Are you in need of a job? Are you looking at changing career paths? Do you live in the 19th century and do you per chance own a bamboo pole and two baskets? If so, you can entrepreneur your way out of your random existence and become one of the pivotal street food heroes of Chengdu, who hundred years ago instigated and institutionalised one of the most satisfying and beloved munch cravings ever known to this world; the Dan Dan Noodles.
Yes, dan translates simply to bamboo pole and Sichuan’s most famous fast food staple got its name because of the hawkers who started roaming the streets of Chengdu in the late 1800s, shouting ‘Dan Dan Mien’ as they carried their secret noodle goodies on their shoulder on that long bamboo stick, balanced with one basket filled with ingredients on one side and cookware on the other. Long gone are those days but the love affair lives on. Today, Dan Dan Noodles is one of the most popular comfort foods to be found
in Sichuan but perhaps also the most recognised dish to originate from this region. Each Dan Dan master has of course their own version but the essence is always the same; noodles, minced pork and and a numbing sauce based on fiery chili oil.
Here is Sichuan authority Fuchsia Dunlop’s recipe from her book Sichuan Cookery, a great companion for anyone who wants to dive deep into the food culture from the “heavenly country”.
Serves 4 as a starter or a snack, 2 for a hearty lunch.
- 1 tablespoon melted lard or groundnut oil
- 4 tablespoons Sichuanese ya cai or Tianjin preserved vegetables. • 3 spring onions, green parts only
- 1,5 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 0,5 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 2-3 tablespoons chili oil
- 1,5 teaspoons Chinkiang or black Chinese vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground roasted Sichuan pepper
- a little groundnut oil
- 100 g minced pork
- 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- salt to taste
- Heat 1 tablespoon of groundnut oil in a wok over a high flame. Add the ya cai or Tianjin preserved vegetable and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, until it is fragrant. Set aside. Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok and reheat, then add the minced pork and stir-fry. As the meat separates, splash in the wine. Add the soy sauce and salt to taste, and continue to stir-fry until the meat is brown and crispy, but not too dry. When the meat is cooked, remove from the wok and set aside. Finely slice the spring onions.
- Put the fried vegetables and all the other sauce ingredients into a serving bowl and mictogether.
- Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet. The drain them and add them to the sauce in the serving bowl. Sprinkle with the meat mixture and serve immediately.
When the bowl is on the table, give the noodles a good stir until the sauce and meat are evenly distributed.