(Dan Dan Noodles (dan dan mien) is a fast and versatile Sichuan style hawker/street food dish. Traditionally egg noodles are served in a nutty, spicy, smoky sauce with crispy pork, and other condiments such as peanut flakes, and green onions. However, if you are like me, living in rural N. America, without a Chinatown in sight, you can substitute a number of ingredients, as well as to suit your dietary needs. The flavour profile should be spicy, sour, slightly sweet, and smoky.
The recipe and instructions seem a task too daunting. Believe me, it is an easy recipe, even if it is long. However, each step is more or less a minute to execute. In fact, I was having a lazy Sunday afternoon, still in my pyjamas, when I decided to make it; and without notice, decide to videotape the making of this recipe. I also decided this was an article for gluten-free dan dan noodles, only because at the last minute, I realized I was out of egg noodles. Necessity is the mother of invention.
The step by step how-to video at the end of the article will guide you through the process. Ingredients substitutes are also listed below, and although not authentic, will make a delicious dan dan noodle dish nonetheless.
The Secret is Indeed in the Sauce.
The star of this dish is the sauce. Commonly, the main ingredients for the sauce are Chinese sesame paste, chilli oil, Chinkiang black vinegar and Sichuan peppercorns. You can find these ingredients in a Chinese grocer, some supermarkets or online.
Dried Sichuan peppercorn is not a true pepper but the dried seed/husk pod of the prickly ash tree. It does not have any heat but a numbing (mala) effect on the taste buds. The red variety is easier to locate in N. America and is slightly different is taste to its green counterpart. The red Sichuan peppercorn is warmer and more woodsy while the green is more citrusy. You could substitute African, Tellicherry, black or white peppercorn, but bear in mind, you will not have the numbing effect.
Chinese Sesame Paste:
Made from roasted sesame seeds, the paste is thick and brown with a distinctive nutty aroma.
Tahini is not a good substitute for Chinese sesame paste. It does not have the distinctive nutty and toasty depth. Chinese sesame paste is made from toasted unhulled sesame seeds whereas Tahini is made with toasted ground sesame seeds. Smooth peanut butter is a better substitute for taste. In any case, you could use Tahini, Peanut, Almond or other nut butter of 4 part paste to 1 part addition of Asian sesame oil.
Chinkiang or Zhenjiang Black Vinegar
Chinkiang or Zhenjiang black vinegar is a dark and complex flavour vinegar made of sweet glutinous rice.
Although there is no great substitution, these are acceptable:
Date vinegar, Balsamic vinegar, Red Rice vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar. Although Chinkiang Black vinegar isn’t sweet, you could add a touch of brown sugar, coconut sugar, or molasses to it to give it the depth similar to the Chinkiang Black vinegar.
Chilli Oil is easy to make if you prepare it a day ahead of time. There are many recipes online, or you can purchase chilli oil or sauce. My favourite brand is Lao Gan Ma or Old Godmother Chilli Sauce.
Traditionally, Dan Dan Noodle dish is topped with crispy fried ground meat which had been marinated. Instead of the crispy ground or finely minced pork topping commonly used, you can use ground lamb, beef or even TVP (textured vegetable protein), mushrooms and other vegetarian options
Suimi Ya Cai Sichuan Preserved Mustard Greens
Ya Cai, a Sichuanese specialty, is a fermented/pickled or preserved vegetable. Ya Can are the sprouts of mustard greens. The sprouts are first air dried. Next, they are fermented in a salt brine, then boiled in brown sugar and fermented once again in spices. This provides a fragrant, taste and texture that is sweet, crispy and fresh. Yibin, in southeast Sichuan is famous for this delicacy. Look for the Sichuan Yibin brand, with crushed rice (Sui Mi). You can substitute any other Asian pickle such as Tianjin preserved mustard green, kimchi or sauerkraut.
Wide Rice noodles are a great substitute for the traditional egg noodles. You can also substitute soba, acorn noodles, bean thread noodles, buckwheat vermicelli, harusame, kelp noodles, shirataki, sweet potato vermicelli, tapioca noodles, etc.
I am using dried wide rice noodles here but you can use fresh wide rice noodles, and of course, the traditional egg noodles.
