Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chinese Staple Food: Noodles & Recipe for Dan Dan Noodles

Noodle Shop
Photo Credit: Grey World
Noodles, or Mian, are served throughout China, and especially eaten in the north. In the north they are made from wheat flour, and the water from boiling the noodles is drunk as a digestive. In the south, noodles are made from rice or bean flour and often come in fine threads.

Rice noodles drying outside
Photo Credit: Dennis Kruyt
Many historians believe noodles were invented in northern China (nope, not Italy), where they have been eating noodles for over 4000 years. Noodles are such an important part of the diet that in the northern province of Shanxi, there are 300 different types, each made with a different tool and action. They are most famous for their knife cut noodles, where a block of dough rests on the chefs forearm while the other hand shaves off pieces of dough, with about 200 noodles per minute flying into a pot of boiling water. 

Hand pulled noodles
Photo Credit: Matt
Hand pulled noodles take months to master, and are made by stretching  and folding the dough repeatedly. It's the dough's own weight that stretches the strands longer and thinner. You can watch noodles being hand pulled in the video below.

We made, and enjoyed, Dan Dan Noodles. The words "dan dan" refer to the method the noodles used to be carried in and sold from. The noodle vendor would carry two baskets hanging from a bamboo pole over his shoulders, one basket holding the noodles, and the other basket holding the sauce and toppings. This is a Sichuan dish and if it's authentic, it's been made with hot and numbing Sichuan peppers - an ingredient we omitted, so our whole family would enjoy them.

Dan Dan Noodles

Serves 4


  • Chinese wheat or egg noodles (enough for 4)
  • 2 cups ground pork
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil or peanut oil
  • 1 tbsp & 2 tbsp soy sauce (divided)
  • 1 tbsp & 1 tbsp dark rice wine (divided)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp tahini (sesame butter)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4 green onions for topping
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts, for topping
  • Chili oil (optional)
  • *Sichuan ground peppercorns (optional)
1.In a bowl, mix together pork, 1 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tbsp rice wine. Let marinate while preparing the meal.

2. Cook noodles according to package directions. Once cooked, drain and set aside. 

3. Finely chop garlic and ginger, and set aside. Chop green onions and set aside.

4. Heat vegetable or peanut oil in large pan. Cook ground pork for 4 minutes, stirring to separate into small pieces. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant. Add remaining soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, tahini and sugar. If using Sichuan peppercorns, add these now*. Cook, stirring for one minute, making sure tahini is well blended with meat. Add stock, and cook until it thickens, 2-3 minutes, stirring well.

5. To serve, divide noodles into four bowls, divide meat into four bowls over the noodles, and spoon broth/sauce over the meat. Top with green onions and roasted peanuts. 

* I read many recipes for this dish, and the amount of ground Sichuan peppercorns ranged from 1/2 tsp to 2 tbsp! Quite a difference in amounts. If using, I would recommend starting with a small amount, increasing to taste. 

We had the chili oil on the table, and Hubby and I added a bit to our bowls. Serve with chopsticks, and slurp those noodles!


  1. I've tried it with the peppers and it was a truly numbing experience! Good call on leaving them out!

  2. We got to see the shaving dough block thing in Guangzhou. It was pretty impressive! We ate at that noodle shop a couple times, it was very good!

    1. It would be rather impressive! I've got to say, I have a weakness for noodles of all types :)


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