Dan Dan nOOdles

Yesterday I had some friends over for dinner and we made this Jamie Oliver dish – which easely can be transformed into a vegetarian version.

After that I went to see the art-performance of a friend, I made her costume; but more to that in another post…

In the western Sichuan province of China, they make this dish in huge buckets that they carry onpoles over their shoulders. “Dan” means pole, so these are, quite literally, “pole pole” noodles. It’s a simple dish, full of soft, silky noodles, lovely veg, some great crispy meat and a wonderful hum from the raw garlic. So there is a load of punchy flavours here, and then, of course, you’ve got the Sichuan pepper and the wonderful chilli.

I absolutely love chilli, but this dish is right on the edge of my chilli tolerance. Personally, I think that’s the beauty of it, and you’ve just got to go for it, but by all means halve or quarter the amount of chilli for a mellower dish.

Serves 4

1 beef or chicken stock cube, preferably organic

500g minced beef

2 tbsp runny honey

300g wheat noodles

4 handfuls of mixed green veg (chinese cabbage, sprouting broccoli, bok choy, spinach)

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

3 tbsp dark soy sauce

2 tsp freshly ground Sichuan pepper

5 tbsp good-quality chilli oil (see PS below)

2 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced

1 lime, quartered, to serve

Crumble your stock cube into a large pan of water and get it on the heat. Add the beef to a dry pan and, on a medium to high heat, keep moving it around until it’s golden and crunchy, about 10-15 minutes. Pour away any excess fat, then add the honey and toss until all the mince is nicely coated. Cook for about 30 seconds, then take the pan off the heat.

Stir your noodles into the boiling stock and move them about so they don’t stick together. Cook according to the packet instructions. Shred your cabbage into 1cm strips, quarter your bok choy and snap up the broccoli spears. When the noodles have 1 minute to go, throw in the prepared greens to blanch them. Drain the whole lot in a colander, reserving a mugful of the cooking water. Tip your noodles, veg and the mugful of water back into the hot pan.

Add your garlic, soy sauce, Sichuan pepper and chilli oil. Give it all a good mix with tongs and divide between 4 bowls. Sprinkle over the crunchy beef (you can reheat this at the last minute if you like), finish with a scattering of spring onions and serve each dish with a lime quarter to squeeze over. A serious noodle dish.

PS To make your own chilli oil, get a handful of mixed dried chillies (as many as you like), toast them in the oven to bring out the flavour, whack them in a food processor with a bottle of groundnut oil and pour back into the bottle. This will keep well in your cupboard for a year.


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