You might think I’m a bit obsessed with Dan Dan Mien, the spicy, garlicky, peanut buttery noodles that are found on many Sichuan restaurant menus. Recently, I made Steamy Kitchen’s Dan Dan Mien, which my kids loved, and last night, I decided to give Diana Kuan’s version a try from her recently released her first cookbook, The Chinese Takeout Cookbook. Diana Kuan is the writer behind Appetite for China and a cooking teacher.
Dan Dan Mien or Noodles (担担面) is considered street food in Sichuan (Dan Dan Mien actually translates into peddler’s noodles). The sauce typically contains preserved vegetables of some sort, chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns, minced pork and scallions, and is served over noodles. Although authentic Dan Dan Mien from Sichuan doesn’t appear to use sesame paste, here in the U.S., it seems roasted sesame paste or peanut butter are added for a thicker, sweeter sauce.
My sister happened to be visiting for a few days, so she was one of my taste testers for Diana Kuan’s Dan Dan Mien recipe. Although I have never tried authentic Dan Dan Mien, I think my sister has, at least that’s what we concluded after doing a little more research and digging around. My sister has eaten Dan Dan Mien in several authentic Sichuan restaurants and recalled a nest of noodles sitting in a pool of spicy sauce, so spicy that all you can taste is the chili oil, topped with super salty meat.
As Diane Kuan says on her blog, the dan dan noodles you would find in Sichuan province are so spicy that it “is almost impossible for mortals (non-Sichuan-native) to slurp.” That sounds consistent with the Dan Dan noodles my sister has had at the more authentic Sichuan restaurants.
This version of Dan Dan Mien is a toned down version, not as spicy and sweetened up with some sesame paste. It does have some zing from Sichuan peppercorns. If you’ve never tried Sichuan peppercorns, the first time you do, you might sense a numbing sensation in your mouth – that’s the “ma-la” sensation that you can only get from these special peppercorns.
I’m so glad I was able to try this version of Dan Dan Mien and share it with my sister – we had lots of fun trying to figure out what the difference between the various versions of Dan Dan Mien. Both Jaden and Diana’s Dan Dan Mien are worth trying – Jaden’s is milder in flavor and doesn’t use any Sichuan peppercorns (more kid-friendly) and Diana’s is spicier and has a richer sauce (because of the sesame paste). I’m a huge Asian noodle fanatic, so I’m adding both to my noodle repertoire.
In addition to celebrating the release of her new cookbook, Diana will be hosting a Chinese New Year Virtual Potluck on her blog, Appetite for China, on February 25th where she will share all the recipes that bloggers have made for Chinese New Year showcasing her recipes this month, adapted to suit their own lifestyle. Please be sure to check it out.
- 6 ounces ground turkey or chicken
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 2 scallions, white and green parts chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped Sichuan preserved vegetable (optional)
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces dried rice noodles or other gluten-free noodles
- 1 handful dry-roasted peanuts, finely chopped
- ¼ cup chicken stock or water
- 2 tablespoons gluten-free low-sodium soy sauce
- ½ tablespoon Chinese sesame paste or tahini
- 1 tablespoon Chinese black rice vinegar, or substitute good quality balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chili oil (add more if you like it spicier)
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the noodles according to package instructions. Drain the noodles, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Transfer the noodles to a serving dish.
- Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the base and sides. Add the garlic, ginger, white parts of the scallions, and optional Sichuan preserved vegetable and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the meat and stir-fry until the meat is a little crispy on the outside and no longer pink. Add rice wine to deglaze the pan. Season with salt to taste.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the chicken stock, soy sauce, sesame paste, vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil, sugar, and Sichuan pepper.
- Toss noodles with sauce. Portion noodles into bowls. Spoon the cooked meat mixture over the noodles, sprinkle the chopped scallions greens and chopped peanuts on top, and serve.