Dan dan noodles
A few years ago I became a dan dan noodle addict. We were eating dan dan noodles a few times a week at some point, all year round! I’ve made several recipes based on this iconic Sichuan noodle dish. One with ingredients available in an average super market, another with ingredients I was hunting down for months 😀 I love dan dan noodles soupy and more dry, vegan and with meat, with traditional ingredients and with more of a fusion twist. There is just something so special about the overall flavor combination! Toasty nutty numbingly spicy sauce, bouncy noodles and that spicy savory crumb… Heavenly.
And would you believe it – this combo is equally delicious with shredded cabbage playing the part of noodles!
“Dan Dan slaw”
After a few years of intensive noodle slurping, I had to have a bit of a pause. It ended when after a few months of a “dry” season, I suddenly had a huge urge to eat that delicious sauce again… but, I had zero noodles around. Instead, I had a head of young cabbage! I whipped up a batch of the sauce & fried some plant based mince for the topping and used thinly shredded cabbage instead of the noodles. OMG. The most addictive cabbage salad was born!
When the shredded new cabbage is rubbed with the delicious sauce, it softens quickly and becomes almost silky. I kid you not, prepared like this I can literally eat almost a head of cabbage in one go… Add some spicy fried protein and peanuts on top, and “dan dan slaw” is a tasty meal in itself! No carbs needed. (Don’t get me wrong, I do love my noodles too!)
Cabbage slaw in the style of dan dan noodles
I often make a double batch of the sauce and the spicy mixture, this way a batch of delicious dan dan slaw is ready in 5 minutes. Just mix the cabbage with the sauce and heat the protein mixture. Chop up some scallion greens on top, or if it’s foraging season, run to the nearest forest (that’s 5 meters from the door for me) and pick some garlic mustard on top!
If you are as big of a dan dan noodle fan as I am, you likely already have your own recipe for this tasty Sichuan dish. But if not, below you’ll find how I most often make this dish. I like to make my sauce rather nutty with plenty of either peanut butter or Chinese sesame paste or both. But I can imagine in Sichuan the sauce would have a lot more chili oil! And if you’re craving for noodles instead of a head of cabbage, just serve the sauce & topping with noodles and some greens instead!
"Dan dan slaw" aka cabbage salad in the style of dan dan noodles
- 1 head young cabbage (about 600 g)
- 1-2 spring onions
- 1 bunch radishes (optional)
- 1-2 carrots (optional)
- 1 small cucumber (optional)
- 4 tbsp (Chinese) sesame paste (or tahini, or peanut butter, or a mix of the two)
- 2 tbsp Chinese light soy sauce
- 1-2 tsp red and/or green Sichuan peppercorns (toasted on a dry pan until fragrant then finely ground )
- 1-2 tbsp Chinese black vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
- ½ tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 clove garlic (grated)
- 1½-2 tbsp agave syrup (or maple syrup, or brown sugar...)
- 1-3 tbsp Sichuan style chili oil
- 250 g plant based protein "mince" (or a grated block of tempeh)
- 1-2 tbsp Sichuan style chili oil (or Lao Gan Ma chili crisp)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 tsp red and/or green Sichuan peppercorns (toasted on a dry pan until fragrant then finely ground )
- 1 tsp Chinese five spice
- 1½-2 tbsp Chinese light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sweetener of choice (agave syrup, maple syrup, sugar...)
- ¼ tsp toasted sesame oil
- dry roasted peanuts (to taste)
- scallion greens (to taste)
- mint / coriander / garlic mustard / thai basil (to taste)
- Mix all the ingredients of the sauce together. Loosen up with a bit of water as needed! Adjust the level of heat with the chili oil, the acidity with the black vinegar, the salinity with soy sauce and the sweetness with the syrup. Don't worry if the sauce tastes intense at this point, it's supposed to. It's going to season a whole head of cabbage after all!
- Shred the cabbage and finely mince the scallions. Put some of the greens to the side for serving. Slice the radishes, chop up the cucumber and shred the carrots if using. Mix the salad ingredients with the sauce, rubbing the cabbage with the sauce with your hands until it softens a little.
- Mince the garlic and grate a piece of the ginger. Heat up some chili oil in a frying pan and brown well the protein you're using. Add the garlic and ginger to the pan once you've gotten a good color on the protein mixture. Season the mixture with toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns, five spice, soy sauce and the sweetener of choice.
- Once the liquid is absorbed into the mixture, add in the toasted sesame oil and check the flavor. Add more chili oil / soy sauce / sweetener as needed. The mixture is meant to be a condiment, so it can be rather strong in flavor!
- Serve the dan dan slaw in bowls, topping the slaw off with a few spoonfuls of the spicy topping. Add a handful of roasted peanuts and scallion greens on top, as well as some fresh herbs of foraged greens!