15ml or 1 TB Sichuan peppercorns
30ml or 2 TB Light soy sauce (tamari if gluten-free)
10 – 15ml or 2 tsp – 1 TB sugar
15ml or 1 TB Chinkiang black vinegar
30ml or 2 TB Chinese sesame paste
30 – 60ml or 2 TB- ¼ cup chilli oil
454 grams or 1 lb of ground or minced pork
5ml or 1 tsp salt
5ml or 1 tsp sugar
15ml - 1 TB cornstarch
5ml or 1 tsp light soy sauce (tamari if gluten-free)
15ml or 1 TB Shaoxing rice wine
15ml or 1 TB sesame oil
1-4 dried Chillies
60ml or ¼ cup Chinese preserved mustard greens, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumbnail size ginger, minced
15ml or 1 tbsp light soy sauce (tamari if gluten-free)
15ml or 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
60grams or 2 oz or ½ cup Raw Peanuts
2 Green Onions
30ml or 2 TB cooking oil
454g or 1 lb dried wide flat rice noodles
2 litres or 8 cups water
Dan Dan Sauce
This recipe serves 6 hearty portions which makes it a very economical meal.
This is a quick and easy decadent chocolate cake recipe using only sourdough starter discard, with no extra flour added. It is extremely versatile, with simple ingredients a baker would have handy such as sourdough starter discard, butter, chocolate, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, and cocoa power. You can dress it up with a creamy chocolate glaze, hard ganache, whipped cream, simply dust with icing sugar, or serve plain.
This cake isn’t a very sweet cake, and perfect for chocolate lovers. If you want it sweeter, increase the sugar. If you prefer it to be less rich, decrease the chocolate and/or cocoa to your liking.
It is also versatile in the amount of sourdough discard you need from 1/4 cup to 2 cups. If you use 1/2 cup of the sourdough discard, it would be a truffle-like cake. If you use up to 2 cups of the sourdough discard, it will be a lighter cake. The adaptability is endless.
*Measurements are provide for volume, as well as in imperial and metric weights. Bear in mind a cup of sugar does not weigh the same as a cup of butter. Moreover, a U.S. cup (8.45 imperial fluid ounces) is not equivalent to a Canadian cup (8 imperial fluid ounces), Australian cup (8.80 imperial fluid ounces), Japanese cup (7.o4 imperial fluid ounces), or U.K. cup (10 imperial fluid ounces), etc.
1 c (6 oz) 170g 6 semisweet chocolate squares or 1 cup chocolate chips
½ c (4 oz) 115g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
½ c (4 oz) 100g sugar, separated in half
½ tsp 0.5ml salt
½ tsp 0.5ml baking soda
1 tsp 1ml vanilla or 1 vanilla bean
6 large eggs, separated
¼ c (1 oz) 25g cocoa powder, sifted
½ - 2 c (4-16 oz) 100-400g sourdough starter discard at 100% hydration (room temperature) *Note: the volume of your starter varies depending on when it was fed and how active it is.
½ cream of tartar (optional)
2 tsp 10ml icing
Sprinkle icing sugar through a sift on top of cake after the cake has cooled down.
Chocolate Ganache (Hard):
4 oz (bittersweet chocolate
½ c (4 fluid oz) 120ml heavy cream
Heat cream to simmer. Turn off heat. Add chocolate. Whisk until smooth.
1 c 6 oz (150g) chocolate chips
1 TB 15ml unsalted butter
½ c (4 fluid oz) 120ml heavy cream
Heat cream. Add butter till melted. Add chocolate chips. Stir till smooth. Let sit 5-10 minutes till lukewarm. Pour over cake. If you don’t have cream, you can use milk, but use less milk to right consistency. Bear in mind that the glaze will be much thicker when cooled down.
Sweet Red Bean Porridge
Call this dessert or snack what you like --- Sweet Red Bean Pudding, Porridge, or Soup. I call it deliciously easy and healthy! Sweet red bean porridge is a classic Chinese banquet dessert. The only necessary fundamental requirements are the red beans (also known by its Japanese name, adzuki beans, in the western hemisphere), rock sugar, and dried tangerine peel. It is so versatile, you can embellish it accordingly to region or country with highlights such as mochi, black or white glutinous rice, lotus seeds, tapioca, red dates, dried longan, sago, ginkgo nuts, white fungus, lily bulbs, coconut milk, pandan leaves, etc.
Sweet Red Bean Porridge is Part of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Rich in fibre, protein and manganese, red beans are said to reduce fluid retention, alleviate oedema, promote diuresis, eliminate skin heat and toxins, and help with weight loss. It is known to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. It also helps to reduce high cholesterol and heart disease. They are also loaded with numerous disease-fighting and health promoting antioxidants, making them amongst the highest antioxidant foods available.
