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There are two versions of the origin of this name. "Dan Dan" is onomatopoetic for "clap clap" and supposedly refers to the noise made by street vendors in Szechuan as they hawk this tasty snack. Dandan are wooden buckets, one on each end of a pole carried across the shoulders, from which vendors sell Dan Dan Mein in the streets of Chengdu. This recipe is adapted from Mrs Chiang's Szechuan Cookbook. It calls for Szechuan peppercorns, called "huajiao" ("flower pepper") in Chinese, and these are what give Szechuan food its distinctive taste. They can be found in Chinese specialty groceries. Do not substitute with black peppercorns, cayenne pepper or red chili peppers. Furthermore, do not substitute Middle Eastern tahini paste for the rich Chinese toasted sesame paste. The two are not interchangeable, although peanut butter is an acceptable alternative in this recipe. For the hot chili oil, use a commercial brand, mince any good dried red chilies, or make you own as follows.
- 12 cloves garlic
- 3 inches fresh ginger
- 3⁄4 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons water
- 6 green onions
- 1 lb fresh Chinese noodles
Per individual serving
- 2 teaspoons hot chili oil
- 1⁄8 teaspoon ground roasted szechuan peppercorns
- 4 teaspoons asian toasted sesame paste
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1⁄2 teaspoon granulated sugar
Hot Chili Oil
- 1⁄4 cup hot red pepper flakes
- 1⁄4 cup peanut oil
- Crush the garlic cloves with the side of a cleaver, then peel and chop coarsely.
- Peel the ginger, then dice finely.
- Place the garlic and ginger into a mortar, add salt, then pulverize with a pestle.
- Add the water to the mashed garlic and ginger mixture, stir until well combined, and set aside.
- Chop the green onions very finely, then measure you will need 4 tablespoons in total.
- In each of four small bowls, place 1 tablespoon of the garlic-ginger-water mixture, 1 tablespoon of chopped green onions, 2 teaspoons hot chili oil, 1/8 teaspoon ground roasted Szechuan peppercorns, 4 teaspoons Asian roasted sesame paste, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, and ½ teaspoon sugar, and mix well.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and cook the noodles according to the directions on the package, until al dente (fresh Chinese noodles usually take from 5 to 10 minutes dont overcook).
- Drain, and divide the steaming hot noodles between four plates.
- Each person individually mixes his sauce ingredients together with his noodles.
- For the chili oil: Heat the oil until it is just beginning to smoke.
- Remove from heat, add the hot red pepper flakes, and stir.
- The mixture will foam, and will smell very strong!
- It can be kept for months under refrigeration.