Friday, January 15, 2010

Dan dan update

After reading about my attempt at dan dan noodles, my friend Sandy (of Sandy's spaghetti) was awesome enough to cross-country mail me a jar of ya cai, Sichuanese pickled mustard greens. The salty shredded vegetables definitely made the dish, blending in with and flavoring the beef topping perfectly.

This time, I used the recipe in Fuchsia Dunlop's Sichuanese cookbook rather than the one printed in her memoir of living in China. Although both are ostensibly the version served at her favorite noodle shop in Chengdu, the one in her cookbook employs about half the chilli oil and soy sauce. Toned down for American tastes? Perhaps, but just right for me and my husband, who had found the other version assaultingly salty and spicy.

I'm reprinting the recipe below using the amounts called for in Dunlop's cookbook. Before serving I sprinkled on sliced green onions, which added a lovely fresh taste.

1. Roast 1/2 tsp. Sichuan peppercorns in a wok until brown and fragrant and crush them to a powder. Mix the pepper with 2 T. chilli oil, 4 tsp. sesame paste, 1 T. light soy sauce, and 1 T. dark soy sauce. Divide the sauce among 2-4 serving bowls.

2. Snip 3 Sichuanese dried chillies in half and discard the seeds. Heat 1 T. peanut oil in a wok over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not yet smoking, add the dried chillies and 1/2 tsp. whole Sichuan peppercorns. Stir-fry until the oil is fragra
nt, taking care not to burn the spices. Turn the flame up, add 2 T. ya cai (Sichuanese preserved mustard greens) and continue to stir-fry until hot and fragrant. Add 1/4 lb. of ground beef and 2 tsp. light soy sauce and stir-fry until the meat is brown and crisp, but not too dry.

3. Cook a 16 oz. package of fresh Chinese flour-and-water noodles according to package directions (boiling for 3 minutes should do it). Add a portion to the sauce in each serving bowl. Sprinkle each bowl with meat mixture and serve. Before eating, give the noodles a good stir until the sauce and meat are evenly mixed.

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