Dried Tangerine/Mandarin Peel is a warming ingredient, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, stimulating qi movement and thus, great for winter consumption. It transforms phlegm by enhancing the functions of the lung and spleen channels. It helps with indigestion and coughs; reduces nausea; stimulates circulation, and treats diarrhea. Tea made from dried tangerine peels is also said to help with morning sickness in pregnancy. Tangerine peel contains volatile oils including tangeridin, citromitin, carotene, inositol, vitamin B1, and vitamin C.
The addition of other ingredients such as lotus seeds, white fungus, lily bulbs, etc help to promote good health and alleviate certain health issues.
Did you know red bean is a mung bean? Also known by its Japanese name, Adzuki beans, in the western hemisphere red beans are the most familiar, but there are also white, black, grey and variously mottled varieties cultivated in Northeast Asia. The taste of the red bean, unlike other beans, is mildly sweet. Therefore, it is widely used for desserts in Asia. The bean can be popped like popcorn, and roasted as a coffee substitute.
Dried Tangerine/Mandarin Peel
Known as Chen pi or Chim pi (literally “preserved peel”), they are organic, sun-dried and aged. It has a woodsy citrus scent and flavour. The longer it ages, the higher the quality. It is also known as “ju pi” or mandarin orange peel. Chen Pi is the highly valued skin of the Xinhui Mandarin, grown in Guangdong province. The fruit is sour, and the core value is in the skin itself. They are strictly harvested just for the peel.
You can substitute fresh or dried orange zest or dry your own tangerine peel, although the taste will be not quite the same. Chen pi has unmistaken sharp and bitter notes. Nevertheless, fresh orange peel or zest gives it a refreshing taste. The pith or white part of citrus fruits can be bitter. Avoid using it if you do not want to risk bitterness.
Chinese rock sugar, also known as Crystal sugar, has a fuller, clear, neutral taste, and less sweet than white granulated sugar, organic or otherwise. Because of its subtle notes, it does not overpower the flavour of your drink or dish, and actually enhances the flavour of the ingredients. It gives a mellow, delicate flavour that regular white sugar cannot achieve, although it is a crystallised refined cane sugar. It is an opaque, white or amber coloured sugar, and comes in irregular-shaped lumps of various sizes, hence the name rock sugar. Kwangtung Province in China is known for rock sugar. You can use any sugar or sweetener as a substitution. I recommend organic cane sugar, or Indian misri, if you can’t find Chinese rock sugar.
Sago balls are tiny white pearls that look similar to tapioca pearls. While tapioca is made from the tuber of the cassava plant, sago is the starch extracted from the pith of sago palm trees. Both are white little dried spheres, and translucent when cooked. Tapioca balls are known as boba (transliteration: bubbles), or pearls in bubble tea.
Sweet Red Bean Porridge Recipe
1 ½ cups or 300 grams red beans – soaked for 3 hours or overnight
4-6 cups or 1-1.5 litres of water
1 piece dried tangerine peel – (soaked for 15-30 minutes if you are going to scrap off the pith)
½ cup or 115 grams of rock sugar or sugar of your choice
3 tablespoon or 45ml sago or tapioca (optional)
Soak the red beans for 3 hours or overnight.
Optional: Soak Mandarin peel for 15-30 minutes in room temperature water if you are going to remove the pith.
Discard the soaking bean water, rinse and drain. Do not use the soaking water to cook your beans. You could save the discarded water to feed your nitrogen loving houseplants. Check for bad beans and stones while rinsing the beans.
Place the red beans in a medium large pot and cover it with 4-6 cups of water, about 1-2 inches above the top of the bean level. I use my finger to measure it to one knuckle (one inch) for thicker consistency and 2 knuckle worth for a thinner consistency. I usually start with 4 cups (one knuckle full, depending on the width of your pot) and add more as needed. Cover and bring to a boil on medium-high. Turn heat down to medium-low as soon as it starts to boil.
Optional: scrape off the tangerine pith from the peel with a spoon or knife. Add tangerine peel to pot. Cover, lower heat to medium and cook till beans are done. This could take anywhere from one hour to 3 hours depending on how long you soaked your beans. Check and stir periodically to see if it needs more water. I use a Chinese clay sandpot which is virtually non-stick. When using a stainless steel pot, you may want to stir it occasionally.
