Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dan Dan Noodles


A few years ago I discovered authentic hand-pulled Chinese noodles at Katy’s Dumpling House just outside of Chicago and it was easily one of my most memorable culinary experiences. The Dan Dan noodles at Katy’s are near perfection with an ideal marriage of savory broth, garlic spiced meat and ginger infused bok choy.  The real appeal of these noodles are the multidimensional flavors that build by layering the elements, providing a beautifully composed bowl for presentation.

I duplicated Katy’s version soon after we got home and was totally satisfied with the meaty results (pictured above), but the vegan version turned out to be equally delicious.  The lighter flavors of vegetable broth are an ideal complement to the sweetness of the shrimp.  Bok choy continues to play the supporting role better than any other vegetable, so it stays. When I make the meat version, I will go the extra mile and  bust out the pasta roller for homemade egg noodles, but the oriental market has many noodle options and when pressed for time any of them work well.

Here is my version without meat; to make the full meat version simply use chicken broth instead of vegetable and switch out the shrimp pound for pound with pork. The flavors in this dish are bold enough to cover most of the off-putting flavors of canned broth or bullion, but homemade stock is always preferred.  As with any Oriental dish, have all ingredients prepped and at the ready because actual cook time takes only a few minutes.


Layer 1:
 

7-8 cups Basic Vegetable Broth with Oriental flavor options
1-2 vegetable bouillon cubes (in lieu of table salt)
¼ cup oyster sauce
2-3 Tablespoons Mirin
3 Tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons rice vinegar

Combine all ingredients except vinegar and keep warm on back burner.  If the flavor seems flat, add oyster sauce instead of salt. The quality of oyster sauces varies greatly therefore more may be needed to flavor the broth than listed.  Add the rice vinegar just before serving since vinegar flavor dissipates with heat.

Bring broth nearly to the boil just before serving as it will keep all the other ingredients warm as the bowls are assembled for presentation.


Layer 2:

Approximately 1 pound noodles, cooked al dente in salted water.
Homemade linguini-like egg noodles are hands down the best and Asian markets often sell these in the refrigerated section.  Check serving sizes, this recipe makes six huge noodle bowls, so whatever noodle is substituted (and many work in this tasty broth, including vegan) just make sure to prepare enough for six substantial portions.
Divide hot cooked noodles into 6 large serving bowls and ladle enough broth over the noodles to leave only the top noodles protruding from the steaming liquid.

Alternatively, the noodles can be rinsed to cool after cooking and heated through with a quick fry in sesame oil in the wok, portioned into bowls and covered with broth.


Layer 3:

2 lbs cleaned, butterflied shrimp
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
1 Tablespoon chili garlic sauce 

Toss shrimp with garlic and chili garlic sauce.  Heat sesame oil in wok to smoking point and quickly saute shrimp just to cook through.  Remove from wok immediately and divide amongst the noodles, placing on the opposite side as the bok choy.  Any liquid left in the wok is too flavorful to waste and should be divided amongst the bowls as well. 


Layer 4:


8 cups chopped fresh bok choy (or more)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon ginger, minced
¼ cup chopped shallot
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 Tablespoons soy sauce

Add additional sesame oil to the hot wok from cooked shrimp, quickly saute garlic, ginger, and shallot 15-30 seconds.  Add the bok choy and toss with other ingredients, add soy sauce and steam 3-5 minutes until desired doneness.  Divide the bok choy equally into the six bowls to one side of the noodles. 


Layer 5:

8 spring onions, sliced thin.
Sprinkle each bowl liberally with green onion.  Serve immediately. 

Adjust chili garlic quantities based on your desired heat preference, the recipe as written here will provide only mild-moderate heat.  Hot pepper oil (available at most Oriental markets)  is usually on the table so that everyone can adjust the heat for themselves.
Makes 6 very large servings.

1 comment:

  1. Not everyone in my family likes Chinese food. So when my 14yo asked for it for his birthday, I was uncertain how to please everyone. This recipe fit the bill. It is delicious and filling. The flavor combinations are delicate and delicious. Don't let all the steps scare you off. It is very quick and easy to make...definately one we will make again.

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