Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Michelle's Kitchen in Toronto: Fuchsia Dunlop's Dan Dan Noodles

My obsession with Fuchsia Dunlop's "Land of Plenty" (W.W. Norton & Co, 2001 ISBN 0-393-05177-3) continues with her spectacular recipe for dan dan mian; noodles with ground pork and a sauce of pickled vegetables. I had an amazing time on Saturday running around Chinatown and my local mega-mart trying to find all the ingredients. I love any excuse to explore Toronto Chinatown; ducking into tiny shops and coming across new ingredients. This recipe yields 2-4 portions.

8 oz Chinese dried noodles (I used the flour and water kind that were the width of linguine)


1 tbsp peanut oil (I used canola)
4 tbsp Sichuanese ya cai (Dunlop also recommends Tianjin preserved vegetable)
3 scallions, green only, finely sliced
2 tbsp soy sauce (Dunlop suggests 1 1/2 of light and 1/2 tbsp dark)
2-3 tbsp chili oil (I used 2 tbsp and it was pleasantly numbing on my lips)
1 1/2 tsp Chinkiang or black Chinese vinegar
1/2 - 1 tsp ground roasted Sichuan pepper (I used the lesser amount and it was perfect for my taste)

Pork Topping:

4 oz ground pork
1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine (Dunlop suggests med-dry sherry if you don't have this)
2 tsp soy sauce
salt to taste

Heat oil over high flame and add ya cai or preserved veg to your wok and stir-fry 30 seconds, until fragrant. Set aside. Here Dunlop suggests a bit more oil, but I found that there was enough left from the preserved vegetables that I didn't need it. Add pork and stir fry. As the meat separates, add the wine. Then add soy sauce and salt, cooking until the meat is well cooked but not dry. Remove from wok and set aside.

Put the fried veg and all other sauce ingredients into a serving bowl and mix together.

Cook the noodles according to the directions, drain and add to the sauce in the bowl. Sprinkle the meat mix over and serve immediately, stirring at the table.

I must say, I had inferior dan dan mian when I was living in Shanghai and never liked them so I find the irony of cooking them in Canada and loving them amusing. For any of you who have read my articles in the past, you know that I hate black pepper, but I found myself adoring the numbing heat of the Sichuan peppercorns. My father gave me a grinder as a gift when I moved to Toronto, and this was my first opportunity to use it. I toasted the peppercorns in a low-med pan for about five minutes (the fragrance was amazing!) took them out of the pan and allowed to cool. Once cool I zapped them in my grinder and I must say, it was well worth it! The aroma was incredible.

I was lucky enough to sample the real Shaoxing - pronounced Show (like the show in shower) shing - rice wine when I traveled to the town of Shaoxing one holiday. My friends did not like the liquor, but I quite enjoyed it. Certainly much stronger than Western wine made from grapes, it is traditionally served in teacups like we are used to seeing at Chinese restaurants in the West.

Another huge hit recipe from "Land of Plenty!" Next up, dumplings!

Click here for my post on Fuchia Dunlop's Fragrant Fish Eggplants

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