Dan Dan Noodles
This Dan Dan Noodle recipe packs a fiery, nutty, aromatic punch you will CRAVE plus you can easily adjust the heat level to suit your own tastes. These explosive noodles are made of fresh, thin noodles layered in an intense savory, smoky, spicy, numbing, sesame chili sauce laced with Chinese 5 spice and Sichuan peppercorns, then topped with crispy ground pork, green onions and chopped peanuts. The layers get stirred together to create the iconic slippery Sichuan noodles we all know and love. This Dan Dan Noodle recipe stays true to the authentic Sichuan flavor and details all the key ingredients but still offers plenty of pantry friendly substitutions. The ingredient list will look long, but there is hardly any chopping and less than 10 minutes of cook time – most of the ingredients are just whisked together, which means this recipe is a cinch and on your table in less than 30 minutes once you gather your ingredients!
Servings 4 servings
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoon red chili flakes
- 1/2 tsp EACH Sichuan peppercorn powder, Chinese five-spice powder
- 1 star anise optional
Noodles and Greens
- 1 pound white fresh wheat noodles medium thickness
- 1 bunch choy sum chopped 6-inches from the top (discard the bottoms)
- green onions chopped
- peanuts, chopped (toasted in skillet, recommended)
Easy Chili Oil: Add all of the spices to a heat proof bowl; set aside. Add vegetable oil to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until 325 degrees F (no hotter). Very carefully pour oil over the spices. Whisk in sesame oil; set aside. Start boiling the water for the noodles so it’s ready to cook them later.
Sauce: Mix all Dan Dan Sauce ingredients together except chili oil until smooth then whisk in 2-4 tablespoons chili oil (see notes). Set sauce aside and reserve leftover chili oil.
Pork: Heat oil in a skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Once very hot, add pork and cook and crumble. Once almost cooked through, add the rest of the pork ingredients and cook for 1-2 minutes until the liquid is absorbed/evaporated. If the pork isn’t crispy at this point, increase heat to high and cook another 1-2 minutes; transfer to a bowl.
Sui Mi Ya Cai: Reduce heat to medium. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in the now empty skillet. Add the sui mi ya cai and sauté for 60 seconds to warm through; set aside.
Noodles and Greens: Cook the noodles according to package directions, adding the greens the last 30 seconds of cooking to blanch. Drain and toss noodles with a drizzle of sesame oil to prevent them from sticking together.
Assemble: Divide the sauce among four bowls. Top with noodles, choy sum (or leafy greens), pork, green onions and peanuts. Mix everything together until the noodles are well coated in the sauce. Add additional chili sauce to taste if desired (taste first!).
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Chili oil: Instead of homemade, you can also purchase Chinese chili oil at any Asian grocery store, just make sure to look for oil with actual red pepper flakes in it, I particularly like Blank Slate Kitchen Sichuan Chili Oil. Please note that Chinese chili oil is not the same as chili sauce or paste. If you are substituting with chili sauce, you will want to mix 1-part chili sauce to 2 parts oil.
- Chinese five spice powder: Is easy to find at most grocery stores or on Amazon. It is a combination of Szechuan peppercorns, ground cloves, fennel, cinnamon, star anise and cinnamon.
- Szechuan peppercorn powder: Adds peppery, numbing (not fiery) heat and complex citrus notes that is hard to replicate so please don’t skip it! I prefer Szechuan peppercorn powder because it is easy to use and save you a tedious step. Szechuan peppercorn can be found on Amazon at most Asian markets, spice stores, or sometimes specialty stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts.
- Chinese sesame paste (芝麻酱, zhi ma jiang): Is a thick paste made from roasted white sesame seeds. It thickens the sauce and adds a deep, nutty, smoky flavor. It can be found in Asian markets or on Amazon. Please note that Chinese sesame paste is NOT sesame sauce or tahini. The best substitute for Chinese sesame paste is peanut butter mixed with a few teaspoons of sesame oil.
