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Dandan Noodles

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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.

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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.

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Dandan Noodles

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April 17, 2016


canola or sesame oil, for cooking

3/4 lb ground pork

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp. grated ginger

4-6 green onions, chopped

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. rice vinegar

1/2 cup chicken stock (or water)

1/3 cup peanut or almond butter or tahini

big pinch ground Sichuan peppercorns or red chili flakes

enough noodles to feed everyone (Asian wheat noodles or spaghetti)

chopped peanuts, for garnish (optional)

chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)


1In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, cook the pork in a drizzle of oil, breaking it up with a spoon until it's no longer pink. Add the garlic, ginger and half the onions and cook until the pork is turning dark and crispy.

2Add the soy sauce, vinegar, chicken stock, peanut butter and peppercorns or chili flakes and cook, stirring, until the peanut butter melts and the sauce is smooth. Taste and add more soy sauce if it needs salt, or vinegar (or a squeeze of lime) if it needs more acid. Add a splash of water if it seems too thick.

3Cook or soak the noodles according to the package directions. Drain well and serve topped with the pork mixture, the remaining green onions, and a small handful of peanuts and cilantro.

4Serves 4.


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9 comments on “Dandan Noodles

  1. Anonymous
    April 20, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    Top it with julienned cucumber – that is key.

  2. Cath
    April 28, 2016 at 7:52 am

    I made this for my husband and sister last night (the kids were not up for the experiment!) and they gave it an enthusiastic two thumbs up. I used thick udon noodles so may try it again with a thinner noodle. THanks!

    • Julie
      April 28, 2016 at 10:17 pm

      Awesome – so glad to hear it!!

  3. Meghan
    June 16, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Love this recipe, we made it for the second time tonight, thanks Julie!

    • Julie
      June 19, 2016 at 9:16 pm

      So happy to hear it!!

  4. Anonymous
    May 9, 2018 at 10:46 am

    This is exactly what I feel like for dinner

    • Julie
      May 17, 2018 at 4:57 pm

      Me too, almost every day…

  5. eric
    May 9, 2018 at 11:54 am

    I love dan dan noodles, pretty much for the same reasons you do, and have been collecting various recipes online. I’m always amazed at how many differences there can be between recipes–some call for douban chili paste and others don’t but I personally love the ones that do. I taught my kids here in a cooking class in bush Alaska and they have become a class favorite.

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