IS THIS THE BEST DANDAN NOODLE YOU’VE EVER HAD? I DARE NOT SAY SO MYSELF. BUT YOU JUST MIGHT.
WHAT: The untimely demise of your pre-summer diet. An instant dandan noodle sauce that will create, for you, this iconic Sichuan street food, any time any day, in under one hello-cellulite! minute.
WHY: Because I now have a huge jar dangerously in my possession, constantly tugging my soul in between responsibility and liberation, misery and happiness. And they both want company.
HOW: There are as many variations to dandan noodles as the number of people making it, each altering the ratio between sauce and noodle, the style and intensity of the seasonings, the types of noodles and toppings, all to their own particular likings. I, for example, have published this dandan noodle recipe a long time ago, which was decidedly soupier and negotiated its way towards the peanut-y route back when I discovered my sesame intolerance (it’s like lactose intolerance but only more niche). I didn’t even find out about my intolerance until later on in life after having a food intolerance test. I just thought the bloating and fatigue was just part of me but now I know the real reason behind my body playing up. Now, this version, aside from the difference that it is meticulously designed as an all-in-one sauce mix, is actually more authentic to the flavors that I often found myself slobbering over when I was still living in China, more sesame-based, assembled together more as a sauce than a soup, filled with savory beef-bits that are freckled with ground Sichuan peppercorns, and it doesn’t call for doubanjiang (broad bean chili paste).
Well, authentic, up until the pickled jalapeño comes in.
Now, why American pickled jalapeño as opposed to Chinese pickled mustard greens as authenticity would’ve commanded? Well, A) I don’t care about authenticity. And B) Even in Asia, Chinese pickled mustard greens tend to vary greatly in quality, saltiness and taste, making it a very unfriendly ingredient in recipe-development. Then last and certainly not least C) I happen to decide that, in this particular instance, pickled jalapeño actually works more marvelously than its traditional counterpart, more acidic than salty, more ready-to-use, and more fragrant in terms of the much desired peppery-ness that beautifully integrates and aids the layering of flavors in this beloved Sichuan dish. Each seasoning functions as an distinct entity, accurately marking their highs and lows, sharp and creamy, spicy and numbing on the tempo of their own choosing, but ultimately all comes together as a harmonic yet active, single organism.
Is this the best dandan noodle you’ll ever have? I dare not say that myself. But you just might.