Monday, April 11, 2011

Dan Dan Noodles (American Style)

More often than not, when I cook, I try to stay true to the "traditional" way of preparing things. If this means getting specialized ingredients or using a special technique, I don't mind, so long as everyone in the family can eat it.

We had Pei Wei for lunch one day and I got their Dan Dan Noodles, and thought they were dynamite. Also totally bebe friendly. I found a recipe online and unfortunately, realized that this is one of those recipes that, in very little to no way, resembles the "traditional" version. The traditional version is WAY too spicy to serve a 2YO so I'm sticking with the Americanized version, with a few changes.

This is a really easy recipe and it comes together really fast, so good prep of mise en place is essential. I try to prep absolutely everything in advance so that when my wife walks in the door, I can fire the whole thing off and by the time she's hung up her stuff and greeted the babe, it's time to eat.

First thing I prep is the noodles. I've found that there is so much variety in Asian noodles (and I LOVE noodles) that almost any kind of "yellow" (wheat or egg) can work for this recipe. Bean or rice are awesome noodles, but the sauce kind of drains through them. You want a slightly heartier noodle for this, in my opinion. I use "chuka soba" noodles, but you can use a couple packs of Ramen (yes, the super cheap bags) without the spice packet and that works great too.

Prepare your noodles per package instructions for the amount you're serving. I actually pay attention to this because I've made a TON of noodles by accident, just pouring the whole package in. Read the label and split them up accordingly (also nice if using Ramen, one pack is one serving).

I make mine using a steamer basket in the bottom of the pot of water so when I need to reheat them, I just pop the basket back into the hot water they cooked in and take them out for service.

Next, take care of the chicken.

Get the equivalent of a cup of cooked chicken and dice it very finely. Then mince it ever finer.

Next, prep is the onions and garlic.

Slice 2 green onions down to the white. Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic (we love garlic around here, so it's usually 3). Throw in a 1/2 teaspoon of chile paste. I've found that this amount is not enough to blow away my daughter when she eats it. I use this:

Next, the sauce.

Combine all in a bowl and whisk together:

2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs sherry
2 tsp oyster sauce
2 tsp peanut butter
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp cider vinegar
1 cup chicken stock

Finally, combine 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water into a measuring cup (or something easy to pour).

Mise en place complete!

When time to cook is nigh, fire up a pan/wok to med-high and toss in a tablespoon or so of oil. Let it come to a shimmer and add your garlic/onions/chiles. Let this fry until fragrant, but NOT BURNED. (30-60 seconds)

Add the chicken and toss to combine. Let this cook for 2-3 minutes.

Pour in the sauce mixture and let this come to a boil.

Pour enough of the cornstarch slurry into the sauce to thicken it. I usually do half the slurry at first. Let the sauce thicken til it looks like it can stand up on the noodles. 

Kill the heat and serve. 

Put some noodles in a bowl and spoon the sauce over top. I like to serve with a healthy squirt of Sriracha. 

*Quick trick for kids. The noodles are normally really long and cutting them up is a pain. I use a pair of scissors to cut them up right in a bowl. Works like a charm and super easy.


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