The combination of ground pork, robust chile oil, chewy noodles, and dried preserved vegetables make dan dan noodles — a dish from the Sichuan region of China — a delicious option when you're looking for a new way to use ground pork.
Don't be alarmed by all the steps in this recipe. They aren't overly time-consuming — especially if you have a second set of hands helping with the prep. The chili oil alone is worth making to drizzle over pizza or eggs. Keep in mind, the longer you store it, the spicier it becomes.
Some of these ingredients will need some tracking down — especially the sui mi ya cai, which is a mixture of dried preserved vegetables. You should be able to find them at most Chinese or Asian grocery stores.
Like most recipes prepared in a wok, the cooking is far shorter than the prep. Have all your ingredients chopped and lined up before you add any oil to the pan. Once you start going, it's a beeline to the finish.
I've found dan dan noodles to be one of my favorite noodles dishes to eat cold the next day; a blistering bite at lunch can really add some pep to your day.
Dan Dan Noodles
Serves 6 to 8
For the chili oil:
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns, or 2 black peppercorns and 1 star anise pod
1 stick cinnamon
3 tablespoons red pepper flakes
For the topping:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound ground pork (75% lean/25% fat)
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced scallions
2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/2 cup sui mi ya cai (Chinese preserved vegetables)
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
For the sauce:
1/3 cup hot low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons sesame paste
2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
2 pounds fresh chow mein or ramen noodles
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions
2 tablespoons toasted and coarsely chopped peanuts
Make the chili oil: Heat the oil, Sichuan peppercorns, and cinnamon stick over medium-low heat in a small saucepan until the oil reaches 325°F. Remove from the heat and let steep for 7 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl, add the red pepper flakes to the still-hot oil, and stir to combine. Let cool to room temperature.
Make the topping: Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the ginger, scallions, lemongrass, and garlic and sauté until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine, soy sauce, and five-spice powder. Stir to combine and cook until all the liquid is evaporated. Transfer to a bowl.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok or frying pan over medium-high until shimmering. Add the sui mi ya cai and bean paste or hoisin sauce and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the ground pork mixture, stir to combine, and set aside. Keep warm.
Make the sauce: Place 1/2 cup of the chili oil in a medium bowl. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and stir to combine and dissolve the brown sugar; set aside.
To finish: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook to al dente, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse the cooked noodles under cold running water to remove excess starch. Drain again.
Place the noodles in a large bowl, add the sesame oil, and toss to combine. Quickly reheat the sauce if necessary. Pour the hot sauce over the noodles. Top with the warm pork mixture, scallions, and peanuts.
Make ahead: The chili oil can be made up to a few days in advance.
Recipe by Nicholas Lomba