Most nights, dinner is predetermined – by recipe testing, leftovers from a photo shoot or radio column or some such, or some transformation of ingredients that need using up. Over the past decade or so we haven’t had the opportunity to fall into a sort of mealtime routine – or rut. We don’t really have our usuals. On tired nights, we wind up eating eggs and toast or spaghetti, which is often just the thing.
Tonight, after a late night and long day of cousins and playing in the river and birthday cupcakes, the only thing I wanted to make was a call for takeout – but after eating close to my weight in ice cream that wasn’t surviving the hot afternoon in a cooler, I didn’t want to get sucked into multiple dishes. What I did want was tangy-sweet and noodle-y, and so with ground pork in the freezer and a plethora of noodles avalanching from the cupboard, I made a batch of dandan noodles.
Dandan -or dan dan- noodles are a kind of Chinese street food, a bowl of smooth or tangled noodles with a spicy sauce that sometimes contains ground pork, sometimes not, sometimes contains peanut butter or tahini, sometimes not. It always contains lots of chopped green onions – a good thing to make in the spring, when scallions and their cousins abound. It traditionally calls for Sichuan peppercorns, but dry red chili flakes or chili sauce/sambal oeleck will do just fine for some heat. Ditto the noodles: most recipes call for Asian wheat noodles, thick or thin – and a packet of ramen will do just fine in a pinch – but you can also get away with using dry linguine or spaghetti.