I haven't shared a new recipe in an inexcusable amount of time. I don't have any new excuses, but I do have this: a FANTASTIC recipe for my favorite Sichuanese street food dish - Dan Dan Mien.
I've talked before about going to Chengdu to cook, hopeful that taking a two week cooking immersion would meet all of my gluttonous dreams. Before I left, I had a list of 15 Sichuan dishes I didn't want to come home without learning to make myself. I learned all of them but one (La Zi Ji, Chongqing Spicy Chicken), and that was due to a translation error when I explained what I wanted to the chef. The dish at the top of my must-learn list was also the dish I most fell in love with from the street vendors we'd visit every day at lunch: Dan Dan Mien.
The recipe I learned to make at the school was unlike anything I'd had at Sichuan restaurants here. It didn't involve peanuts or sesame (There is a different noodle dish we learned to make which highlighted these ingredients). The meat was a garnish, not a big component like we see here. And it was hot. VERY hot. I came home and made this dish for friends. I made it for David and myself when we wanted some fiery comfort food. I made it for myself when I had a bad day at work and wanted to sit huddled in a corner, rocking back and forth. I always have a vat of homemade chile oil ready to go and I never tire of this dish. It's better than anything I've ever tried in any restaurant.....but as I've mentioned before, when I signed up for the classes I promised not to blog the recipes. I've honored that. This recipe is not that. This recipe is something I found on the LA Times website when I was searching for something completely different. And. It. ROCKS.
This recipe is from Sang Yoon of Lukshon (I've posted one of his recipes before, and it was one I'll make until they put me in the Home). His Dan Dan Mien is much more complex and the flavors more fully developed than the simple street dish I learned to make in China. I prepared it for our friends to eat during the football game last weekend when Seattle stomped the 49ers to go to the Super Bowl. Consensus was it that was even better than the more "authentic" version. The sesame sauce adds depth and complexity. The Sichuan flavor base...well....be warned: It is totally fucking hot. Set-your-lips-into-a-tingly-inferno hot. But the depth of flavor is amazing. If you don't like spicy food, stick with your Italian bolognese. If you can take it, try this Sichuan classic. I think it's one of my favorite dishes I've ever tried.
Some comments: Don't be too put off by the number of steps here. There isn't that much active work time, and the sauces come together relatively quickly. I doubled the sauce quantities because I know we'll be eating a lot of this for a while. All of the ingredients listed in this dish can be found in an Asian market. Prickly ash oil is sichuan peppercorn oil. Everything else should be pretty self-explanatory, but feel free to mail me if you're stuck on an ingredient. And ENJOY!
Dan Dan Noodles
30 minutes. Serves 8
1 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped ginger
2 to 4 cups Sichuan flavor base, to taste (recipe below)
Cornstarch slurry (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons each cornstarch and water, mixed)
1/4 cup prickly ash oil
1/4 cup chile oil
2 cups dan dan sesame sauce (recipe below)
1 1/2 pounds wheat noodles, cooked
Crushed peanuts for garnish
1. In a wok heated over high heat, add enough oil to lightly coat the base of the wok. Add the ground pork, chopped garlic and ginger, stirring until the pork is browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the Sichuan flavor base (add msore or less depending on desired texture and heat). Cook the base with the pork to marry the flavors, then add the cornstarch slurry. Return the heat to high, and cook until the liquid comes to a boil and thickens, stirring constantly.
3. Pour over the prickly ash oil and chile oil and remove from heat.
4. In each of 8 serving bowls, ladle one-fourth cup dandan sesame sauce. Divide the noodles evenly among the bowls. Spoon over the pork and drizzle over a little black vinegar to taste. Garnish with crushed peanuts and serve immediately.
Sichuan Flavor Base
30 minutes. Makes about 1 quart
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6¼ ounces) chili bean sauce (doubanjiang)
2 tablespoons (1¼ ounces) hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons (1/3 ounce) ground red Sichuan peppercorns
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (3/8 ounce, or around 22 chiles) dried red chiles
1/2 cup (4 ounces) shaoxing wine
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Chinese sweet soy sauce
3 tablespoons (1½ ounces) Chinkiang black vinegar
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (3½ ounces) chile oil
2 1/2 tablespoons (1¼ ounces) prickly ash oil
Peanut oil, as needed
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) finely minced ginger
1/2 cup (3 ounces) finely minced garlic
1 1/3 cups (10½ ounces) chicken broth
Cornstarch slurry (2 tablespoons each cornstarch and water combined)
3 1/2 tablespoons (1¼ ounces) fermented black beans
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons (5/8 ounce) sugar, or to taste
1. In the bowl of a blender, combine the chili bean sauce, hoisin sauce, Sichuan peppercorns, red chiles, shaoxing wine, sweet soy sauce, Chinkiang black vinegar, chile oil and prickly ash oil. Blend to a smooth paste.
2. In a large sauté pan heated over medium heat, add enough peanut oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add the minced ginger and garlic. Sauté until aromatic. Add the mixture from the blender and stir well to combine with the garlic and ginger. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the raw flavor of the garlic and ginger is cooked out, about 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Whisk in the slurry and cook until the broth is thickened.
4. Stir the thickened chicken broth and black beans into the sauté pan. Season with the white pepper and sugar. The base will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week.
Dan Dan Sesame Sauce
35 minutes. Makes about 1 quart
3 tablespoons oil
1 pound shallots, peeled and sliced into very thin rounds
1/4 cup sugar
Powdered red chile, to taste
In a heavy-bottomed saute pan, combine the oil and shallots over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots soften and start to color, 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in the sugar and continue to cook until the shallots are caramelized, an additional 10 to 15 minutes. If the shallots begin to dry out, drizzle over a little water to moisten. Remove from heat and add a pinch of powdered red chile, or to taste; the final "jam" should be a mixture of sweet (from the shallots and sugar) and heat (from the chile).This makes about one-half cup jam.
Dan dan Sesame Base
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 tablespoons (¾ ounce) minced garlic
1 teaspoon (¼ ounce) minced ginger
Heaping ¼ cup (2½ ounces) shallot-chile jam
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (3 ounces) shaoxing wine
Heaping ¾ cup (4¼ ounces) toasted peanuts
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5¾ ounces) sesame paste
1 tablespoon plus scant 1 teaspoon (5/8 ounce) dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon (½ ounce) light soy sauce
2 cups chicken broth
Ground white pepper
1. In a large sauté pan heated over medium-high heat, add the peanut oil, garlic, ginger and shallot-chile jam. Cook until aromatic and the mixture begins to form a fond (flavor base) at the bottom of the pan. Deglaze with the shaoxing wine, scraping the flavoring from the base of the pan, then pour the mixture into the bowl of a blender.
2. Puree the mixture with the peanuts, sesame paste, dark and light soy sauces and chicken broth (do not overfill the blender; this can be done in batches and combined).
3. Pour the sauce back into the sauté pan and simmer the sauce (careful not to boil or burn) for 10 to 15 minutes to cook out the raw garlic and ginger flavor. Season to taste with pepper and salt. The sauce will thicken as it cools; loosen with a little water before using. The sauce will keep for up to 1 week, covered and refrigerated.