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exploring

Recipe: chinese dan dan noodles

I hope you all had a great weekend whether it was a Fourth of July long weekend or just a regular weekend. We watched throngs of visitors flock to Crested Butte and happily saw their numbers dwindle as the weekend wound down. I’ve noticed that when people come to the mountains they 1) like to sit in the driveway of their vacation rental (why?!) and 2) burn things. I’m okay with #1 if they’d just quit with the #2. Meanwhile, Jeremy and I have been hosting my parents and exploring more of the area both with them (restaurants) and without them (trails).


and fishing – dad loves fishing

grabbing cocktails in mount crested butte before dinner



The great thing about the mountains is that wildflowers peak at different times depending on things like elevation, slope aspect, amount of sun, moisture (both from the sky and from streams), and their species. Some spots are nearing peak bloom while others are just getting started. Regardless of their state, it is simply invigorating to get out and see it for yourself in some of the finest scenery Colorado has to offer.

mule ears

mint family

mule ears and larkspur

hiking the “oh be joyful” trail



A week before my parents arrived in Colorado, I called to ask them if they had a recipe for dan dan mien or dan dan noodles. I hadn’t ever had the dish before, but several friends raved about the noodles and asked if I had a recipe. I did not. Turns out my parents didn’t have a recipe either, but they definitely had their opinions on how the noodles should be prepared. I went to the interwebs and found what I thought would taste good. Several days after I had photographed and eaten the noodles, my parents inquired about my search and their curiosity was piqued when I said I had tried a recipe.

me: ground pork
dad: no, no ground pork
me: za tsai (preserved mustard green)
dad: (makes a face of disgust and disbelief)
me: peanuts
dad: nobody puts peanuts in dan dan mien!

When Mom told me what she puts in her version of the noodles, Dad interjected and said her recipe was also incorrect. Then they argued over what goes into the noodles. I just want you to know that even though I liked this version of dan dan mien, it is not sanctioned by either of my parents. Their recipe may be forthcoming, if they can ever agree on what goes into the noodles… For now though, you can chew on this.


the sauce: chili oil, black vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, sugar

adding black vinegar to the grated garlic, soy sauce, and sugar

whisk in the chili oil


Dan dan noodles is a Sichuan dish, and Sichuan cuisine is known for its love of spicy food. You can purchase chili oil in Asian grocery stores or you can make your own as described in the Serious Eats recipe. Once the sauce is made, assemble the other ingredients.

sauce, garlic, green onions, peanuts, preserved mustard green, sichuan peppercorns, pork, noodles

here’s the preserved mustard green brand i buy

if you can’t get fresh noodles, try dried noodles

crush the sichuan peppercorns with a mortar and pestle



I should point out a few notes on some ingredients. You can find whole Sichuan peppercorns at an Asian grocery store. Don’t substitute black peppercorns for Sichuan peppercorns because they are not the same thing, nor are they related. Sichuan peppercorns have a distinct flavor and a mild numbing effect. It’s good stuff. And fresh noodles are better than dried, but don’t get anything that is too thin or flimsy.

crushed peanuts, sliced green onions, ground pork, chopped preserved mustard green, ground sichuan peppercorn, grated garlic

sauté the pork with the mustard green

ready to make some dan dan noodles



Assemble the noodles as you like. There is no set amount of sauce or other ingredients. It’s a matter of preference, really. I like a little bit of everything and perhaps a little more of the sauce and the noodles. I’m a noodle and sauce girl. That’s how I roll.

top the noodles with some of the pork mixture

add sauce

finish with peanuts, garlic, green onions, and a sprinkling of ground sichuan peppercorns



I liked these noodles very much, but it’s hard for me to dislike something with noodles, peanuts, pork, and spicy sauce. At this point, I’m wondering what my parents’ version(s) of dan dan mien are. Until I can extract and try to reproduce their recipes, this one works for me… and you might like it too.

a bowl full of noodles and goodies

dig in!



Chinese Dan Dan Noodles
[print recipe]
from Serious Eats

12 oz. fresh Chinese noodles (I like the Shanghai style) or 6 oz. dried Chinese noodles
2 tsps vegetable oil
2 oz. ground pork
2 tbsps preserved mustard green, chopped
2 oz. roasted peanuts, crushed lightly
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 tbsps green onions (green part only), finely sliced
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, finely ground with a mortar and pestle

sauce
1/2 cup hot chili oil
3 tbsps black vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
2 cloves garlic, grated

Make the sauce: Combine all of the ingredients and set aside.

