Dan Dan Noodles
SERVES 4 AS A MEAL, OR 6 AS A SNACK
The Chinese word dandan derives from the name of the pole that street vendors traditionally carried over their shoulders while hawking bowls of noodles to pedestrians. The pole had a basket on either end— one to hold the noodles and the other for the sauce. This common street food—which became known literally as “noodles carried on a pole”—originates from Sichuan province, where the air smells of Sichuanese peppercorns with hints of sesame, preserved cabbage, black vinegar, and chopped garlic—the essential ingredients of this bowl of simple perfection.
¼ cup peanut oil
2 teaspoons coarsely ground Sichuanese peppercorns, or to taste
¼ cup preserved cabbage (tianjin)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1 pound ground pork
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1-pound package Chinese wheat flour noodles
½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup chili oil
¼ cup black vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup sesame paste
½ cup unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped, for serving
4 scallions (green and white parts), chopped on the diagonal, for serving
Heat a large wok on high heat and swirl in the peanut oil. Add the Sichuanese peppercorns and fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the preserved cabbage, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Season the pork with kosher salt and black pepper, add it to the wok, and cook, stirring with the back of a spoon to break up the bits, until the pork is browned, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water according to the package directions. Drain, and rinse under cold running water. Divide the noodles among 4 soup bowls or 6 snack bowls.
Stir the chicken broth, chili oil, black vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame paste into the wok. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
Pour the pork mixture evenly over the noodles in the bowls. Garnish with the peanuts and scallions, and give a stir to mix everything together before eating.