Perhaps the biggest key to making excellent Dan Dan Noodles is to make your own roasted chili oil. When done right, it get a rich, fruity, smoky flavor that none of the store-bought stuff can touch. It really quite simple.
Just toast a handful of whole Chinese chilis (or if you want, red pepper flakes) in a dry skillet until ever-so-slightly smoking. Transfer them to a food processor with a cup of neutral oil, like canola, and whiz the whole thing up. Let it sit in a sealed container in the fridge for a week or so, and you're good to go. You can even top up the jar with more oil and toasted chilis every time you seem to be running low. Make some, have it on hand at all times, and it will revolutionize your mapo tofu, ramen, dumplings, stir-fries, and countless other dishes.
Chinkiang vinegar is a dark Chinese vinegar with a mildly sweet flavor. If you can't find it, you can substitute it with an equal-part mix it rice vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
Preserve Sichuan Vegetable (zha cai) is pickled mustard root available in cans or jars in most Chinese markets.
Carefully remove any dark seeds or stems from Sichuan peppercorns before using. Use only the textured husks. Toast in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant (about 30 seconds) for best results.
- For the Roasted Chili Oil Vinaigrette:
- 1/2 cup roasted chili oil (see note)
- 3 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar (see note)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 cloves of garlic, grated on a microplane grater
- To Serve:
- 12 ounces fresh chinese noodles (or 6 ounces dried noodles)
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 2 ounces ground pork
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped preserve Sichuan Vegetable (zha cai, see note)
- 2 ounces roasted peanuts, lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns, finely ground in a mortar and pestle
- 2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
- 2 tablespoons finely sliced scallion greens
For the Roasted Chili Vinaigrette: Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and stir vigorously to mix.
To Finish: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain. While noodles are cooking, heat oil in a wok or a small skillet over high heat until smoking. Add pork and preserved vegetable and cook, stirring and shaking constantly, using spatule or spoon to break up pork until cooked through, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Transfer noodles to serving bowl and top with pork mixture. Stir vinaigrette and spoon over and around the noodles (you may not want to use all of it). Sprinkle with roasted peanuts, sichuan peppercorn, grated garlic, and scallion greens. Serve immediately.
mortar and pestle
You can find Sichuan peppercorns online here.