Rain Food - Dan Dan Noodles
This is a slightly convoluted dish, but I promise you, it's definitely worth it. It's one of those recipes that's perfect to put together when you haven't much else planned, or if it's pouring outside! Warming, comforting, "rain" food!
We have two great Asian supermarkets in Winchester (one of them even has a little restaurant tucked away in one corner, and whilst they don't have the biggest selection, the dumplings and spring rolls are good!), you will find the black vinegar, the mustard greens, the peppercorns, and the black beans there. We use peanut butter and a little sesame oil instead of sesame paste (you could also use tahini), and don't worry if you can't find green peppercorns.
We have tried a few recipes, and this one is by far our favourite. It's adapted slightly from the brilliant Omnivore's Cookbook - a brilliant blog full of authentic modern Chinese cooking (serves 4 people).
First make your chilli oil (ahead of time)...
Ingredients (for the Chilli oil)
1 Cup vegetable oil
2-3 Tbsp Chilli flakes depending on how spicy you like it !
2 Tsp five spice powder
1 Tsp ground Sichuan pepper
2 Bay leaves
1 star anise
2 cm piece ginger peeled and sliced
Carefully heat oil to 180degC in a small pan. Once up to temperature add the ginger and let it brown. Remove the ginger. Very (very!) carefully pour into a heatproof container with the rest of the ingredients inside. The spices will sizzle and cook. After about 10mins use tongs to remove the star anise and bay leaves. Leave oil to cool further and flavours to infuse for at least 1 hour.
Next make the noodle sauce
Ingredients for the Noodle Sauce
4 tablespoons peanut butter or Chinese sesame paste if you can find it;
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar;
4 cloves of finely minced garlic;
2 finely diced spring onions;
2 tablespoons honey;
240mls chilli oil;
1 teaspoon toasted and ground green Sichuan peppercorns
Whisk together sesame paste and soy sauce until emulsified, add vinegar and stir, then add garlic, green onion and honey. Add the chilli oil a third at a time, mix and stop adding at your preferred heat. Add the toasted ground peppercorns 1/2 teaspoon at a time, tasting as you go.
Then it's on to the pork mince topping:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil;
450grams organic minced pork;
1 tablespoon minced ginger;
1 chopped spring onions;
1 1/2 tablespoons salted dried black beans (rinsed, soaked and chopped);
225 grams Sichuan preserved mustard greens;
2 tablespoons Chinese wine or sake;
1/2 tsp sugar.
Heat the oil and add the mince, cook over a medium heat and stir until well browned. Turn down the heat to medium-low. Stir in ginger, spring onion, black beans, mustard greens, cooking wine and sugar. Cook further until the mixture is quite dry and the pork is a dark brown colour.
For the noodle bowls...
500ml hot chicken stock
1 cup roasted and chopped peanuts
400gms dried noodles (we use Dan Dan wheat noodles)
3 or 4 heads of Pak Choi sliced into 4
1 chopped spring onion
Putting it all together....
Cook the noodles according to the instructions. We cook the Pak Choi in the same pan as the noodles for a couple of minutes. Drain and divide noodles and pak choi into 4 big bowls.
Ladle a quarter of the stock into each bowl. Layer on a quarter of the noodle sauce followed by equal amounts of the pork mixture. Finally, garnish with the crushed peanuts and a few more sliced spring onions.