Cook the noodles according to package instructions, drain and rinse. Set aside. Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan. When the oil is hot, add the pork. Break the chunks apart into smaller pieces with a spatula. When the pork is cooked, add the chopped preserved mustard green and sauté for another 30 seconds. Set aside. Divvy up the noodles in bowls and top with desired amounts of the cooked pork, sauce, peanuts, garlic, green onions, and Sichuan peppercorn. Serves 2-4.


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25 nibbles at “exploring”

  1. Kristin says:

    I thought you said MIND numbing effect, and was a bit concerned about the peppercorns. BTW, my husband was reading over my shoulder & laughing at the exchange between your parents. It was extra special as we just left his parents’ house yesterday!

  2. laura h says:

    You have a new place in CB?

  3. TheKitchWitch says:

    I love it when your parents argue over recipes!

  4. Abby J. says:

    I had dan dan noodles for the first time at a Sichuan eatery on a recent trip to Atlanta, GA. We were the only westerners in the shop, and the shopkeeper apparently makes all his noodles fresh from scratch. The sauce was amazing, definitely had peanuts in it and was served with the noodles cold and some steamed baby bok choy.

    I have been craving dan dan noodles like nothing else ever since that trip. Thanks so much for posting a recipe so I can try them at home!!!

  5. Shirley says:

    This is a wonderful recipe, and I absolutely adore your Chinese vinegar of choice. I grew up on it in Beijing and would not have picked any other for a recipe like this. :) Thanks for sharing!

  6. Melissa says:

    I love the photos of all the wild flowers. It reminds me of childhood and our backcountry camping trips to that area. We used to camp near the Taylor River area and Tincup back in the early 90′s. We’d go to CB to stock up on provisions and enjoy a day in town. My dad would drive us to Gothic for a picnic hike. I remember one year my sister and I gathered wildflowers from the foothills and stuck them in paper dixie cups. I thought they were the most beautiful arrangements I had ever seen. Your pics brought me back. Thanks.

  7. Eileen says:

    Well, whether or not this recipe is authentic, it sounds delicious! Noodles are exactly what I want to eat all summer long. :)

  8. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    Pei Wei’s Dan Dan Noodles are to die for!

    I am going to try these and see if I can break my addiction to Pei Wei…

  9. Cookin Canuck says:

    When this recipe popped up on Facebook, I clicked right over. This is exactly the sort of dish I could happily eat every day. I love that your parents are so passionate in their views about the proper way to make Dan Dan Noodles.

  10. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    Love Dan Dan noodles and what a great version. Check out my Dan Dan sliders. That will really throw them!

  11. Annie Slocum says:

    Just got back from a week in CB and have never seen wildflowers like this! We returned after a week on Cottonwood Pass, my favorite, and the change in one week was amazing. The year of the bloom!! Can’t wait to make this recipe!!

  12. selina says:

    I just drooled on myself. While reading this at the gym. xo

  13. Pomme says:

    I love it !!! i must try this recipe as soon as possible. i just have to find the mustard green…

  14. jill says:

    I love how your dad has 2 rods to fish! A true fisherman!!! You never know what’ll be working, so be prepared.

    *!!! Larkspur, that’s the flower I have been trying to remember. Love that combo.

    Oh and the noodles sound delightful!

  15. Cyndi says:

    Have never had dan dan noodles with any type of greens. Love the ones we get at local Chinese restaurants & make my own admittedly unauthentic ones from a recipe on Cooking Light. The vinegar sounds interesting & I will have to try your recipe although likely without the greens.

  16. Sophie says:

    Oh this is totally going on my table this week! Thanks for a great recipe — authentic or not, sounds so delicious, I’m heading to the Asian market today! I recently tried dan dan mien for the first time at a local Sichuan restaurant…. it was such a spicy dish that my eyes swelled slightly, my whole face burned and I had to repeatedly ask our server to bring more napkins for blowing my nose. I loved it. Delicious! Their version also had pork and peanuts.

    So my question to you is about Sichuan peppercorns. I recently bought some and made some noodles, and there was the most unpleasent grit at the bottom of the bowl from the peppercorns (I crushed them first in my mortar and pestle). Is this what I am to expect from cooking with these? Or did I buy poor quality with maybe some leftover dirt or sand mixed in?

  17. Amanda W. says:

    I love dan dan noodles, alas, my husband is a vegetarian. Do you think I could sub crumbled tofu? We have the sichuan peppercorns and could easily get the pickled mustard greens at our local H-Mart.

