Monday, January 30, 2017

Porkless Dandan Mian


Dandan noodles are Schezuanese street noodles that are rich, spicy, and filling. Definitely my latest culinary obsession! The name comes from the stick called a dan dan that vendors walk down the street with carried over the shoulder. From the end of the stick hangs a pair of baskets: one with the noodles and the other with the sauce.  Though there's no stick involved here, there's enough big, amazing, rich Schezuan flavor here to make you think that you've magically been transported to Chengdu if you take a bite and close your eyes. I'm especially proud of the tofu/mushroom pork substitute in this recipe that will literally fool any carnivore you serve this dish to. If anybody bitches to you that they think tofu is gross, feed them this dish and tell them to shut the hell up!

Normally served fiery hot, my recipe is a bit more tame, but you can dial up the heat with chili flakes when you serve it (like I do!). Anything in the ingredient list that you don't already have in the pantry can be acquired at any Asian grocer and most ingredients will even be at a standard supermarket.

Prep time: 3 cocktails

Noodles:
8 ounces dry noodles

Tofu/mushroom "pork":
1 package extra firm tofu
2 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP fish sauce
2 TBSP brown sugar
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 TBSP Sambal Oelek (NOT Siracha--Sambal Oelek is much better!)
2 1/2 TBSP Chinese black vinegar (Chinkiang vinegar) - available at any Asian grocer
6 TBSP hong you (Szechuan chili oil), recipe here, divided
~12 shiitake or crimini mushrooms, washed
3 scallions, chopped
8 cloves garlic
1 TBSP ginger, grated

Broth:
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock, store-bought or homemade
2 TBSP mirin cooking wine
1-2 TBSP oyster sauce
1-2 TBSP soy sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

Toppings:

2 tsp Schezuan peppercorns
Bean sprouts or steamed bok choi (optional)
Red chili flakes or the red chilies from the bottom of your Hong You (Szechuan chili oil)
3 scallions, chopped

Drain and rinse the block of tofu. Wrap it in a dish towel and place a weighted plate on top to press out excess moisture, at least 30 minutes. This step is critical if you want the right "pork" consistency for your tofu.

As tofu is getting pressed, make the broth by combining all the broth ingredients except the sesame oil in food processor and process until combined. Transfer to a pan on the stovetop, add toasted sesame oil, and keep warm it up to serving temperature and maintain at that temperature until you're ready to serve.

Prep the noodles according to their directions, rinse and set aside.

Place a small, dry frying pan on the stovetop and heat on medium heat. Add the Schezuan peppercorns and toast until they darken a little bit and become s bit smoky and fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder and process into a powder. Set aside.

Now make the tofu/mushroom pork:
In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, toasted sesame oil, and Sambal Oelek. Set aside. After the tofu has been pressed for at least 30 minutes, crumble it up by hand into fairly small crumbles. Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add 3 TBSP hong you. Once the oil shimmers, add the crumbled tofu. Continue to stir and break up the tofu with a metal spatula until it is lightly browned and a bit crisped--but not totally fried! Remove from heat and transfer tofu to a plate. Now, take a food processor and pulse the mushrooms until the pieces are no larger than about 1/4" -- about 8 good pulses. Put the frying pan from the tofu right back on that medium-high burner and add the other 3 TBSP hong you. Then add the mushrooms. Saute until they turn a deeper brown, shrink down to about half of their original volume, and break down into a semi-paste. Then add the 3 TBSP scallions, garlic, and ginger. Saute another 1-2 minutes. Now incorporate the soy and fish sauce combination you made at the beginning of this step, as well as the tofu that you've set aside. Stir just until everything has been incorporated and remove from heat.

Now dish up by laying a bed of noodles in the bottom of the bowl. Add bean sprouts, tofu/mushroom pork, and ladle broth over the top. Garnish with a pinch of Schezuan peppercorn powder and as much red chili flakes or the red chilies from the bottom of your hong you as you can handle!! EAT!