Tuesday 9 October 2018

My Dan Dan Noodles with Chilli Oil.

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Are you ready for a long, detailed recipe?

Because today's recipe for my dan dan noodles is exactly that.
I have made these noodles countless times since first discovering their joys last year. Finally, I am sharing the full recipe with you. Dan dan noodles are a classic Chinese Sichuan recipe. You can read more about them here but they are known for their numbing heat and addictive flavour. How spicy you want your noodles to be is up to you but I can guarantee a very addictive sauce recipe to bring the whole dish together.

Today, I'll be teaching you how to make four recipes. First, a homemade Chinese chilli oil. Think of it as the Chinese version of an Indian tarka which is a spiced oil that I usually use to flavour daal and spicy stews. The Chinese one is a little different in that hot oil is poured over spices to essentially "cook" them. I store my chilli oil in a jar in the fridge and it keeps really well for a few weeks as I use it to flavour the many noodle and stir fry dishes that are the backbone of weeknight meals round here.

The second recipe I'll teach you is a fragrant dan dan noodle sauce. This stuff is an addiction of mine. The main ingredients include natural peanut butter, soy sauce, Chinese vinegar, fresh garlic, and of course plenty of ground Sichuan peppercorns and homemade chilli oil. This results in a nutty, spicy sauce which has to be tasted to be understood. The third recipe is a chicken topping used for the dan dan noodles. Traditionally, the Chinese use pork mince which I don't eat so have replaced with chicken. If you want a veggie version, skip the meat topping or replace the chicken with chopped tofu or mushrooms.

The final and fourth recipe I will show you how to make are the dan dan noodles themselves. They differ somewhat from a traditional noodle stir-fry in that the whole dish is assembled in each persons bowl. The noodle sauce is loosened with hot stock, topped with cooked noodles before being finished with crushed peanuts, the chicken, green spinach, and a dusting of numbing Sichuan peppercorn. Toss everything well to get it coated in that addictive sauce and enjoy!

Noodles, previously: korean chicken soup with homemade noodles // veggie noodle stirfry // spicy chicken noodles // singapore noodles with roasted cauliflower

A Simple List of Ingredients:

For the Chilli Oil:
1. Sesame Seeds
2. Crushed Chilli Flakes
3. Chinese 5-Spice Powder
4. Star Anise
5. Ground Sichuan Peppercorns (my how-to is in the recipe)
6. Bay Leaves
7. Vegetable Oil
8. Ginger

For the Noodle Sauce:

1. Natural Unsweetened Peanut Butter
2. Light Soy Sauce
3. Chinese Chinkiang Vinegar (balsamic works too)
4. Garlic
5. Spring Onions
6. Honey
7. Chilli Oil
8. Ground Sichuan Peppercorns (my how-to is in the recipe)

For the Chicken Topping:

1. Chicken Mince
2. Spring Onions
3. Ginger
4. Hoisin Sauce
5. Sugar

For the Dan Dan Noodle Assembly:

1. Chicken or Vegetable Stock
2. Dried Egg Noodles
3. Green Vegetables
4. Roasted Peanuts
5. Spring Onions
6. Ground Sichuan Peppercorns

Bismillah, let's begin!

The first job is to make a Chinese chilli oil. You can buy it but I prefer to make my own at home. It's easy and lasts in the fridge for a month or so. My advice would be to make the chilli oil the day before the noodles so that it has time to cool and infuse.

In a heatproof jug or bowl, place 3 tablespoons Sesame Seeds which have been toasted in a dry pan until golden.

Add in 4 tablespoons Crushed Chilli Flakes. I used what I had in the house but these Chinese ones would be more authentic.

Throw in 2 teaspoons Chinese 5-Spice Powder.

Add 2 whole Star Anise.

Next, Sichuan peppercorns. I used this one but any other brand will do. We are actually going to grind the peppercorns up into a powder so if you can find a powdered version, you're sorted.

To grind, simply place a few tablespoons of the Sichuan peppercorns into a grinder and grind to a coarse powder. The powder keeps really well in an airtight container.

Add 1 teaspoon Ground Sichuan Peppercorns to the jug.

Finally, add in 2 Bay Leaves. Stir this dry mix up and let's get on with heating our oil.

Place 170ml Vegetable Oil and 1 piece thinly sliced Ginger into a deep saucepan. The ginger is optional but it does help to determine when the oil is hot enough without the need for a thermometer.

Heat the oil in a deep saucepan over medium-high heat. The oil is ready when the ginger withers, bubbles and turns a deep golden-brown colour. This can take about 5-7 minutes.

If you're using a thermometer, the temperature of the oil should get to at least 190C but no hotter than 200C.

