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.