Monday, January 2, 2012

Spicy Sichuan Noodles (Dan Dan Mian) with Shitakes

Serves 8 as a main course

* 1.5 ounces dried shitake mushrooms
* 16 ounces ground pork
* 6 tablespoons soy sauce
* 4 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine (or dry sherry)
* 2 generous pinches ground pepper
* 4 tablespoons oyster sauce
* 8 tablespoons Asian sesame paste (available at Asian stores - NOT the same as tahini; mine was labeled "Chinese salad dressing - but it was 100% sesame seeds) or peanut butter
* 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
* 2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
* 2 tablespoons canola oil
* 2 tablespoons minced ginger
* 12 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 4 tablespoons)
* 1.5 teaspoons red pepper flakes
* 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
* 2 pounds dried Asian noodles (width between linguine and fettuccine)
* 6 medium scallions, sliced thin (about 1/3 cup)
* 2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns, toasted in small dry skillet until fragrant, then ground (optional; mine were called "dried prickly ash peppers")

1. Soak shitake mushrooms in 2 cups boiling water until softened, 15 to 20 minutes; drain, reserving 1 cup soaking liquid. Trim and discard stems; cut mushrooms into 1/4-inch slices and set aside.

2. Combine pork, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, sherry, and pinch pepper in small bowl; stir well with fork and set aside while preparing other ingredients. Whisk together oyster-flavored sauce, remaining soy sauce, sesame paste, vinegar, and pinch pepper in medium bowl. Whisk in chicken stock and reserved mushroom liquid and set aside.

3. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large stockpot over high heat.

4. Meanwhile, heat 12-inch skillet over high heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add canola oil and swirl to coat pan bottom. Add pork and cook, scraping along pan bottom and breaking up pork into small pieces with wide metal or wooden spatula, until pork is in small well-browned bits, about 5 minutes. Stir in ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sesame paste/mushroom liquid mixture; bring to boil, whisking to combine, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer to blend flavors, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Stir in shitake mushrooms along with sesame oil.

5. While sauce simmers, add noodles to boiling water and cook until tender (refer to package directions, but use them only as a guideline and be sure to taste for doneness). Drain noodles; divide noodles among individual bowls, ladle a portion of sauce over noodles, sprinkle with scallions and ground Sichuan peppercorns, if using; serve immediately.

From frozen:
Defrost sauce pack and warm over low heat, stirring to incorporate sesame oil. Prepare noodles as directed and top with ladled sauce, onions, and peppers.

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