The first time I ate these noodles, I was pleasantly surprised. Chinese take-out is something I grew up with. Not that we ate it often, but it would appear on our dinner table every once in a while. Most noteworthy moments were moving days and birthdays. However, Dan Dan noodles are nothing like the Chinese take-out I knew. It is far less sweet and fatty. There are no flavour enhancers, onions and garlic powder. And another advantage: it takes less time to make than cycling to the Chinese restaurant to pick up an order. About fifteen minutes to be more precise.
There are as many varieties of Dan Dan noodles as their are cooks who make it. This is just one of them. So experiment a little with the measurements. Especially the amount of water you add to the sauce. Sometimes I like it to be a little soupy, other times I prefer it more dry. And feel free to adjust the quantity of chilli oil to the amount of heat you are able to handle. In this way, this dish will never be the same. Something I like in a recipe.
- Add 3tbsp cooking oil to a seasoned wok over medium heat and swirl it around. Tip in the meat and stir-fry until it changes colour. Add 2tsp shaoxing wine, stir a few times, then add 1tsp kecap manis and stir-fry until you can smell it. Season with 1tsp soy sauce, and salt to taste, and press the meat against the wok with your scoop or ladle to encourage it to separate out into little morsels. When the mince has separated out and is fragrant but still juicy, remove from the wok and set aside.
- Bring a panful of water to a boil. Cook the noodles to your liking in the water. While they are cooking, place 2tsp light soy sauce, 1tsp chinkiang vinegar, chilli oil and salt to taste in a serving bowl. Add the noodle cooking water to the sauce just before the noodles are ready.
- When the noodles are ready, drain them in a colander. Place the noodles in the bowl, top with the pork and ya cai.* Before eating, give the noodles a good stir until the sauce and meat are evenly distributed.
* Serve in one big bowl to share, or in two separate bowls. If you wish, you can blanch a handful of leafy greens in the noodle cooking water and add to the bowl.