Test the doneness of the bean by squishing it between your fingers or against a spoon. If the beans are soft, add the rock sugar or alternative sugar, along with the tapioca (optional). If you add the sugar before the beans are fully cooked, the beans will not soften. Stir the sugar and tapioca in. Cover and let simmer for another 15-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check to see if the sugar has dissolved, and the tapioca is cooked. Tapioca is cooked when translucent. Larger tapioca balls take longer to cook. Novices may find the smaller tapioca balls easier to work with. Once the sugar has dissolved and the tapioca is fully cooked and translucent, turn the heat off and let sit for another 15-30 minutes.
Remove Tangerine Peel and discard.
Serve hot, room temperature or cold. You can zest some fresh orange peel on top to give it a refreshing taste or serve as is. It can be consumed as a dessert, a midday snack or as a breakfast porridge.
This dessert is moderately sweet. Please adjust the sweetness according to your liking.
The difference between calling it a pudding, porridge or soup is its consistency.
If you are using sago/tapioca, it will thicken your sweet red bean porridge.
To thicken without using tapioca, you can either reduce the water content, mash some of the beans up, or add a cornstarch or tapioca starch slurry by mixing 1 tablespoon of corn or tapioca starch to ¼ cup of cold water and slowly add to the simmering red bean porridge, stirring consistently until thickened. That should take about a minute.
To thin the sweet red bean porridge, you can either add water or coconut milk to desired consistency.
Sweet Red Bean Popsicles
You can make popsicles out of them by blending thick sweet red bean porridge (leave bits of red bean for texture.) and freezing them in popsicle trays. Optional: add coconut milk to the blend for a coconut flavoured popsicle.
Gulkand is a luxurious Indo-Persian Ayurvedic caramelized rose petal preserve. The literal meaning of gulkand is – gul= rose/flower and kand=sweet.
Gulkand is made with rose petals collected at their peak of freshness, and sun cooked with sugar slowly over the course of time. Traditionally, the Damascus Rose is used for Gulkand due to its intense fragrance favoured by perfumers, and sweetened with Misri, a type of rock sugar/candy. However, any old heirloom aromatic rose and sugar will suffice. I use a double petal Rosa Rugosa from my garden, and only organic sugars.
The seasonal and time constrained nature of roses, coupled with the slow process of sun-cooking and curing method of Gulkand make it one of the most sought after delicacies. Typically made with only two ingredients, it is sublime, romantic, rich and authentic in its ‘rose experience.’
Although technically a jam, it would be inaccurate to compare it to a standard rose petal jam or confiture, however wonderfully delicious rose petal jam is. The method of making rose petal jam requires rapid boiling of a smaller percentage of rose petals to water and sugar typical in jam making. The outcome is a flavour that is subtle and flirtatious. The sun-kissed petals of Gulkand are massaged with sugar, and slowed cured in less intense heat over a long period of time, leisurely releasing a syrupy aroma, texture and taste that grabs at your heart with all its might. With a depth of concentrated fruity floral and caramelized richness, it surpasses the uni-dimensional flavour of rose petal jam/confiture, although the jam/confiture still have its rightful place at the table.
Gulkand’s aromatics make a delicate accompaniment to your meals, or as an ingredient in sweets, raita, lassi, salad dressings, yogurt or milkshakes.
In Ayurvedic medicine, Gulkand is known for its cooling and calming properties. In addition to this, it has a plethora of other wonderful benefits for your health and happiness.
The Health Benefits of Gulkand:
1. It is a body coolant and eases pitta dosha, according to Ayurvedic medicine.
Gulkand soothes excess pitta in the body, which causes heat, and thus keeps the body cool. It also relieves heat-related symptoms such as lethargy, rashes, aches and pain.
During the summer heat wave, consuming a teaspoon or two of gulkand can help you prevent various heat conditions such as migraines, sunstroke and helps control nose bleeding.
Note: Ayurvedic medicine is an Indian practice, and one of the oldest system of medicine in the world. It combines the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). A dosa is one of 3 substances that are present in a person's body. The theory is that good health exists when there is a balance between the 3 fundamental bodily bio-elements, or dosa, named Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
2. It’s good for the skin
Gulkand is a great blood purifier, and helps to remove toxins from the body. This can give you clear and glowing complexion and healthy skin, and also helps to prevent skin diseases like boils, blisters, acne, eczema, etc.
3. It is an excellent digestive tonic
Gulkand helps to improve appetite, and corrects digestive problems. Consuming 1 - 2 teaspoons of gulkand will help to reduce acidity and stomach heat. It also helps in treating ulcers and prevents swelling in the intestine. It is good for all those individuals who have water retention problems, as it helps in increasing your urine output.
