|Dan dan turkey noodles|
I always wanted to try dan dan noodles, but I've never gone to a restaurant to try them before. I heard about them by reading food blogs online, and it seemed simple yet satisfying. After forgetting about it so many times, I finally had the means and the memory to make it!
I looked up a recipe as a guideline and then started cooking with what I had on hand and to my preferences. Instead of traditional ground pork, I used ground turkey, which is generally heralded as healthier than pork or beef. I try not to eat a lot of pork anymore, in part because I do not eat that much meat anymore and because my mom decided one day pork was bad for us and decided not to cook it anymore at home. I also do not eat or buy beef very much because of the low amount of meat I just normally eat, and because I don't really know how to cook chunks of beef.
I doubled the recipe, but added much less soy sauce and other salty sauces than called for because I do not like things to be too salty. Despite this, the sauce came out still very salty and I will remember to lightly dress my noodles and meat with the sauce. I did not have sesame paste, but I did have leftover toasted sesame seeds from yesterday's sushi prep, so I threw those into my coffee/spice grinder, along with 4 garlic cloves, and a 1/2" knob of peeled ginger. I ground this into a chunky paste for the dan dan sauce, in place of the recipe's sesame paste. I also did not have hot chili oil nor Sichuan peppercorns, but I have an awesome Vietnamese substitue: Huy Fong chili garlic sauce! You should have this in you kitchen. I like it even better than Sriracha for cooking.
So, if you don't have typical Chinese ingredients at home, but have access to soy sauce, vinegar, chili garlic sauce, fresh vegetables, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and Chinese wheat noodles, it is very easy to make a Dan Dan-like noodle dish at home in nearly 30 minutes!!!
Pauline's Easy Dan Dan-like Noodles (Serves 3-4)
1/2 lb (8 oz) ground turkey
1 Tbs grapeseed or olive oil
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs vinegar
1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
Black pepper to taste
(I added some chopped kale leaves too. Yay vegetables!)
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2-ish Tbs sesame seeds (toasted, optional)
1/2" knob of ginger, peeled, coarsely chopped
1 cup of water (I accidentally added 2)
3-4 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs vinegar
2 tsp white sugar
3-5 Tbs of Huy Fong chili garlic sauce (to your spicy desire)
8 oz (3-4 servings) dry Chinese wheat noodles
Other veggies (I used alfafa sprouts and thinly sliced carrots, but you can throw in spinach, green onions, bok choy, or none at all, but veggies are so good for you!)
1. Prepare the meat topping: Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbs of oil, then toss in the meat and cook, chopping into small pieces. As it starts to turn brown, add the kale (optional), soy sauce, vinegar, Chinese five-spice powder, and black pepper. Continue stirring over medium heat until the meat and kale are fully cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside.
2. Prepare the sauce: Puree the garlic cloves, sesame seeds, and ginger in a food processor (or spice grinder) until you get as minimally chunky paste as you can. Meanwhile, heat 2 cups of water in the skillet from step 1. When it gets warm, throw in the paste and stir to distribute throughout the water. Add soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and chili garlic sauce. Taste and adjust accordingly. Let cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes.
3. Boil the noodles according to package directions, adding vegetables in the last minute. Drain.
4. To assemble: Place noodles with vegetables in a bowl. Top with meat, then drizzle a ladle of the sauce on top, about 1/2 to 1 full lade is good, depending on how salty/spicy you want it and how much you are eating. Garnish with green onions or more sesame seeds, if desired. Enjoy!