Remove the hot oil from the heat and carefully pour it over the spices in the jug. 

If the oil temperature was correct, the spices will sizzle and bubble when the oil hits them. Essentially, the hot oil is "cooking" to the spices.

Using a metal spoon, gently stir the spices and oil together. Leave to cool to room temperature.

Once the oil is at room temperature, remove the bay leaves, star anise, and ginger.

Let the chilli oil cool completely before moving to an airtight container or jar. The oil will keep in the fridge for a month or so and is great added to noodle dishes or stir fries for a spicy sesame hit. Just give it a good stir before using.

When you are ready to make the noodles, stir up the noodle sauce. One of the main ingredients is Chinese sesame paste which I couldn't get hold of. A recommended substitute that I read about online is unsweetened natural peanut butter. Not only great on toast with honey but also equally as delicious in this spicy noodle sauce. Trust me!

Into a mixing bowl, place 4 tablespoons Natural Unsweetened Peanut Butter. I used a standard tablespoon to measure out all my ingredients.

To the peanut butter, add in 4 tablespoons Light Soy Sauce. No need for any salt in this sauce as the soy sauce is salty enough!

Whisk the peanut butter and soy sauce together. It may seem like it's not coming together but keep whisking and I promise you'll end up with a smooth sauce.

Next, add in 4 tablespoons Chinese Chinkiang Vinegar. This is a Chinese black rice vinegar and I bought mine here. In the past, I have used balsamic vinegar instead and it's worked just as well.

Whisk in the vinegar and now, we add our flavourings.

Starting with 4 Garlic Cloves, peeled and finely chopped.

Along with 2 Spring Onions, finely chopped.

Stir in the garlic and onions. Then, pour in 2 tablespoons Honey. For a vegan version, try the same amount of agave syrup.

Next, to spice up the noodle sauce, pour in 80ml (1/3 cup) Chill Oil. You may add more or less according to your own taste.

Finally, add in 1/2 teaspoon Ground Sichuan Peppercorns. Add more or less, if you prefer.

Stir and give the sauce a taste. Add more chilli oil and ground Sichuan peppercorns if you can take the numbing heat that dan dan noodles are famous for. Don't worry if the sauce is too spicy - it will be much better once tossed with noodles.

Next, make the chicken topping. Heat 2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When it's hot, add in 500g Chicken Mince.

Stir fry until the chicken is no longer pink.

Then, add in 1 tablespoon finely chopped Ginger and 2 sliced Spring Onions.

Along with 4 tablespoons Hoisin Sauce. For a more authentic version, instead of the hoisin add in:
1 and 1/2 tablespoons rinsed and chopped fermented black beans
1/2 cup Sichuan preserved mustard greens

I couldn't get hold of them so went with the hoisin and it was just as tasty. 

Stir and cook the chicken until it is a deep golden brown colour. Done!

Our chilli oil is ready, the noodle sauce is done, and so is the chicken. Let's bring together the final bits of the dan dan noodles. Starting with 300g Dried Egg Noodles. I usually go for 1 noodle nest per person.

Boil the noodles according to their packet instructions and drain.

To assemble our dan dan noodles, we will also need hot stock. This stock will be stirred with our noodle sauce to form the base of the noodle bowls. You'll need 60ml (1/4 cup) of stock for each bowl so a total of 480ml (2 cups) Hot Chicken or Vegetable Stock.

We will also need some green vegetables. This is optional but hey, we have to get our daily veg intake in somehow, right? You can use any green veg you want and I went with baby spinach leaves.

Add as much Baby Spinach as you want to boiling water and cook. Drain and give it a rough chop.

Finally, to sprinkle over the finished noodle bowls, prepare:
100g Roasted Peanuts, crushed
3 Spring Onions, finely sliced
Ground Sichuan Peppercorns, to taste

And, here we have it. All the components ready to assemble a bowl of my dan dan noodles. We have the cooked noodles, chicken topping, noodle sauce, cooked green veggies, crushed peanuts, Sichuan peppercorn powder, and sliced spring onion. Let's assemble!

To make one bowl of noodles, place 60ml (1/4 cup) Hot Vegetable or Chicken Stock into a deep bowl. Mine was homemade chicken stock.

Measure out 60ml (1/4 cup) of the noodle sauce and stir it in.

Place one portion of cooked egg noodles over the sauce.

Spoon over some of the cooked chicken.

And, cooked green veg.

Finish with the crushed peanuts.

A few sliced spring onions.

And, a dusting of ground Sichuan peppercorns.

One bowl of dan dan noodles done!

To eat these noodles, first we have to do a little tossing to get all that glorious sauce from the bottom of the bowl. You may use chopsticks but I went with a good old fork!

