Recession Recipe: Dan Dan Noodles!

Aug 25, 2010 | Updated May 25, 2011

My little brother and I were notoriously picky eaters when we were younger. Think, like, Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, "We'll have a BLT on whole wheat with mayo on the side and only if the tomatoes are ripe. If they're not ripe, we'll have turkey sandwiches with cheddar cheese and onions but oniy if they're red onions and deli mustard. On the side."

I have vivid memories of other peoples' parents scolding us because we wouldn't eat our vegetables. Today's dish -- Dan Dan Noodles -- was one of the one things my brother would ingest happy, however he'd order it with chicken and guessed it...on the side.

Let's give Matthew the benefit of the doubt and assume he (like me) has grown out of his "on the side" phase. Assuming that, I think he'd be happy with my recreation of the only Chinese meal he ever ordered.

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In researching this recipe, I came upon a scenario I've never encountered. Usually in my research, I look at 20 or so recipes, and they're pretty similar -- same ingredients, variations on proportion and spicing, but generally, most dishes have a template. Dan Dan Noodles was the first dish I researched where every single recipe was completely different. And I must have looked at 45 of them, really.

The only thing most of these recipes had in common was the Szechuan Peppercorn, which most listed as essential to the distinct flavor of the Dan Dan sauce. So, I went to my gourmet grocery -- my secret source for all special ingredients -- and bought some. I'm not sure if it made a huge difference, because I didn't test without it, but sometimes I like going the extra mile and experimenting with new stuff. So I'd say it was worth it and that you should also invest the $6 in the occasional special ingredient. Keeps things interesting.

Otherwise, Dan Dan is straightforward. Like I say in the video, it's always daunting making Asian cuisine, because Americanized versions of these dishes can sometimes turn out so badly that they ruin the original. But no fear here, I did the extensive research so you don't have to.

Enjoy your Dan Dan! Let me know how it comes out!


-2 tsp Red Wine Vinegar

-2 Tbsp low-sodium light soy sauce

-1 lb ground pork

-1 lb whole wheat spaghetti

-5 green onions, diced

-2 Tbsp ginger, minced

-3 cloves garlic, minced

-4 Tbsp peanut oil


-1 Tbsp Szechuan peppercorns, toasted and ground

-1/2 cup chicken stock

-1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp light soy sauce

-1 tsp Chili oil

-1 1/2 tsp sugar

-2 Tbsp Peanut Butter


-Mix Red Wine Vinegar and 2 Tbsp soy sauce with the pork. Set aside and let marinate for 20 minutes.

-Cook spaghetti to package directions

-While the pork is marinating, dice green onions, mince ginger and garlic. Set aside in a bowl.

-Lightly toast peppercorns on low in a cast iron skillet if you have you it. They're toasted once they start to pop and smell. Grind the peppercorns in a spice or coffee grinder. Mix them with the rest of the sauce ingredients and set aside.

-Heat a pan on medium high. Once hot, add 1 Tbsp peanut oil. One oil is hot, add garlic, onion, ginger and pork. Stir fry until the pork is dry and crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove to a plate.

-Turn off the heat and dry out the pan with a paper towel. Once dry, heat wok to medium and add the rest of the peanut oil - let it get hot. Add cooked noodles, pork and vegetables. Stir in sauce. Mix all together and cook for 2-3 minutes until everything is combined.

-Serve and/or store in the fridge for 1 week.