Traditional dan dan noodles are made with hand-pulled noodles, but in this version (adapted from a Fuchsia Dunlop recipe) udon noodles are a much faster alternative that provide a similar chewy texture and surface area for sopping up the thick sauce. Chinese restaurants in America tend to make them with peanut butter, which is not traditional at all, but provides a sweet and comforting balance to the chile oil and peppercorn—especially if this is your first time with málà. I’ve added a few variations of my own, including turmeric (which is similar to ginger) and avocado oil (a healthier alternative to the canola oil used traditionally).
- In a wok or large frying pan, heat avocado oil and add minced pork, turmeric, and Sichuan peppercorns, stir-frying until fully cooked and making sure to keep pork bits separate as much as possible. Add sweet bean sauce and rice wine until fragrant. Stir in soy sauce and fish sauce, turning off the heat while the mince is still juicy.
- Heat a medium-size pot of well-salted water. Once the water is boiling, blanch the mung bean sprouts for 30-40 seconds. Remove from pot with slotted spoon and set aside. Add the udon noodles, cooking for 3 minutes if fresh and 8 minutes if dried. In a separate small pot, heat the stock, turning off the heat once it reaches boiling. While the noodles and stock cook on the stove, put the rest of the sauce ingredients together in a medium-size bowl.
- Once the noodles are ready, drain them in a colander. Reserve one cup of the noodle water, tossing away the rest. Add the heated stock to the bowl of sauce ingredients.
- Split the udon noodles into two serving bowls. Top with scoops of sauce, mung bean sprouts, minced pork, sesame oil, and green onions. If a soupier consistency is desired, add noodle water one tablespoon at a time. Stir thoroughly before eating.
Noël Duan (@noelduan) is a San Francisco- and New York-based writer, editor, and researcher.