Szechuan-specific market. I.e. the staff at 99 Ranch had no idea what I was talking about even after I showed them a picture on my iphone of what I was looking for. (But maybe you will have better luck than me, and if so, tell me your secrets!!) Anyway. The point is, this recipe includes ingredients that you shouldn’t have much trouble acquiring at a standard Asian store, such as 99 Ranch.
Now, if you’re unfamiliar with Szechuan cuisine, let me just say- I hope you soon remedy this. Dan Dan Noodles are a great place to start because the flavors are fairly familiar to the Western palate and, let’s be real, who doesn’t love eating bowls full of spicy and sesame coated noodles?The most unique ingredient in this recipe are the Szechuan peppercorns, which are ubiquitous in Szechuan cooking in general, but are very startling if you’ve never “experienced” them before. They are not exactly spicy, but they create a numbing sensation on the tongue and, in my opinion, make everything taste a little like lemon.
(Try drinking a glass of water after biting down on a Szechuan peppercorn and you’ll see what I mean.)The nice thing about making Szechuan food at home is that you can adjust your spiciness levels as much as you would like. In the restaurants it is anybody’s game and I certainly have had the experience of being unable to eat anything placed in front of me due to spiciness level. So! If you’ve never had Szechuan food, let this be your first try! And for seasoned Szechuan eaters, hopefully you’ll trust me enough to give this a go and let me know what you think.
Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles
- ¼ cup chile oil
- 1 tablespoons szechuan peppercorns plus 1 teaspoon, divided
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3 tbsp sesame paste tahini
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons white sugar
- 2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar
- 1 teaspoon broad bean paste in chile oil
- 8 oz dried medium Chinese wheat noodles
- ¼ cup Fermented Vegetables Sui Mi Ya Cai (optional)
- ½ cup roasted peanuts roughly chopped (optional)
- 4-5 scallions sliced (optional)
- In small saucepan combine chile oil and szechuan peppercorns. Heat over medium-low for about 5 minutes, and then remove the peppercorns by straining oil through fine mesh sieve into separate bowl.
- Return oil to pot.
- Add minced garlic and saute for 15-30 seconds or until softened, but not crispy.
- Turn of heat and whisk in bean paste, sesame paste, soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar.
- Using the flat of a chef's knife or kitchen mallet, gently crush the remaining 1 teaspoon of szechuan peppercorns and add to the sauce.
- Meanwhile bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add noodles and cook for about 6 minutes, or until tender.
- Ladle about ¼ cup of cooking liquid into pan with sauce. Whisk together and gently warm over low heat until oil separates from the sauce.
- Distribute sauce evenly between 2 bowls. Top with noodles.
- Top the noodles with Sui Mi Ya Cai, scallions and peanuts. (Optional)
- Mix the noodles with sauce just prior to eating.