DAN DAN NOODLES
I ate dan dan noodles for lunch about 3-4 times a week for more than a month while working on this recipe. Was it because I couldn’t get it right and was obsessively making and eating it over and over again, striving for perfection? Well… maybe that’s partly true, but no, it’s because I couldn’t—and still cannot—stop eating these noodles. They’re utterly addicting: rich, saucy, salty, and melt-your-face spicy. Clutching my chopsticks, sweaty and red in the face, I often find myself staring down at an empty bowl already craving another. This recipe makes 2 bowls, and I recommend not sharing.
The idea of vegan dan dan noodles first crossed my radar when reading Fuchsia Dunlop’s excellent Sichuan cookbook, “Every Grain of Rice.” While certainly not a vegan cookbook, she includes many variations to classic Sichuan dishes to make them vegetarian and vegan friendly. I cannot recommend it enough if you’re into Sichuan food. But anyway, she includes a non-meat variation to this usually meat-focused dish, and that’s the recipe I started with years ago and still enjoy. My recipe pushes the dish toward a more balanced sauce that includes Chinkiang vinegar for a sour note that also lifts the umami. I like to use more spices in my chili oil as well. I find it adds an undercurrent of warmth with cinnamon and star anise. The topping is basically what you might find in a vegetarian dumpling: soy, shiitake mushrooms, and cabbage, which really holds up to the hot, saucy noodles. I know the ingredient list seems a bit daunting, but this dish is really easy to put together, especially after you do it once or twice.
DAN DAN NOODLES
-10 oz. fresh noodles or 6 oz. dried, ramen
-2 tbsp dried soy protein or ¼ c baked tofu, chopped
-2 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated, reserving liquid
-2 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
-1 cup cabbage, minced
-2 scallions, white part minced, green parts sliced
-2 dried Sichuan chilies, torn in half and seeded
-2 tsp Shoaxing wine
-2 tsp soy sauce
-2 tbsp mushroom water
-½ tsp light brown sugar
-handful peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped
Sauce (per bowl):
1. Rehydrate dried shiitakes and soy (if using) in warm water. Set aside for about 30 minutes. Drain water from the mushrooms and soy, remembering to reserve the mushroom water. Finely mince the shiitake.
2. Bring a frying pan to medium heat and add peanut oil and chilies. Cook for 30 seconds to a minute before adding cabbage, white parts of scallions and salt. Cook until cabbage and scallion browns being careful not to burn, 5-7 minutes. Add the minced shiitake and soy. Cook for 1-2 minutes before adding the Shoaxing wine. Cook off the wine for 30 seconds and then add the soy sauce, 2 tbsp of the mushroom water, and brown sugar. Cook for 2-3 more minutes until the liquid is cooked off but not dry.
3. Combine all sauce ingredients in each serving bowl. Give it a good stir until it comes together.
4. Cook noodles according to package.
5. Add cooked noodles to each bowl on top of sauce. Spoon half the topping over each bowl of noodles. Top with peanuts and the green parts of scallions. Mix everything together and eat immediately.