Dan Dan Noodles Recipe

For excellent dan dan noodles, homemade roasted chile oil is key.

A bowl of dan dan noodles.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • Making dan dan noodles at home allows you to customize it however you'd like.
  • The biggest key to making fantastic dan dan noodles is to make your own roasted chile oil.
  • No store-bought roasted chile oil can compare to the rich, fruity, smoky flavor of a homemade version done right.

One of the problems with ordering dan dan noodles at a Chinese restaurant is that you never know exactly what you'll get. Are they gonna deliver the hardcore Sichuan version swimming in red-hot chile oil and laced with pickled zha cai (mustard root) and mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns? Or can you expect the equally delicious but totally different Chinese-American version with more pork, a vinegary soy-based sauce, perhaps some greens, and a sprinkling of peanuts?

The first great thing about making dan dan noodles at home is that you can customize it however you'd like. Personally, I like the chile oil of the Sichuan version, but I also love adding crushed roasted peanuts to the top. Who's to stop me? Some hardcore versions of the dish have the noodles quite literally swimming in a bowlful of chile oil. I like my oil to coat the noodles and pool up a bit in the bottom of the bowl.

The second great thing about making dan dan noodles—it's an exceedingly simple dish to make. Once you've put together your roasted chile vinaigrette (which holds for months in the fridge, by the way), it's just a matter of cooking your noodles, frying your chopped pork, and throwing everything together.

Perhaps the biggest key to making excellent dan dan noodles is to make your own roasted chile oil. When done right, it gets a rich, fruity, smoky flavor that none of the store-bought stuff can touch. It's really quite simple. Toasted Sichuan peppercorns have a sweet, citrus-like aroma with a mouth-numbing quality, while roasted chile oil brings on the heat.

To make the roasted chile oil, just toast a handful of whole Chinese chiles (or if you want, red pepper flakes) in a dry skillet until fragrant and ever-so-slightly smoking (about 30 seconds). Transfer them to a food processor with a cup of neutral oil, like canola, and whiz the whole thing up. Let it sit in a sealed container in the fridge for a week or so, and you're good to go. You can even top up the jar with more oil and toasted chiles every time you seem to be running low. Make some, have it on hand at all times, and it will revolutionize your mapo tofu, ramen, dumplings, stir-fries, and countless other dishes.

Closeup of roasted Sichuan peppercorns and a jar of roasted chile oil.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Here's a quick rundown of some other ingredients that go into great dan dan noodles.

Chinkiang Vinegar

A bottle of Chinkiang vinegar.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Chinkiang vinegar is a dark Chinese vinegar with a mildly sweet flavor. If you can't find it, you can substitute it with an equal-part mix of rice vinegar and balsamic vinegar.

Roasted Ground Peanuts

Grinding roasted peanuts with mortar and pestle.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

The best way to grind peanuts is in a mortar and pestle for clean, crunchy bits.

Pickled Zha Cai

Closeup of preserved mustard root (zha cai).

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Preserved mustard root like this (often labeled "Sichuan Preserved Vegetable") can be found in cans or jars in your Chinese market. Once opened, they'll last for months in a sealed container in the fridge. You don't need much to add big flavor to dishes.

Fresh Noodles

A handful of fresh Chinese noodles.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

I like to use fresh Chinese noodles (available in the refrigerated section of many Chinese markets), though dried straight Chinese noodles will also work well.

Chile oil pooled in bottom of a bowl of Dan Dan Noodles

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

April 2011

Recipe Facts

3.7

(3)

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Active: 30 mins
Total: 25 mins
Serves: 2 to 4 servings

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Ingredients

For the Roasted Chile Oil Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup roasted chile oil, store-bought or homemade (see above)

  • 3 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane grater

To Serve:

  • 12 ounces fresh Chinese noodles (or 6 ounces dried noodles)

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

  • 2 ounces ground pork

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped preserve Sichuan vegetable (zha cai)

  • 2 ounces roasted peanuts, lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle

  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns, finely ground in a mortar and pestle (see notes)

  • 2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane

  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced scallion greens

Directions

  1. For the Roasted Chile Vinaigrette: Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and stir vigorously to mix.

  2. To Finish: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain. While noodles are cooking, heat oil in a wok or a small skillet over high heat until smoking. Add pork and preserved vegetable and cook, stirring and shaking constantly, using a spatula or a spoon to break up pork until cooked through, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

  3. Transfer noodles to serving bowl and top with pork mixture. Stir vinaigrette and spoon over and around the noodles (you may not want to use all of it). Sprinkle with roasted peanuts, Sichuan peppercorn, grated garlic, and scallion greens. Serve immediately.

Notes

You can find Sichuan peppercorns online here. Carefully remove any dark seeds or stems from Sichuan peppercorns before using. Use only the textured husks.

Special Equipment

Mortar and pestle

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
557 Calories
40g Fat
37g Carbs
14g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 557
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 40g 52%
Saturated Fat 6g 32%
Cholesterol 15mg 5%
Sodium 324mg 14%
Total Carbohydrate 37g 13%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 14g
Vitamin C 2mg 12%
Calcium 40mg 3%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 286mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)