Dan dan noodles: A vegetarian spin on a street-food classic
When we get a chance to travel, we like to eat where the taxi drivers do, said Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby in V Street (William Morrow). “We want the stuff that a little old lady is frying up in her flip-flops; the messy, saucy sandwich that guy is eating from a foil wrapper; and whatever is twirling around in that big bowl with chile peppers and fresh herbs chopped up on top.” In short, we want street food.
At V Street, a spinoff of our first Philadelphia restaurant, Vedge, we aim to fill our menu with vegetarian versions of the great street-food dishes of the world, the kind that draw from great culinary traditions. So we had to include dan dan noodles, one of the original street foods. This “amazing” Szechuan dish was once served by vendors who carried a pot on each end of a dan dan, or pole, slung across their backs. In one pot was broth; in the other, noodles. Our version puts roasted shiitake mushrooms “front and center,” and the noodles luxuriate in a fairly fiery dan dan sauce.
We like to use fresh ramen noodles, but “any noodle you choose”—even spaghetti— will work fine if cooked properly. Don’t skip the black vinegar, though. It’s “one of the foundations of true Chinese cooking,” and the dried fruit that flavors it “yields a mysterious subtle sweetness.”
Recipe of the week
Dan dan noodles with shiitake mushrooms
1 tbsp black vinegar
¼ cup sesame oil
½ tsp white pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp five-spice powder
1 tsp sea salt
½ lb shiitake mushroom caps, sliced into ¼-inch-thin strips
Dan dan sauce (recipe below) 24 oz fresh ramen noodles (or 16 oz dry noodles of your choice) ½ cup chopped scallions (green parts only)
Preheat oven to 450. In a medium bowl, combine black vinegar, sesame oil, white pepper, garlic, ginger, five-spice powder, and salt. Whisk until thoroughly combined.
Toss mushrooms in the vinaigrette and spread in a single layer on a sheet pan. Roast until crispy on the edges, about 10 minutes.
Warm the dan dan sauce in a small saucepan over low heat.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook noodles according to package instructions. When tender, drain immediately and add to dan dan sauce, tossing gently to coat evenly.
Transfer noodles to serving bowls and top with shiitakes and scallions. Serves 6.
Dan dan sauce
Combine in a blender ¼ cup each sriracha, tahini, and tamari; 1 tbsp sesame oil; ¼ tsp chile oil; ½ tsp Szechuan peppercorns; 1 small pickled chile with oil (optional); ¼ tsp sugar; and ¾ cup vegetable stock. Blend until smooth. Makes 2 cups, and keeps in refrigerator up to one week.