4. It has a calming effect
As an adaptogen, it has a calming effect on the nervous system, thus helping us to reduce stress. It is also uplifting and rejuvenates when one is fatigued with its powerful antioxidant properties.
5. It is a love potion
Roses have always been related to love, romance and the heart. As an aphrodisiac, it acts as a fragrance by reducing body odour when the elixir is consumed regularly. As an aromatherapy, its intoxicating scent uplifts the spirit, and massages the heart.
Since it contains sugar, those with diabetes should consult their doctor before consuming Gulkand.
Do not use fresh roses from a florist. They would most certainly have been sprayed with chemicals and are not as aromatic as heirloom varieties. Please do not pick roses from roadsides if you are uncertain of herbicide spray usage and vehicle toxins.
Harvest roses in the early morning after the dew dries, and before the hot sun hits. In my garden, that would be usually around 8-10 am.
Misri is a unrefined rock sugar known for its health benefits. Misri is less sweet than processed cane sugar. Other rock sugars can be used, as well as coconut palm sugar, cane sugar, etc. If using rock sugars, bear in mind that they are not as sweet as other types of sugars.
Rose petals, washed and dried
Sugar (Misri, or any kind of rock candy/sugar, coconut/palm sugar, cane sugar)
Optional: Cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, etc to taste.
Clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid
Gaia nurtures us with Arogya (holistic health), peace, and happiness. Arogya is a Sanskrit word which means Health of the Body, Mind, and Spirit.
Delicate, and elegant, the rose is far more than an eye pleaser. The healing properties of roses are known throughout cultures; practised in Native, European, Persian, Ayurvedic, and Chinese Traditional medicine. It is consumed as food, drink, medicine and made into perfumes. It offers us physical and well as emotional healing. One whiff of rose scent would help to uplift the spirit, making a believer out of any skeptic.
It is talked about in mythology, poetry, literature, religion, folklore, art, and songs. The Indian gods, Brahma (the creator of the world) and Vishnu (the protector of the world), argued over whether the lotus was more beautiful than the rose. God Vishnu was enamoured by roses, while God Brahma supported the lotus. But Brahma had never seen a rose before and when he did he immediately recanted. As a reward Brahma created a bride for Vishnu and called her Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity — she was created from 108 large and 1008 small rose petals. In Greek mythology, when Eros wed Psyche, the daughters of Jupiter spread roses across the land – this is the mythology when love is wedded to the soul of mankind. In the case of Roman mythology, it was Cupid (Eros in Greco), son of Venus, while stopping to smell the rose, was stung by a bee. In anger, he drew his arrow and shot it right into the flower, resulting in the rose forever sprouting thorns. And last, but not least, Like Water for Chocolate, the lovesick Tita puts all her sorrow into the rose petal sauce, intended for her lover, but mistakenly eaten by her sister who became hot with desire. Can you say aphrodisiac?
According to Ayurvedic texts, it is not a coincidence that the rose is associated with romance, because it balances Sadhaka Pitta, the sub-dosha of pittat that governs the emotions and their effects on the heart. Sadhaka Pitta can go out of balance more easily in the summer months when the hot, humid weather increases Pitta dosha, the mind-body operator that governs heat, digestion, and metabolism in the body, while enhancing coordinatinon between the Sadhaka Pitta and Prana Vata, the subdosha of Vata, which governs the brain, chest, respiration, sensory perception and the mind.
Here is a simple invigorating and delicious beverage to jumpstart your day in a positive light, thanks to the exquisite scent and health benefits of roses.
1 ½ cups/350 ml yogurt or milk kefir
1 Tbsp/15ml rose syrup
7-8 or 10-12 dried rose petals (optional)
1-2 tsp/5-10ml rose water (optional)
½ tsp/2ml cardamom powder (optional)
a pinch of Himalayan salt (optional)
1-2 tsp/5-10ml chia seeds (optional)
Fruit such as raspberry, or pomegranate (optional)
Garnish: 1 tablespoon chopped dried nuts such as pistachios.
Combine and blend all ingredients, except nuts. Add milk if you wish. Garnish with nuts.
Rachel conducts gardening, culinary and fermenting workshops/retreats at her home on 100 acres in Northern Ontario, Canada, where she lives in creative harmony with nature. Rachel’s mission is to ensure the wisdom of our ancestors is preserved for future generations.
Images ©2002-2023 Rachel Thoo