Wow this dish burned the mouths of my loved ones… while I enjoyed every spicy morsel… and as my world got doused in snow today the idea of peppery warmth with new Chinese flavours rolled over and over in my mind, and seemed like the perfect solution for a frustrating start to the wintery season. It’s all down to a great new book I started reading “Sharks Fin and Sichuan Pepper, a sweet-sour memoir of eating in China” by Fushsia Dunlop. The book it self is a bit of a conflict for me, as I never read in the day time, and I am not usually a late night snacker… but reading before bed about mysterious Sichuan dishes in mouth-watering detail is leaving me dreaming about pepper and meat and noodles and smoke, even wondering about the texture and taste of things like rabbit head and pig ear, and even jellied chicken blood!
Dan Dan noodles mean shoulder pole noodles, which come from tradition of Chinese street vendors who carried noodles over their shoulders on bamboo poles. The storey of eating these noodles, steeped in Sichuan peppers was instantly appealing to me, and when I found a recipe to follow the chapter I was delighted. Not only did I get to play with entirely new spices and fermented flavours, but I realized just how much I can relate to wanting to eat foods that warm you from the inside when you live in a humid climate (which is still pretty new to me, coming from the dry prairies).
So back to the face burning… I will admit I adore heat, and while I may day dream through a fiery curry often my partner is drowning in sweaty brow and struggling to form a sentance… So I am going to write this recipe how I think it might be more tolerable to the masses, and indeed how I will make it next time (for my family).. but for the brave, and heat intollerant I will denote how Fuchsia shares Xie Laoban’s original dan dan noodle recipe.
There are a few things in this recipe I would normally stray from 1) being wheat noodles and 2) bottled foods from China. Neither of these foods are in my normal cookery regime, certainly they are not Sustainable, Organic, Local or Ethical (likely) but as I said I am a little taken with this book and am indulging in an ethic adventure.. and from my Chinese culinary state I have no means to draw local substitutions from, having said that I did feel the need to add fresh spinach to this dish just for good measure! So here we go…
1 package of asian flour and water noodles (I used spinach stir fry noodles) cooked according to the package
In a large pan or wok heat 1 tbsp penaut oil
1 dried chilli chopped (I used the 3 called for in the original recipe)
1/2 tsp sichuan peppers
cook until fragrant
add 25 g Tianjin preserved vegatable (do not skip this ingredient, it’s lovely)
1/3 lb ground beef (organic and local of course)
2 tsp soy sauce
cook until brown
In a small bowl combine sauce:
1/2 tsp ground Sichuan pepper
2 Tbsp tahini
3 tbsp dark soy
2 tbsp braggs (or light soy)
2 tbsp chili oil (4 tbsp for the brave)
* I added 2 tbsp of cane sugar to compensate for the heat of 4 tbsp of chili oil as well as 2 tbsp rice vinegar to cut the heat
the recipe also calls for salt to taste.. but I found it salty enough for a salt lover like me.
mix well and set aside.
Once the noodles are ready toss into pan with meat and fry rapidly, add the sauce as well as three handfuls of spinach toss and fry. Serve hot with some nice steamed veggie pot stickers. And try to keep your face attached! Mmmm I really enjoyed this dish.. as I never would have put this together myself. I am looking forward to more Sichuan adventures in my future.