A few years ago I traveled to Mexico City where I had tacos al pastor. It was the only item served at the taco shop where I ate them. There was no kitchen, only a huge rotating spit of fire-roasted pastor meat, called a trompo, placed at the shop’s entrance. After ordering, a man with a large knife cut the crispy charred meat which then cascaded down the trompo like a pastor avalanche down a mountain of meat. I’ve had pastor many times before and after this, but none have ever been so memorable in flavor or experience.
I believe that certain foods taste best when eating them at their place of origin: pastor in Mexico City, deep dish pizza in Chicago, cheesesteak in Philadelphia, etc… Authenticity of food doesn’t only apply to how and what is used to prepare it, but also the experience of what’s around you when eating. If I were whisked away to China today to eat dan dan noodles, I envision that my experience would be similar to eating pastor in Mexico. Nothing could be more authentic than eating dan dan noodles from a street vendor on a bustling street in the Sichuan province, while passerby converse in Chinese. But alas, no one has bought me a plane ticket so I’ve resorted to eating dan dan noodles in my kitchen here in Texas. But instead of trying to replicate an authentic experience I’ll never achieve, I decided to recreate the dish as my own Texas Style Dan Dan Noodles.
This is Texasian cuisine at it’s finest. Delicious smoked meat and barbecue sauce pair well with salty soy sauce. Pickled jalapeños seamlessly replace the heat from chili oil typical of this dish. I’ve created the recipe with both brisket and smoked sausage but even pulled pork or other barbecued meats would work. If you’ve never cooked with these Asian ingredients before, there are a few things you should know. Dark and light soy sauce have slightly different flavor profiles.
If you can’t find dark soy, which is slightly thicker, sweeter and less salty, you can use regular soy sauce instead. For more about soy sauce check out Serious Eats. Sichuan peppercorns (sometimes referred to as prickly ash) are an amazing spice that cause a tingling, numbing effect on your mouth. I’m totally addicted and love these on spicy Chinese food. You can buy them online if there’s no local Asian grocery store. If you can’t find shoaxing wine, use dry sherry instead. Finally, Chinese sesame paste is similar to tahini except that it is toasted, while tahini is not. It’s simple enough to make yourself and will last for months in the fridge.
TEXAS STYLE DAN DAN NOODLES
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1½ tablespoons Chinese sesame paste
- 1 tablespoon black vinegar
- 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ cup chicken broth
- 6 ounces smoked sausage or brisket diced into cubes
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon ginger minced
- 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine
- 12 ounces Chinese egg or udon noodles
- 4 ounces fresh spinach
- ¼ cup sliced pickled jalapeños
- ¼ cup scallions thinly sliced
- 1 to 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns toasted and ground
- Combine the first seven ingredients in a bowl and whisk until incorporated and set aside.
- In a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, cook the sausage until crispy on all sides, about 6 minutes (2-3 minutes for brisket). Add the garlic and ginger and cook an additional 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the rice wine cooking until evaporated. Turn off the heat but keep the meat in the pan to keep warm.
- Meanwhile fill a medium sized pot with water and bring to a boil. Blanch the spinach for 30 seconds, remove and set aside. In the same pot, cook the noodles per package instructions and drain the water. Heat the sauce in the microwave for thirty seconds just until warmed through. You can either divide the noodles equally into individual bowls or transfer to a larger serving bowl. Pour the sauce over the noodles. Top with spinach, sausage, pickled jalapeños, scallions and Sichuan peppercorns. Serve and eat immediately.