Dan Dan noodles aren’t all that simple to make. The dish requires many different ingredients to accomplish a layered, complex flavor. But you can think of this dish having four parts: the chili oil, the meat mixture and sui mi ya cai (pickled vegetables you can find at your Chinese grocery store), the sauce, and the noodles/leafy greens.
For the Chili Oil:
- 2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 inch-long piece of cinnamon
- 2 star anise
- 1 cup oil
- 1/4 cup crushed red pepper flakes
For the Meat and Sui Mi Ya Cai:
- 3 teaspoons oil
- 250g pork mince
- 2 teaspoons sweet bean paste or hoisin sauce
- 2 teaspoons shaoxing wine
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
- 1/3 cup sui mi ya cai
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons sesame paste (tahini)
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn powder (we ground whole Sichuan peppercorns in a mortar and pestle)
- 1/2 cup of your prepared chili oil (scary, but yes!)
- 2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
- ¼ cup hot cooking water from the noodles
For the Noodles & Veg:
- 1 lb fresh or dried white noodles, medium thickness
- 1 small bunch leafy greens (spinach, bok choy, or choy sum)
- green beans
- chopped peanuts (optional)
- chopped scallion (optional)
To make the chili oil:
- In a small pot, add the Sichuan peppercorns, cinnamon stick, star anise, and oil. Over medium low heat, slowly heat to 325 degrees, and then turn off the heat. Wait 6 - 7 minutes, then remove the peppercorns, cinnamon stick, and star anise with a slotted spoon.
- Add the crushed red pepper flakes and allow them to steep in the hot oil. It should start smelling fragrant, almost like popcorn. Allow the oil to cool. This makes more chili oil than you’ll need, but you’ll be glad to have it on hand for use in other dishes. Store in a glass jar and keep refrigerated.
- Tip: the crushed red pepper flakes are quite spicy, so if you want a milder chili oil, buy whole dried red chilies from any Asian market, de-seed them, and then use a food processor to chop them into flakes to make the oil.
To make the meat mixture:
- In a wok, heat a teaspoon of oil over medium heat, and brown the ground pork. Add the sweet bean paste, shaoxing wine, dark soy sauce, and five spice powder. Cook until all the liquid is evaporated. Set aside.
- Heat the other 2 teaspoons of oil in the wok over medium heat, and sautee the sui mi ya ci (pickled vegetables) for a few minutes. Set aside.
- To make the sauce: Mix together all the ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning if you like. You can loosen it with more hot water, add more Sichuan peppercorn powder, etc.
To prepare the noodles and veggies & assemble:
- Cook the noodles according to package directions and drain. Blanch the greens in the noodle water, and drain.
- Add green beans to the wok, fry until soft. Add all ingredients back to wok, combine.