Paleo Dan Dan Noodles

From Melissa Joulwan, Author of Well Fed Weeknights

Dan Dan Noodles are one of the most popular street foods in Sichuan (a.k.a. Szechuan) province of southwestern China. The cuisine of the region is known for its bold flavors, with lots of garlic, chiles, and Sichuan pepper. The name “dan dan” refers to the pole that noodle vendors used to sell their wares. It was carried across their shoulders, a basket of noodles on one end and the spicy sauce on the other. Traditionally, the noodles swim in a face-tingling broth and are topped with minced pork and preserved vegetables. This fast, paleo version uses zucchini noodles for slurping, cornichons for an acidic tang, and a separate chili oil so you can customize the heat.

Ingredients:

Noodles:

2 pounds zucchini

2 teaspoons salt

Chili oil:

1/2 cup light-tasting (not extra-virgin) olive or avocado oil

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1/2-inch piece of cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes

Pork:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2-inch piece fresh ginger

1 jalapeño

3 cloves garlic

1 1/2 pounds ground pork

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sauce:

2 tablespoons tahini or almond butter

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup coconut aminos

2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

pinch coconut sugar

1/3 cup cornichons

Garnish:

A handful of cashews

2–3 scallions

Directions:

Make the noodles. Julienne the zucchini with the spiralizer. Place the noodles in a colander and toss them with the salt until the strands are lightly coated. Set the colander in the sink to drain while you prep the other ingredients.

Make the chili oil. In a small saucepan, combine the oil, peppercorns, cinnamon, and red pepper flakes. Warm the oil over medium-low heat while you cook.

Cook the pork. Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, 2 minutes. While the oil heats, peel and grate the ginger, mince the jalapeño, and peel and crush the garlic. Add the aromatics to the oil and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Crumble the pork into the pan, season with the salt and pepper, and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until it’s browned, 7–10 minutes.

Make the sauce. While the pork cooks, place the tahini, sesame oil, Chinese five-spice, and black pepper in a small bowl and mix with a fork. Add the coconut aminos, vinegar, and sugar; stir until combined. Chop the cornichons and set them aside.

Put it together. Add the sauce to the meat in the skillet and stir to coat the meat. Add the cornichons to the skillet, toss to combine, and transfer the meat mixture to a large bowl. Reheat the skillet over medium-high heat. Rinse the zucchini noodles under running water, drain well, and squeeze them dry in a clean dish towel. Add the noodles to the heated pan and stir-fry for 2–3 minutes until hot. Return the meat to the pan and toss with two wooden spoons to combine; allow it to heat through. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cinnamon stick from the chili oil and discard it. Set the oil aside to cool. Chop the cashews and scallions.

To serve, divide the noodles among individual bowls and top with a drizzle of chili oil, then sprinkle with cashews and scallions.

Want to order in instead? Here’s where to get Chinese foods delivered from in NYC and Los Angeles. Try making these dumplings from Mimi Cheng’s.