Dandan noodles have a cult following worldwide, and it’s easy to see why. These lush, spicy, meaty noodles, which originated as street food in China’s Sichuan province, combine a mouth-dizzying array of flavors. Chef Cory Bahr at Parish Restaurant in Monroe, La., is the source for this field-inspired variation, in which ground venison is dressed in a sweet-hot-sour-salty sauce before meeting a mouth-numbing chili oil. Bahr likes his noodles spicy—he’s a Louisianan, after all—but if you want to play it safe, use ¼ cup of the chili oil in step four. This is a great use for meat from an older deer, due to the riot of seasonings. Use any leftover chili oil as you would hot sauce. Added to eggs, it’ll wake you quicker than even the blackest coffee.
Ingredients, Serves 4 to 6
- 1 lb. ground venison
- 2 Tbsp. Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 star anise pods
- 1-inch-long cinnamon stick
- 1 cup, plus 2 Tbsp., canola oil
- 1⁄4 cup crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 tsp. hoisin sauce
- 1 Tbsp. mirin
- 1 tsp. black vinegar (or substitute balsamic vinegar)
- 2 tsp., plus 6 Tbsp., soy sauce
- 1 tsp., plus 1⁄2 tsp., Chinese five-spice powder
- About 20 oz. udon noodles
- 2 heads bok choy, thinly sliced
- 1⁄4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 4 tsp. sugar
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1⁄2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped
- 1⁄2 cup chopped green onions
- 1⁄4 cup oyster sauce
- Kosher salt and
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Make the chili oil: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon, and 1 cup of canola oil. When it starts to bubble just a bit, reduce the heat to low and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until fragrant. The peppercorns will darken, but remove the pot from heat if they start to blacken. Place the crushed pepper flakes and a pinch of salt in a heatproof bowl, and using a metal strainer, strain the oil onto them. (Discard the peppercorns, cinnamon, and anise.) Let steep for at least 15 minutes before using.
- In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the venison and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned and cooked through. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the hoisin, mirin, vinegar, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon of five-spice powder. Simmer for about a minute, just until the liquid becomes saucy.
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to the package directions, adding the bok choy for the last 3 minutes. Reserve 1⁄2 cup of the water, then drain the noodles and bok choy in a colander. Cover the colander with a clean towel or foil to keep warm.
- Make the sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the peanut butter, sugar, remaining soy sauce, remaining five-spice powder, garlic, and 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup of the chili oil, depending on your spice preference. Whisk in the reserved water from cooking the noodles and cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, or until simmering.
- To serve, reheat the venison mixture over medium heat, then add the sauce, stirring to combine. Turn off the heat and add the noodles and bok choy, gently combining them. Add salt and pepper to taste. Divide the noodles into bowls and garnish with the chopped peanuts, green onions, and drizzles of oyster sauce. Pass any remaining chili oil for those who prefer it even spicier.