Peanut or Dan Dan noodles are a staple at Sichuan Chinese restaurants. You can make them easily and less expensively at home. If your pantry contains a few Asian condiments, noodles and peanut butter, you’re in business. The recipe is easily doubled for a crowd and it keeps well for eating over a couple of weekdays when you don’t have time to make complicated meals. Hint – the condiments are typically cheaper at Asian markets than at big grocery stores and often have more brands and sizes to choose from.
My recipe is a melting pot version – Japanese buckwheat noodles or Italian spaghetti work fine instead of Chinese noodles and good ole American peanut butter is the base for the sauce. The end result can be as spicy as you like and you can add veggies or shredded chicken. Any way you like them, peanut noodles are a simple side dish that you can make in a hurry and eat right away.
Peanut (Dan Dan) noodles – 4 servings Total cost – $2 for 4 servings ($.50 per serving)
- 8 oz. noodles – I prefer thin spaghetti. Other types of thin noodles work, as do Japanese buckwheat noodles (soba).
- ¼ cup peanut butter, preferably smooth
- 1 teabag of black tea or enough black tea to make about ¼ cup – Use it to make 5 tablespoons of brewed black tea. (Look for tea labeled as black or use standard types such as Lipton’s or Tetley. Don’t use tea that has a strong flavor, such as Earl Grey or an herbal tea.)
- 4 ½ teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon chili oil (or more to taste). Chili oil is also called pepper sa té oil. It is light red and transparent, often sold in a bottle with a pouring tip such as the green one pictured above.
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil. Sesame oil is sold in light and dark versions. I use dark for this recipe.
- 2 teaspoons wine vinegar (not balsamic)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves (approximately 1 teaspoon)
- Large bowl
- Small bowl
- Large fork
- Large spoon
- Measuring spoons
- ¼ cup measuring cup
- Garlic press
- Chopping board
- Boil water in the pot. When it comes to a rolling boil, take out 5 tablespoons to brew tea – or brew a cup of tea and take out 5 tablespoons. Cook the noodles in the rest of the water according to instructions on the noodle package. When the noodles are done, drain them in cold water to quickly bring their temperature down. (If they remain in the hot water they were cooked in or are not rinsed enough, they will continue to cook.) Leave them in the pot in a bit of cold water until the sauce is ready.
- Put the 5 tablespoons of brewed tea into the small bowl.
- Add the peanut butter and mix thoroughly to a soup-like consistency.
- Press the garlic clove(s) into the peanut butter and tea mixture.
- Add the soy sauce, chili oil, sesame oil, vinegar and sugar.
Mix the sauce until all the ingredients are well combined.
- If you are serving the noodles immediately, drain out the water as you move the noodles to the large bowl. Add in all the sauce, toss, and serve. If you plan to serve the noodles later, they refrigerate well for a day or even longer (drained), but they absorb the sauce. In that event, mix in about ⅔ of the sauce before refrigerating the noodles. Save the reserved ⅓ of the sauce for tossing into the noodles when you serve them. The noodles should be served at room temperature INMHO, though some like them colder. I provide hot chili oil at the table for those who prefer a spicier taste.
Many vegetables go well on the side or tossed into the noodles. I like matchstick-shaped pieces of carrots, celery, red or green pepper, and cucumber. Shredded chicken is also a great addition. You can add extra chopped peanuts on top of the noodles when you serve them too. Steamed, boiled, microwaved or stir fried, green beans are a great accompaniment too. Last night when I made the noodles, I got lazy and mixed them into a last minute stir-fry of zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, red pepper, and a few string beans – a tasty and quick dinner.