Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dan Dan Mian (Dan Dan Noodles)



Dan Dan Mian (Dan Dan Noodles)

The name of this dish derives from the verb dan, to carry on a pole, referring to the time, until recently, when Sichuanese street vendors carried the makings for snack noodles on bamboo poles and called out their offerings,"dan dan mian!". Among devotees of this dish there is much discussion with regards to the addition or omission of sesame paste. It's worth noting the difference, since sesame paste is intensely flavorful and the two versions would seem to be at odds within the tradition of dan dan mian. The fact is, both are common in Sichuan, though the exported version of Dan Dan Mian seems to always contain the sesame paste. Common elements to look for are pork, chili oil, scallion and ya cai, (preserved vegetable), and sichuan peppercorn (Hua Jiao)--the latter being included in countless traditional Sichuan preparations. In my time in Chengdu, the capitol of Sichuan province, I enjoyed this snack many times in the small restaurants that one found in the side streets of that city.

12 oz fresh wheat noodles
4 oz pork, minced
3/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorn, lightly roasted and ground
1 med clove garlic, minced
1-1/2 Tab Sichuan pickled vegetable ya cai (editor: Tianjin preserved vegetable works well)1 Tab soy sauce
1 Tab rice wine

Sauce/topping:

2 tsp dark soy sauce
1 Tab Soy sauce
1 Tab chicken stock
1 tsp ChingKiang black vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
2 Tab chili oil
1/4 tsp of salt

2 scallions, green portion only, sliced thin--reserve a few for garnish
Cook the fresh noodles for 2 minutes or so, and check for desired doneness. Remove, drain until the noodles begin to stick together, then toss with a small amount of oil; portion out to 2 or 3 bowls.
Combine the sauce ingredients.
Heat the wok on medium heat until it just begins to smoke and add 3 or 4 tablespoons of oil. When the oil is hot, add minced pork and stir fry, taking care to break up the meat; quickly add the garlic, peppercorn and preserved vegetable and toss. Splash in a tablespoon each of soy sauce and rice wine, toss, and remove.
Portion out the sauce/topping equally over each bowl of noodles; garnish with sesame oil and a few slices of green scallion

To make the sesame paste version: use the recipe above, omitting the Chingkiang vinegar and dark soy sauce. Also, to the sauce/topping ingredients, add 1 round Tablespoon of sesame paste and another tablespoon of chicken stock, and mix very thoroughly to dissolve the sesame paste.

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