FEATURED RECIPE

Chicken Dan Dan Noodles

Chicken Dan Dan Noodles
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Aubrie Pick

Dan dan noodles are actually a Chinese dish, but they’re a mainstay of the Ivan Ramen menu. I’m kind of obsessed with them. I love how dynamic the flavor is—a constant push and pull between fat and acid, sweet and salty, spicy heat and numbing Sichuan peppercorns. The dish has endless variations. It can be soupy or dry, rich with peanut butter or sesame paste, spicy or mild; made with pork or chicken; and often bursting with the tartness of pickled mustard greens. We’ve done many versions of dan dan at the restaurants over the years, but this is the one I keep coming back to.

I’ve filed this recipe as an Otaku dish, partly because it’s a product of my own personal fixation, but also because it takes a bit more work than most other recipes in the book. Nothing fancy or complicated, but some careful shopping and slow cooking are required. You use a whole chicken to make the broth. (There will be too much broth, but there’s no way to make a smaller batch. Plus, it’s chicken broth—I’m sure you’ll find a way to use it.) You’re going to need to find shiro shoyu (white soy sauce) at an Asian market or online. You also need to find brown rice vinegar, most likely at a boutique grocery store. And you’re going to need to locate fresh noodles that you like, whether that means ramen, Chinese soup noodles, or Italian pasta.

The recipe is divided into three parts: the broth, the tare (seasoning sauce), and the chicken topping. You can make the first two components in advance, then warm up the soup once you’re ready to serve the noodles.

INGREDIENTS

BROTH

  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), preferably with head and feet still attached
  • 2 pounds chicken feet or 3 pounds chicken backs

TARE (SEASONING SAUCE)

  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons chicken fat, reserved from the broth (or vegetable oil)
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced scallions
  • ÂĽ cup white soy sauce (shiro shoyu; see headnote)
  • 2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar (see headnote; use regular rice vinegar in a pinch)
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

CHICKEN TOPPING

  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons chicken fat, reserved from the broth (or vegetable oil)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped scallion whites
  • 1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ÂĽ cup sesame seeds
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

FOR SERVING

  • 1 pound fresh ramen noodles or any thick fresh noodle you like
  • Chopped scallions

Directions

  1. FOR THE BROTH: Place the whole chicken in a large stockpot. Add the chicken feet or backs and cover with 5 quarts cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, skimming any gray scum that floats to the surface during the first 10 to 15 minutes of cooking. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 6 hours, replenishing the broth with fresh water as it reduces. (I like to mark the top of the water line with a permanent marker at the beginning, so I don’t forget where I started.) Strain the broth, let cool to room temperature, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next day, scrape the fat off the top of the broth and reserve 5 tablespoons separately. (You will only need 2 cups broth for this recipe, but you can easily freeze the leftovers and use them wherever a clean, flavorful chicken stock will come in handy.)
  3. FOR THE TARE: Grind the Sichuan peppercorns and red pepper flakes together in a spice grinder; set aside. Heat a small skillet over medium heat, then add the sesame oil and the 2 tablespoons reserved chicken fat (or vegetable oil). Add the ground spices and sliced scallions and cook, stirring constantly, until the scallions have wilted slightly and the spices are very fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the white soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the noodles and season liberally with salt. In a separate sauce-pan, reheat 2 cups chicken broth over low heat.
  5. MEANWHILE, FOR THE CHICKEN TOPPING: Grind the Sichuan peppercorns and red pepper flakes together in a spice grinder; set aside. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then coat with the sesame oil and the 3 tablespoons reserved chicken fat. Add the scallions, ginger, and garlic and cook until very fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the ground spices and sesame seeds and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the ground chicken, sugar, and salt and sauté, using a fork or wooden spoon to break up the chicken, until the meat is cooked through and any liquid has mostly cooked off, about 5 minutes.
  6. Once the chicken is ready, drop the noodles into the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain the noodles thoroughly in a colander, shaking them to remove the excess water.
  7. To serve, whisk the hot broth into the reserved tare. Add the cooked noodles and toss to combine thoroughly. Portion among four bowls and top each with a quarter of the chicken topping. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve immediately.

Chicken Dan Dan Noodles is excerpted from THE GAIJIN COOKBOOK: Japanese Recipes From A Chef, Father, Eater, and Lifelong Outsider © 2019 by Ivan Orkin and Chris Ying. Photography © 2019 by Aubrie Pick. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

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