Give everything a good toss to coat the noodles in the spicy, nutty sauce. That sauce right there is the magic that holds a bowl of dan dan noodles together. The noodles suck up the sauce and become more and more delicious with every bite.

In fact, the sauce is so good that I love to serve extra on the side to let everyone add more to their own bowls. Dan dan noodles can be served hot or cold but I prefer them hot. Now, all we do is devour!

My Dan Dan Noodles with Chilli Oil.

my halal take on the classic Sichuan noodle dish.

Prep Time: About 1 hour + overnight for the chilli oil.
Cook Time: About 30 minutes.
Serves: About 4-6 people.


For the Chilli Oil
3 tablespoons Sesame Seeds, toasted in a dry pan until golden
4 tablespoons Crushed Chilli Flakes
2 teaspoons Chinese 5-Spice Powder
2 whole Star Anise
1 teaspoon Ground Sichuan Peppercorns (see the recipe notes for how-to)
2 Bay Leaves
170ml Vegetable Oil
1 piece thinly sliced Ginger (optional but useful if you're not using a thermometer)

For the Noodle Sauce
4 tablespoons Natural Unsweetened Peanut Butter 
4 tablespoons Light Soy Sauce
4 tablespoons Chinese Chinkiang Vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
4 Garlic Cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 Spring Onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Honey
80ml (1/3 cup) Chilli Oil (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon Ground Sichuan Peppercorns (or to taste)

For the Chicken Topping
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
500g Chicken Mince
1 tablespoon finely chopped Ginger
2 Spring Onions, sliced
4 tablespoons Hoisin Sauce (see the recipe notes for a more authentic substitute)
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
Salt, to taste

For the Dan Dan Noodle Assembly
480ml (2 cups) Chicken or Vegetable Stock, hot
300g Dried Egg Noodles, boiled according to packet instructions
Green Vegetables, cooked, roughly chopped, and as needed (I used baby spinach)
100g Roasted Peanuts, crushed
3 Spring Onions, finely sliced
Ground Sichuan Peppercorns, to taste

Make the chilli oil:
  • For the noodles, my advice is to make the chilli oil the day before. In a heatproof jug or bowl, stir together everything except the vegetable oil and ginger.
  • Heat the vegetable oil and ginger in a deep saucepan over medium-high heat. Use a thermometer and keep heating until the oil reaches a temperature of 190C and no higher than 200C. If you don't have a thermometer, heat the oil until the ginger withers and turns a deep-golden brown colour.
  • Immediately remove the oil from the heat and carefully pour it into the jug with the spices. If the oil temperature is correct, the spices will sizzle and bubble when the oil hits them. Gently stir the spices with a metal spoon.
  • Let the oil cool to room temperature before removing the ginger, bay leaves, and star anise. Then, let the chilli oil cool completely before transferring to a container or jar. The flavour gets even better, the longer the chilli oil sits. I store mine in the fridge and it will keep for about 1 month.
Make the noodle sauce:
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together the peanut butter and soy sauce until well combined. Add the vinegar and whisk. Add the garlic, spring onions, honey, chilli oil, and ground Sichuan peppercorn. Mix really well. 
  • Taste and add more chilli oil and ground Sichuan peppercorn if you can take the numbing heat which dan dan noodles are famous for.
Cook the chicken topping:
  • Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the chicken mince and stir-fry until it's no longer pink.
  • Add the spring onion, ginger, hoisin sauce, sugar and salt. Stir and cook until the chicken is a deep golden brown colour.
Assemble the dan dan noodles:
  • To make one bowl of noodles, place 60ml (1/4 cup) of the hot stock into a deep bowl. Add 60ml (1/4 cup) of the noodle sauce and stir. 
  • Add in one portion of cooked noodles. Top with a few tablespoons of the chicken and cooked green vegetables.
  • Sprinkle over peanuts, spring onions, and ground Sichuan peppercorns. Toss and serve. These noodles can be eaten hot or cold but I prefer them hot.


Recipe Notes
  • To make the ground Sichuan peppercorns, simply grind Sichuan peppercorns in a spice grinder until you have a powder. You may toast the peppercorns before grinding for more flavour. Store the powder in an airtight container.
  • For the chicken topping, I used hoisin sauce instead of the more authentic 1 and 1/2 tablespoons rinsed and chopped fermented black beans and 1/2 cup Sichuan preserved mustard greens. I couldn't get hold of them but if you can, try them instead of the hoisin sauce.
  • For a vegetarian version, simply leave out the chicken topping and add more green vegetables. The noodles will be just as tasty.
{adapted from omnivore's cookbook}

Keep me in your duas please, and enjoy your dan dan noodles!

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!

Spice Enthusiast
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