Dandan noodles (担担面) is a famous Sichuan style noodle. Story of Dandan noodles carry more than 100 years of history: Dandan, which is name of the long, thing shaped bamboo stick carried on the shoulders of street venders with their merchandise. Dandan noodles were sold by those venders to customers passing by the street. It is quite difficult to trace back on what is the most authentic way of preparing those noodles. Because over the years, Dandan noodles have traveled and passed on to different generations of people to many places in the world. Although people have different interpretations and added their own signature to the dish, they are few things that remain in common: crispy minced pork, smooth noodles, chilli oil and preserved mustard pickles.
I have been craving for Dandan noodles for quite sometime, though, there is one big challenge: I do not have the key ingredients of mustard pickles, traditionally the selection should be “YaCai” which is made from the upper part of mustard greens, however, in Kunming, most of Dandan noodles use local Kunming pickles to mix with the topping, so I decided I might as well improvise by using the pickles mustard green I could find locally, squeeze the excess water, fry them with oil to dry the moisture out completely, and then, at last, mixed together with minced pork, the result was quite satisfying, I would definitely give it a go.
Before we take a look at the ingredients list, I would like to tell you a bit about my take on Dandan noodles:
No soup, I like to serve them without any soup so the intensity of the spiciness and crunchiness of the crispy soybeans and minced pork would be maximised. The intense smell of chilli oil, sesame paste and Sichuan pepper powder should already make your mouth watering while string the noodle bowl.
I like the noodles for Dandan noodle to be a bit more chewy, it takes longer time between each bite so I could fully enjoy the flavours.
Spicy and numbing feeling to my tongue, which means extra Sichuan pepper and chilli oil is added.
Crunchiness and the crumbly feeling to my tooth, by frying the minced meat for longer time and adding both crushed peanuts and crispy soy beans to the topping.
Small potions. I serve them in small potions even if ended up having 2-3 potions.
Ok, now let´s start with chilli oil and Sichuan pepper powder, for the chilli oil, you need 30g dried chilli, 20g white sesame seed, two slices ginger, one scallion root and 200g rapeseed oil. You will also need a food processor. First, roast dried chilli in a frying pan under medium heat to dry out the moisture, turn off heat once the chillis become darken in colour and transfer them in a food processor. Grin to coarse chilli powder, transfer into a large, deep porcelain bowl with white sesame seeds on top. Heat up 200g oil, add ginger and scallion and fry under medium-high temperature until golden, take them out. Turn up heat so the oil come to 200 degrees, pour 30-40% hot oil in the bowl, stir evenly, wait one minute to cool down the oil before pouring rest of the oil. Stir evenly and place at a safe place to cool down.
For Sichuan pepper powder, roast Sichuan pepper in low temperature until the aroma coming out, transfer to food processor, grin finely, use a strainer to filter out shells and undesired parts.
To get the crunchiness, we need crispy soy beans, they are no where to be find in my local stores, luckily it is quite easy to make them. You need 100g dried soy beans, soaked in water for app.6 hours. Drain and dry with kitchen paper. Heat up a frying pan and fry them with oil covering half of the beans under medium temperature for app.15 minutes, take the beans out, leave the oil in the pan to heat up to high temperature, fry the beans again until all golden. Drain and sprinkle some salt on top. If you want to skip this step you could also just focus on the peanuts.
For homemade noodles, you need 200g flour, 2g salt, app.100g water. Mix salt with flour, stir well, add water slowly to the flour while stirring until you see no more loose flour(be cautions not to add too much water, different flour absorb water differently, usually the flour/water ratio is 2:1, 100g is an approximate estimate, let your hands tell you if they need more water).
Knead flour into a rather rough dough, cover with a lid, rest for 5-10 minutes, knead again for one minute, cover and rest for 5 minutes then knead again for one minute. Cover and rest for 30 minutes.
After dough have been rested, find a large, smooth area, sprinkle thin layer of cornstarch on the table(if you don’t have cornstarch, use flour). Press the dough into a round shape with your palm, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to a large, thin round piece, separate the dough into two potions before rolling if needed. Apply cornstarch to avoid sticking. After you get a thin, even round piece, fold it into a rectangle piece, take a cut in the middle and place one on top of another, now you can cut them into thin slices with a knife. Apply corn starch again afterwards. It seems like a lot of work but it is actually the easiest way to make homemade noodles without a pasta machine. What I like most about these noodles is the chewiness, elastic mouth feel.
2 - 4 portions
app. 200g thin, white noodles/homemade noodles see instruction above.
For the sauce:
10 spoons soy sauce
3 spoons vinegar
2 spoon sugar
4 spoons chilli oil
1 clove finely chopped garlic
1 spoon sichuan pepper powder(ground Sichuan pepper)
Crispy soy beans(optional)
1 spoon sesame paste
1 spoon sesame oil
Chopped green onion
For the topping:
1 bag pickled mustard greens
500g pork neck, or pork belly(I used pork neck)
1 star anis
2 slices ginger, finely chopped
2 spoons soy sauce
1 spoon sugar
1 spoon cooking wine, or sake/vodka, gin...
If you are preparing your own chilli oil, Sichuan pepper powder and crispy beans, see the instruction above and start there.
If you are using homemade noodles, prepare and knead the dough three times.
Squeeze water out from pickled mustard greens, chop into fine small bites. Heat a frying pan with one spoon oil, fry them until completely dried. Take out and set aside.
Chop pork to small dices, ground in food processor to minced meat.
Heat up 4 spoons cooing oil, throw in the star anise, add ginger, stir quickly then add minced meat. Fry under medium-high temperature until water is reduced. Stir in the pan to break the minced meat loose.
Add soy sauce, sugar, cooking wine and pickled mustard greens.
Fry until all water is reduced and the minced become golden coloured, by now they should taste crumbly.
Turn off heat, set aside.
Mix one spoon sesame paste with one spoon peanut oil.
To mix flavoured soy sauce, use a small pot, mix 10 spoons soy sauce with one spoon vinegar and two spoons brown sugar, heat up until sugar is fully dissolved.
By now the dough should be fully rested, prepare the noodles.
Once the noodles is ready, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add one pinch salt, boil noodles for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.
In a small bowl, add three spoons of the flavoured soy sauce, one spoon vinegar, two spoons chilli oil, one spoon sesame paste and garlic. Add app.50g noodles in the bowl, top with Sichuan pepper powder, crushed peanut, crispy beans and green onion before serving.
In the bowl there are: Chili oil, sesame paste, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic.
Add topping after placing the noodles in the bowl.