The opening of Soho restaurant Bone Daddies in 2012 reignited my love for ramen, something I had fallen in love with in Japan some years before. The influx of ramen bars that followed has given me the means to pop out for a big steaming bowl of slurpy noodles pretty much whenever I want. I am still struggling to see any negatives in this.
For me, the best thing about ramen (aside from the ubiquitous barely-cooked egg that sits on top) is the huge whack of creamy, nutty sesame paste that characterises the sauce. So it was no surprise that a Chinese dish from the Sichuan region, Dan-Dan noodles, also heavy on the sesame, was going to be right up my street.
I first came across these noodles when watching BBC Two’s Exploring China with Ken Hom and Ching-He Huang. I had visited a couple of different Sichuan restaurants in London but had never tried this dish. This was quickly remedied after I bought the book: I have made this dish so many times and it has quickly become one of my favourite ways to use tahini.
Ken Hom’s Dan-Dan noodles recipe is remarkably simple: in very basic terms it is some fried pork mince, a sesame-based sauce and some noodles. Almost all of the ingredients can be found in ordinary supermarkets if you aren’t lucky enough to have some good Asian supermarkets nearby (we have three in Peckham). Do make sure that you buy proper Sichuan peppercorns before you make this recipe, and do not be tempted to substitute them with ordinary peppercorns. Sichuan peppercorns have this wonderful numbing heat that makes the cuisine of this part of China so interesting.
225g minced pork
1 tbsp light soy sauce
½ tsp salt
225ml vegetable oil
350g dried medium egg noodles
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground
1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced lengthways
For the sauce
3 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
5 tbsp finely chopped spring onions
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp chilli oil
1 tsp salt
225ml chicken stock
In a small bowl, mix together the pork mince, soy sauce and salt. Heat a wok over a high heat and add the oil. Fry the pork in the oil, using a spatula to break up into small pieces. When the pork is crispy, remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper. Pour the oil into a separate bowl.
Cook the noodles according to packet instructions.
Return two tablespoons of oil back to the pain and reheat. Add the garlic, ginger and spring onions and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the tahini, soy sauce, chilli oil, salt and stock and simmer for five minutes.
Divide the drained noodles between individual bowls. Ladle the sauce over the top of the noodles and pile on the fried pork. Sprinkle over the Sichuan peppercorns and garnish with the red chilli.
Serves two. Adapted from a recipe by Ken Hom.