- Rice wine: Can be found in the Asian aisle of the supermarket. Do NOT confuse rice wine with rice vinegar or rice wine vinegar. I use “Kikkoman Aji-Mirin: Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning” which is commonly found in the Asian section of most grocery stores or you can Amazon it. The best substitute for rice wine is dry sherry.
- Hoisin sauce: Can be found in the Asian section of any grocery store. It tastes like a sweet, salty and tangy, thick Asian BBQ Sauce. Use high quality hoisin sauce like Lee Kum Kee because you literally can TASTE the difference!
- Fermented mustard greens (sui mi ya cai): are a type of cardamine bean sprout that is native to Sichuan, China that are dried, flavored with sugar and spices then fermented. They are a signature ingredient in Dan Dan Noodles and add an aromatic, slightly sweet, tangy, pungent, salty richness. If your Asian market carries them, they will be in small plastic packages near the pickled items, but they will not be refrigerated. However, sui mi ya cai can be difficult to find, even at an Asian grocery store, so I suggest ordering them on Amazon here. If you can’t find them Tianjin preserved vegetables, sold in squat jars at the Asian market, make a decent substitute or a mixture of kimchi and capers. If you don’t want to make a special trip to the market or order sui mi ya cai, you can skip them and your Chinese Noodles will still be tasty but they will be missing that complex layer of funk.
- Noodles: Dan Dan Noodles are usually made with round, medium thin wheat noodles, 1/8″ thick, not rice noodles. You can find semi-fresh wheat noodles in the refrigerated section at an Asian market, but they usually won’t be called out as Dan Dan Noodles. Instead, look for thin, white noodles and check the packaging to see if they’re made with wheat. If you can’t make it to the Asian market, any dry round, thin Asian wheat noodle will do, or substitute with linguine.
- Leafy greens: If you are making a trip to the Asian market, pick up a bunch choy sum. The stalks are quite long, so I tend to cut them in half and use the top half of the leafy stalk. Otherwise, choy sum can easily be substituted with a bunch of spinach or bok choy. To use bok choy, use the top 6 inches and slice the stalks so they’re no larger than ½-inch.
Tips and Tricks
- Customize heat: Dan Dan Noodles are meant to be spicy, but they don’t have to be fiery hot. I used 4 tablespoons chili oil and it was extremely spicy, but they were still incredible. 3 tablespoons chili oil will probably be the perfect amount for those who like very spicy, 2 tablespoons chili oil for those who like spicy but are little hesitant. It is probably wise to start off with less chili oil in the Dan Dan Sauce then let individuals add more chili sauce to their individual bowls.
- Don’t overheat oil: You don’t want to heat the oil any hotter than 325 degrees F or it will burn the spices upon contact. The homemade chili oil can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
- Stir Chinese sesame paste: The oil will be separated from the thick paste underneath. You will need to stir the sesame paste thoroughly in the jar to incorporate the oil with the paste or you will only be getting thin oil and not the nutty richness. If the paste is full because it’s your first time using it, it may be easier to dump it all out into a larger bowl to stir instead of stirring in the jar.
- Toast peanuts: Toasting the peanuts enhances their nutty flavor and makes them 10X better – and it’s easy. To dry roast peanuts, add ½ cup unsalted raw peanuts to a skillet over medium-high heat without any oil and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden in spots.
- Vegetarian: To make Dan Dan noodles vegetarian, you may substitute the pork with minced mushrooms or firm tofu. To prep the tofu, place it in a pie plate, top with a heavy plate and weigh down with 2 heavy cans (to release water). Set aside for 10 minutes before chopping and stir frying.
- Low carb: To keep it low carb, try using shirataki noodles. Shirataki noodles are long, white noodles made from glucomannan, a type of fiber that comes from the root of the konjac plant. You can also use spiralized zucchini noodles.
How to Store and Reheat
- How to store: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- How to reheat in the microwave: Transfer small portions to a microwave safe dish, heat for 1 minute, stir, then continue to heat at 20-second intervals as needed. You may need to toss the noodles with a drizzle of oil or chicken both to loosen the noodles.
- How to reheat on the stove: For larger portions, warm in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often. You may need to toss with a drizzle of oil or chicken both to loosen the noodles.