  18. cherie says:

    your first issue with out of towners made me smile – I live on a crowded island – the beaches are the best part. It never ceases to amaze me that people drive to the beach, pay to park [necessary] and then unload their beach chair and SIT IN THE PARKING LOT! Because of the dunes you can’t even see the ocean from there usually. Crazy.

    That said – this dish has been much talked about lately and is high on my to try list – thanks for the input from your parents LOL! Sadly out of both chili oil and chinese noodles – so it must wait for a trip to the asian market [which I am so grateful for!]but I like the looks of your recipe – going to try it – thanks!

  19. foodfashionandflow says:

    Great photos! Love the one of your dad fishing. Your family debate on what goes in Dan Dan noodles made me smile. My mother often challenges me on what she thinks is supposed to go in a traditional southern recipe, so I can relate to you on your debate on traditional Sichuan ingredients. I had Dan Dan noodles for the first time at PF Changs and then had them at a more authentic restaurant and they are definitely a favorite of mine. Looking forward to making them at home with this recipe.

  20. anh says:

    I’ve always wondered about how to make these noodles, but haven’t gotten around to trying some of the recipes I have collected. What’s missing here, which I have seen in multiple recipes, is the inclusion of sesame paste. That may be why your dad objected so much to the inclusion of peanuts in this recipe ^_^.

  21. Tiff says:

    Your parents ordered some fancy lookin’ cocktails! This recipe looks amazing. I’ll have to bookmark this to try one day, but without the pork. Perhaps a tofu substitute of some sorts. Mmmm. The pictures are stunning as per usual!

  22. Lulu says:

    My parents, grandparents, Chinese neighbors (i can hear them) they all argue about food and the way its prepared. My grandfather doesnt even cook and yet he has an opinion about every dish. I wonder if my grandma ever gets irritated. I enjoy their banter though (that often lead to louder arguments).

  23. Stephus @ stephsapartmentkitchen says:

    My grandfather is from Sichuan and makes the best dan dans! Every time my partner and I go out to a “Sichuan” restaurant, we must order the fu qi fei pian and the dan dan noodles to judge their true authenticity!

    I love that you posted this recipe and yes – we always use peanuts!

  24. Alex says:

    I always felt one with the mountains whenever I go for hikes. I don’t know why, but they have that recuperative effect on me. And yes, just seeing the wildflowers is also something I consider worthwhile. I love your recipe by the way, and I’m going to try to make it for my asian food weekend. Thank you for sharing.

  25. jenyu says:

    Kristin – funny how much all of our parents have in common :)

    laura – yes

    TKW – I know, right?!

    Abby – I hope you enjoyed them!

    Shirley – :)

    Melissa – sounds like a wonderful way to spend your summer!

    Eileen – me too!

    Rocky Mountain Woman – I’ve never had them before, so can’t vouch for how similar the recipes are. You’ll have to let me know!

    Cookin Canuck – ha ha! Love you, Dara!! xo

    Abbe – they definitely won’t go for sliders… they can’t even agree on their own recipes ;)

    Annie – the bloom is definitely better than last year (which was non-existent) but, it’s generally quite good like this every July!

    selina – ha!!

    Pomme – you should be able to source it from any local Asian grocery store.

    jill – so true :) Does Dr. H also fish with multiple rods? Hey – at least he doesn’t bring as many as he does when he salt water fishes!

    Cyndi – the greens really make it because they are very salty and spiced (it’s authentic – my parents checked with some friends from Sichuan).

    Sophie – I think so. I can’t say I know for sure, but they were extra crunchy and gritty (and I thought I had ground them pretty well). Maybe grind them and then sift? I dunno… I don’t think it’s an issue of peppercorn quality – that’s the peppercorn shell.

    Amanda – of course!! Hope it works out :)

    cherie – ha ha ha, that is great – and sad. Look at what suburban living has done to the people of this nation! ;)

    foodfashionandflow – this makes me think I should start ordering dan dan mien at various restaurants when I travel. They’re so good!

    anh – No, my dad objected to the inclusion of peanuts because he doesn’t know what actually goes into dan dan mien. He spoke with a friend from Sichuan and said that peanuts are used or sometimes sesame paste. Either one is fine.

    Tiff – yes, you can certainly sub chicken or turkey or even tofu for the pork.

    Lulu – that is hilarious about your grandfather!! ;) Hopefully the food is good no matter what they are arguing about!

    Stephus – :) Thanks!!

    Alex – thank you!

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