Spicy Szechuan Dan Dan Noodle Recipe
Sichuan Noodles Recipe
Flavorful and satisfying, this szechuan noodles recipe can be made with either chicken or shrimp. Substitute ground turkey to cut prep time. A no-cook sauce made in the blender simplifies things further. Last of all, sichuan pepper adds an electric, biting finish. This dish is spicy and not for the faint of heart. One bite takes me back in time to the evening of September 10, 2001:
We lingered at a dark restaurant in the gut of the city, reveling in ignorant bliss. Tomorrow the world would change forever. But I had only one thought on my mind: vacation. Enjoying the evening with my husband, I stared into the open candlelight as the tinkling of glasses rang in my ears.
The night wore on as we waltzed from course to course: appetizers, drinks and an unforgettable main dish of spicy Asian pasta. It was the calm before the storm, as they say. Perhaps that's the reason those flavors still linger on my tongue, haunting my taste buds with nostalgia.
Recreating the flavors of that evening was no small task; there are as many recipes for spicy sichuan noodles as for meatloaf. Ingredients usually include peanut or sesame sauce and ground pork. Some variations can be bland and uninspiring. We hope you find this tasty version as unforgettable as we do. Enjoy!
Sichuan or Szechuan?
Both spellings are correct for this spicy Chinese berry. Actually not related to the black peppercorn, sichuan was banned in the U.S. until just a few years ago. Its unique aroma is often described as wild and perfumed; flavor is electric and biting with citrus overtones. Devotees claim it's both addictive and medicinal.
Literally numbing the mouth, sichuan peppercorns infuse food with a woodsy hint of pine and cedar and a touch of acid sweetness. According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, sichuan peppercorns are not simply pungent. "They produce a strange, tingling, buzzing, numbing sensation that is something like the effect of carbonated drinks or of a mild electrical current (touching the terminals of a nine-volt battery to the tongue)."
- For a quicker variation, try 12 ounces of ground turkey instead of chicken. Season with soy sauce and fry. You can skip the steps of chopping and dusting with cornstarch.
- For vegetarian Dan-Dan Noodles, fry up strips of tofu instead of chicken.
- Substitute shrimp for the chicken. Stir-fry shrimp in hot oil just until it turns pink.
- Experiment with the sichuan, trying just a sprinkle at first. Add more, if desired, for a spicier dish.
- Toast sesame seeds for more flavor.
Electric Dan Dan Noodles
- 3 pounds boneless chicken breasts or thighs
- 2 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- sesame oil, for frying
- 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth, boiling
- 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar or raw sugar
- 1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
- 2 Tablespoons natural peanut butter, creamy
- 1-1.76 oz (50 gram) package Mae Ploy red curry paste, or to taste
- 4-6 medium garlic cloves
- 3 1-inch pieces fresh ginger, peeled
- 26 ounces (750 grams) dry noodles. Try soba, udon, ramen, linguine or fettuccine egg noodles.
Soba, Udon or Ramen?
Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour and are flat and brownish in color. They add a strong, nutty flavor to your dish.
Udon noodles are thick wheat noodles which are best when purchased fresh to conserve their unique chewy and soft texture.
Ramen are much thinner than udon and, unfortunately, higher in fat. Toss the seasoning packet and cook noodles according to package directions.
- fresh basil (rolled tightly like a cigar and sliced)
- fresh mint (rolled tightly like a cigar and sliced)
- fresh cilantro or coriander, leaves only
- cucumber, sliced paper thin
- Chinese snow peas
- radishes, matchsticks
- bean sprouts
- grated carrot
- scallions or green onion, sliced
- red, orange and yellow bell peppers, thin strips
- hot peppers (jalapeno, habanero, etc.), minced
- Key lime wedges (seeds removed), for squeezing over Dan Dan noodles
- sesame seeds or chopped peanuts
- ground sichuan peppercorns, for grinding and sprinkling
- Chop chicken and toss in soy sauce and brown sugar. Set aside.
- Saute sesame seeds in a dry skillet on medium-low heat, about 5 minutes, until fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. Repeat the process with sichuan peppercorns. Toast lightly until fragrant, about 5 minutes, being careful not to burn them. Set aside.
- Pour all "Blender Sauce" ingredients into a blender container. Blend on high until thick and smooth.
- Drain chicken in a colander and dust with cornstarch.
- Heat sesame oil in a skillet on medium-high. Add chicken to hot oil and saute until cooked through and crispy. Set aside.
- Arrange garnishes on a large platter or in individual ramekins. Grind sichuan peppercorns.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and sauce the noodles.
- Place a portion of sauced pasta and crispy chicken in each bowl.
- Allow guests to choose their own garnishes.
- Squeeze juice of one Key lime over each serving of noodles.
- Serve with chopsticks for an authentic touch.