Remember that ad "Don't be a noodle.......be a smoodle....".What on earth am I talking about? Well I ran out of good introduction ideas for the noodle recipe that I'm posting about .......so this is my very lame introduction to a popular Chinese street food. This recipe had been bookmarked to try out for a lazy afternoon lunch a couple of weeks ago. So when a really bad craving for Chinese food hit me, but I didn't want to make something elaborate for just my toddler and me it was a perfect recipe to experiment with. Quick to put together, with a countable number of ingredients, bursting with flavors and hitting all your senses like good street food should, I present thee - Dan Dan Noodles.
This recipe is from Helen Chen's book titled "Chinese Home Cooking". I'm not sure why I picked this recipe out of 300 odd authentic Chinese home style recipes. But I'm glad I did. You'll love this recipe if you like the ideas of noodles doused with a peppery hot, salty and sweet peanut sauce.
In her book Helen has a small introduction or an interesting note about every recipe. Whether it was a family favourite, something that takes her back to her childhood dinner parties, stories from China or a historical note on the origin of the recipe. Gives the book a personal touch that I love. The following are her words on this recipe.
"Dan Dan Noodles are Szechuan street food at it's most traditional. Dan dan refers to the thumping sound made by the pails of noodles and sauce at the ends of bamboo panniers as they are carried through the streets in a sort of travelling fast food restaurant.The noodles are served cold or tepid.Once assembled,the dish holds well, although the noodles absorb the sauce after an hour. If you like saucier noodles, dress them just before serving. I sometimes add blanched and shredded snow peas or blanched bean sprouts along with the scallions for texture"
This recipe was modified to suit what I had on hand, please take a look at the note below for modifications. Also I honestly felt the noodles tasted better after I allowed them to soak in the peanut dressing for about 6 hours.(Evening snack for me yum yum) The next time I make this I would definitely make and dress the noodles in advance so they soak up all of that lovely piquant peanut sauce.
Source : Helen Chen's "Chinese Home Cooking"
1 pound thin spaghetti
2 tbsps sesame oil
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup Vegetable broth or water
2 tbsps light soy sauce
2 tsp chili oil, or to taste
1/4 tsp cayenne,or to taste
1 heaping tsp of Szechuan peppercorns, toasted and ground - Didn't have any so I substituted with a big pinch of white pepper and 1 tsp of red chilli flakes
3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
Bring 4 to 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook uncovered until a little more tender than al dente. Avoid overcooking or the noodles will be mushy. Stir occasionally to keep the noodles from sticking together. when done, drain and rinse with cold water until thoroughly cool.Drain well, transfer to a large serving bowl and gently toss with 1 tbsp of sesame oil(hands work best).Set aside.
While the noodles are cooking,blend together the peanut butter and broth in a bowl until smooth and creamy.Add the soy sauce, chilli oil, the remaining 1 tbsp of sesame oil,the cayenne and Szechuan peppercorns. Mix thoroughly.If you have time let the sauce sit for 30 mins or more to allow the spices to develop.
Pour the peanut paste over the cooked noodles and add the scallions.I use my hands to toss the noodles because they mix the ingredients more evenly and the noodles don't break.Serve cool.
Variation - For a vegetable garnish, add blanched snow peas and bean sprouts to the noodles with the scallions.
Note - I have slightly altered the recipe as I couldn't find some of the ingredients. Instead of the Szechuan peppercorns I added chilli flakes and white pepper. The recipe originally called for chicken broth but water worked just fine. Also to give it a bit of a kick and zing I added about 1 1/2 tbsps of hot sauce.You can use Sriracha if you have it on hand. Or good old Maggi Hot and Sweet sauce will work in a pinch. 1 tbsp of vinegar was added to cut through the creaminess of the peanut butter. The toasted sesame seed garnish was mainly to make the picture pretty but 'twas a good addition as they added crunch and nuttiness to the dish.