This is comfort food, Asian style. Udon noodles have a slightly denser and more chewy texture than regular pasta, or even buckwheat (soba) noodles, so a small portion should satisfy you. The recipe, published in Bon Appetit a few months ago, is very traditional in Szechuan cuisine. Its Chinese name, dan dan mian (担担面) comes from street vendors carrying baskets of noodles (mian), hanging from those long poles that balance on their shoulders (dan). The authentic version is quite spicy, so reduce the amount of chili oil if you prefer a fire a little tamer… ;-)
DAN DAN NOODLES
(from Peter Chang, published in Bon Appetit, October 2011)
8 ounces udon noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 ounces ground pork
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped peeled ginger
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons or less chili oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 teaspoon tahini
1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
Pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons sliced scallions
Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water until just tender (follow instructions on the package). Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again, and place in a large serving bowl (or divide the mixture in two for individual servings).
Heat vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add pork, season with salt and pepper, and cook for a couple of minutes (no need to fully cook the meat at this point). Add ginger; cook until pork gets lightly browned, about 2 minutes more. Stir in chicken stock, then add the chili oil, red vinegar, soy sauce, tahini, peppercorns, and a pinch of sugar.
Simmer everything together until the sauce thickens, about 7 minutes. Pour pork mixture over noodles; garnish with peanuts and scallions.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: If you don’t have Chinese peppercorns, simply omit them. I am the lucky owner of a bag of these peppercorns brought from China by a former graduate student in our lab. But, it’s also available online from many sources, including one of my favorite stores, The Spice House.
Usually, Phil and I agree on our assessment of a recipe. This time we didn’t. I loved it, he felt it was a tad too heavy and oily. Next time I might reduce the amount of oil used to saute the pork, and use peanut butter instead of tahini, dissolving it well in the other components of the sauce before adding to the pan.
The recipe made enough for our dinner, and I had leftovers for a light lunch a couple of days later. It is quite filling, but I still found myself glued to my chopsticks, going back to the serving bowl for one more taste…. and another…. and another…
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