Dan Dan Noodles

On today’s episode of Corona Cucina, we’re going to make Dan Dan Noodles.

It’s a family favorite, we had it in Chengdu (no surprises there), and is a dish that I have been craving ever since we got back home. I thought the process will be chaotic and I’ll never get it right, but when I got down actually making it, the dish came out really really well.

They’re so well rounded and yummy its unbelievable!

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All the Sichuan cooking I have been doing has been pretty close to the real thing – and this is without adding any MSG. I am a huge David Chang fan, and if he says MSG is okay to eat and the whole hate around MSG is western propaganda, and is in fact, filled with xenophobia – then I’ll buy it. So would I add a sprinkle of MSG if I had it handy? Absolutely!

These are the pictures of the OG Dan Dan Noodles I had in Chengdu at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant recommended by The Food Ranger in his Chengdu Food Guide Book – which is a life saver considering (in all honesty) it’s difficult for non-mandarin speaking tourists to navigate through must-eat spots and food menus in Chengdu. If and when you ever visit Chengdu, I highly recommend purchasing this book which totals to about INR 700.

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So, I began channeling my inner Po, used peanut butter instead of Tahini in this recipe, and, I think it tasted better than the original because of the added sesame oil which doesn’t make you miss that rounded sesame flavour.

I made a chicken version, but if you’re vegetarian you can make a mushroom / soya mince version. Just follow the same steps – make sure the mushrooms are diced finely to crisp them up faster, and please prepare the soya mince as per packet instructions – cause I have no clue how to do that. The chicken mince needs to get crispy in the wok – its more like this crispy topping (delicious, right?) than this filling protein.

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Here’s what you need: (for a portion of two)

  • 100g egg noodles
  • 1 – 2 teaspoon Chilli oil (depends on how hot you like your food)
  • 2-3 Scallions (green part only)
  • 4 Tbsp Crushed Peanuts
    • I personally didn’t think this needed any vegetables added and wanted to keep this as authentic and street style as possible. But if you’re OCD about having vegetables then you want to blanch your greens (in salted water) and add them to the bowl during assembly

For the chicken:

  • 250g chicken mince
  • 6 garlic cloves – chopped finely
  • 1/2 inch ginger – chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy
  • 1 tablespoon light soy
  • White pepper
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon chilli oil
  • 3 tablespoons of oil – for cooking

Dressing:

  • 1 heaped tablespoon of Peanut Butter
  • 1 tablespoon light soy
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon black vinegar
  • Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

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Here’s what you need to do:

The chicken came first.

Place the oil in a wok and add the garlic to cold oil. Bring the wok up to heat and let the garlic bubble away. Once the oil is sufficiently hot and the garlic is sizzling, add the ginger and cook it out for 30 seconds. Add the chicken mince – you want to cook this out till the water and juices evaporate – again, to reiterate, this is going to get crispy. Add salt and pepper to the chicken mince.

Keep breaking up any chunks which keep coming together while stirring ever so often. Once the chicken begins to dry, season with the sauces and continue to cook until the chicken and the oil begin to separate and the chicken is crispy. Simple.

Cook the noodles as per packet instructions (heavily salted), save the noodle water.

Mix all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. It might begin to coagulate, which is absolutely normal. At this point you spoon in two tablespoons of the hot noodle water and stir till you have a nice, smooth dressing which will easily coat the noodles and hold on like a clingy partner.

Spoon the dressing in the serving bowl, followed my the hot noodles, chicken mince, scallion greens and crushed peanuts! Drizzle the bowl with chilli oil. If you make it and you like it, you may reach out to me, bend in gratitude and repeat after me – “There is no secret ingredient” 😀

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The Best Sichuan Chilli Oil

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The red hot love affair with Sichuan food began in Singapore. In China town. At the Old Chengdu Restaurant. It’s been a steady relationship since the last four years, and there’s no looking back now.

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We’re so committed in this relationship that last year in October, we found ourselves in Chengdu for our annual holiday. Let me repeat and clarify, a 10 day long holiday in Chengdu and Lijiang. A food trip, involving the spiciest hot pots, wantons, dan dan noodles, and my favorite – Guo Kui. We already had our tickets booked for April 2020, but as we all know, it’s going to take a long long time before we’ll be able to take that food trip 2.0.

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The last couple of weeks have been extremely stressful, so to keep myself busy and preoccupied – I tried learning how to make Sichuan food, which by the way is extremely easy to make once you have all the essential ingredients and sauces handy.

This sichuan chilli oil is yum! Extremely potent and blow-your-socks-off spicy! It’s also an essential for sichuan cooking and just lifts the flavor profile 10x.

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I promise this is the only recipe for Sichuan Chilli Oil you’re ever going to need. It’s spicy, nutty, and numbing! I used Sichuan Peppercorns for this recipe which I had brought back from Chengdu – but once all this is over – you can easily find them on Amazon and gourmet grocery stores.

So without further ado –

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Here’s what you need:

  • 100g of Whole Dried Chilli – a typical mirchi packet from the store weighs 100g – so this works – the weight will reduce considerably when you deseed the chilli and throw out the stems – The chilli need to be halves and deseeded – you want to remove all the seeds – this oil is spicy as it is
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Sichuan Peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Sesame Seeds
  • 2 Cups Refined Oil
  • 2 Green Onions – only the white part – chopped in one inch pieces
  • 2-3 Garlic Cloves – bruised
  • One Inch Ginger – slices
  • 2 Star Anise
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 Inch Piece of Cinnamon 

Here’s what you need to do:

Prepare the dried chillies – Deseed and cut into half – I used a scissor – Wear gloves while removing seeds – DO NOT touch your eyes or basically any body part, you’ll pay for it later and not in a fun way.

In a frying pan – Add all the dried red chillies and dry roast them on a medium flame until they darken in colour and there is a roasted chilli aroma (You want to keep an exhaust fan on)

Once the all the dried chilli are roasted – transfer to a mixer and blitz till coarsely ground. I went the macho way with a mortar and pestle and eventually cried after 45 mins – but I made it. Using a mortar and pestle really gave the chilli a lot of character in terms of a coarse and flattened grind which is difficult to get otherwise.

Once the chilli is prepped, transfer to a large bowl followed by the sesame seeds and peppercorns. Place a pair of chopsticks next to the bowl – they’re going to come handy later.

In a heavy bottomed pan – add the oil. In cold oil – add the aromatics – Green onions, garlic cloves and ginger slices. Turn on the heat on low – let them simmer and bubble until they begin to turn brown around the edges.

Once the vegetables begin to brown, add the spices – all at once. You want to fry this till the aromatics are browned – 5-6 mins.

Using a strainer/ meshed scooper, remove the spices and the aromatics from the hot oil.

Continue heating the oil, until very hot – you can also dip the tip of wooden chopsticks and see if bubbles form around it to decide if the oil is hot enough. You don’t want the oil to burn and start smoking. Needless to say, you have to be super careful when dealing with hot oil.

Pour half the oil on top of the chilli and stir. Wait for half a minute and pour the remaining oil till they singe and dance! You want to stir well at this point to make sure the chilli, peppercorns and sesame seeds are submerged in oil.

Let it rest and cool down (also develop in flavour). Once the contents of the bowl are cool enough to handle – transfer to an airtight jar. Let it sit for a day or two for the colour and flavour to seep into the oil.

And now, you have the best condiment ever! I drizzle chilli oil on everything from Maggi, Pizza, Cheese Sandwich, Crackers and even Daal Chawal!

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