Dan Dan Noodles (or when I realized I don’t enjoy the taste of Szechuan Peppercorn)

January 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

UPDATE: So I tried the leftovers today cold, and they were so much better than when I tasted it last night. ¬†ūüôā What gives? ¬†Also, must share this amazing video:

Sara Bareilles\’ Cover of YELLOW

So this week, I have been looking up different recipes for Dan Dan Noodles. ¬†There are SO many variations on this dish, so I decided to make up my own. ¬†There seemed to be a trend of “must-have” ingredients, so I took the liberty of creating my own, based on the flavors I thought I would enjoy the most. ¬†I realize this is a bit brazen and the last thing I want to do is offend anyone with my utter lack of following any Dan Dan Noodle-standard, so I offer my take on this noodle dish.

After helping out at my dad’s store, I was inspired to pick up some groceries at the gloriously amazing H-mart in Edison on my way home. On my list: baby bokchoy, fresh wonton thin noodles, sliced pork, and szechuan (sichuan) peppercorn. ¬†The first three items were easy to find, and I had no doubt that I could readily find Szechuan Peppercorn, as H-mart not only has a huge offering of Korean products, it also has an amazing selection of Chinese products. ¬†I asked four different H-mart employees who were so kind and helpful in trying to locate these peppercorns, but to no avail. ¬†So, I went straight to the source and asked a lovely Chinese family (who were also shopping for groceries) where they might think I could find them. ¬†The bag of “dried prickly ash” was in my hands within the next minute.

Here is the recipe:

Dan Dan Noodles

1 lb of ground pork (I have a *thing about buying pre-ground meat, so I bought a pound of sliced pork and ground it myself at home.)
2 tbsp of soy sauce
2 tbsp of mirin
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp of canola oil (plus 2 tbsp later on)
1 tbps of garlic, finely chopped
1 lb of baby bokchoy, cleaned thoroughly and halved length-wise (be sure to rinse bokchoy several times, it is EXTREMELY sandy)
3 tbsp soy sauce
3-4 tbsp of chili oil
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp of sugar
1 tsp of Szechuan peppercorn, toasted and ground into a powder
340g (12oz) fresh wonton noodles (I love thin noodles, and I used this instead of the traditional thicker lo-mein-style noodle)

1. Marinate the ground pork with mirin, soy sauce, salt and pepper for 20 minutes.

2. Clean the baby bokchoy and halve while meat is marinating.

3. Heat oil in a wok over medium high heat and add garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 15 seconds.  Add the meat and brown.

4. Remove meat after about 5-7 minutes of cooking, until it is cooked through. Place in a bowl.

5. Heat additional oil to wok, and add bokchoy. Cook until tender, around 10 minutes.

6. Remove bokchoy and place it with the cooked meat.

7. In a bowl, mix together the soy sauce, chili oil, ground peppercorn, peanut butter, and sugar. Whisk until well-blended.

8.¬†Boil a pot of water to cook the noodles. After the water comes to a boil, cook the noodles for 15 seconds, stirring so that they don’t clump together. Drain.

9. Add noodles to the wok, add pork and bok choy, and stir in the sauce. Mix over medium high heat until it’s well-incorporated.

10. Enjoy!

So…..everything was going so well and tasted so good until…I added the peppercorns to the sauce. ¬†I thought, “oh well, maybe it’ll enhance the flavors of the dish when it all comes together” so I eagerly stirred all the ingredients together and had a taste. ¬†Nope. ¬†It still had that strange, overpowering scent and taste that I can’t really put into words. ¬†It wasn’t spicy, it was just…soapy? I don’t know, but as soon as I tasted it I remembered eating a dish with that same exact flavor that I couldn’t finish, so naturally, I was/am bummed.

I am betting that if Szechuan Peppercorn is your thing, you would love this, but if it’s not, I am not recommending this. I should have just stuck with the original sauce minus the peppercorns and it would have been exactly what I was dreaming about.

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