I truly believe I have a separate stomach for dumplings and noodles. Not so much for cake, but definitely for savoury things of the Asian persuasion. One of my favourite quick lunches in Melbourne is Le Ho Fook's take on Dan Dan Noodles...a dish from Sichuan origins, with a recipe that is notoriously fought over for whose is better and/or more authentic. This is by no means the most legit version you will find out there, but it's a faithful enough representation that's easy to pull off at home without too much trouble, with delicious results. Enjoy!
3 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
2 tbsp Lao Gan Ma chilli flakes in oil
1 tbsp Mushroom XO sauce
1 bird's eye chilli, finely chopped
2 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and blitzed
1 tbsp mild chilli flakes
1/2 tsp Japanese togarishi powder
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
Castor sugar, to taste
125ml chicken or vegetable stock, added as needed
1 large thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
500g pork mince (not too lean!)
2 tbsp Shaoxing Chinese cooking wine
1 tbsp dark soy
3-4 tbsp ya cai (Sichuan pickles, from Asian grocers and regular supermarkets), finely chopped
Guan Miao dried noodles (or fresh medium width lo mien noodles, from Asian grocers)
1 bunch bok choy, blanched and refreshed
2-3 stalks spring onion (scallions), finely chopped into trounds
1 small Lebanese cucumber, julienned
Japanese togarashi powder
For the noodle sauce, combine all ingredients except for the stock and mix well. Add the stock, a little at a time, until you reach a smooth, spoon-coating texture (like runny honey). Season to taste with sugar, salt or chilli, but it should be spicy and numbing.
For the mince, add vegetable oil, ginger and garlic to a pan on medium high heat and continually move the ginger and garlic around to minimise it sticking to the pan. Once fragrant (about 1 minute), add the mince and brown in batches if necessary. Add Shaoxing wine and soy and season to taste. Transfer the mince to a bowl and stir fry the pickles in a little more vegetable oil for 1-2 minutes. Combine with the mince and set aside to cool.
When ready to eat, bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the noodles. Cook until al dente, then drain and refresh in cold water. Transfer to a large bowl and spoon over enough noodle dressing to coat the noodles. Transfer into bowls and add the blanched bok choy. Top with the mince and garnish with the spring onions, cucumber, togarashi...you can add some fried shallots or peanuts for extra crunch, too.