These Spicy Sichuan Dan Dan Noodles Are the Ultimate Comfort Food

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Fancy a foreign affair? A New York chef shares a Japanese take on classic Chinese dan dan noodles. Confusing? Maybe. But tasty, too.

Gaijin is the Japanese word for foreigner, a label that New York City ramen maestro Ivan Orkin wore during his decade cooking in Japan. When he returned to the U.S. in 2012, Orkin opened Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop a year later in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. After critical acclaim, Orkin opened Ivan Ramen shortly after in the Lower East Side.

Orkin’s new book, The Gaijin Cookbook: Japanese Recipes from a Chef, Father, Eater, and Lifelong Outsider, reflects his relationship with Japanese cuisine—both reverential and rule-busting. Take this recipe for spicy, schmaltz-slicked dan dan noodles.

“It’s inspired by the style you find at upscale Chinese restaurants in Tokyo,” Orkin says. Dan dan noodles usually feature pork, but Orkin uses chicken. “Its flavor is simpler,” he says, which allows the cyclone of sesame, Sichuan pepper, and scallions drive the dish.

Plus, the gaijin adds, “everybody in America loves chicken.”

Game for trying this ? (Confusing? Maybe. But it sure is tasty.) Give Orkin’s Chicken Dan Dan recipe a try.

You don’t need any specialized sichuan cooking tools (e.g. carbon-steel wok, chuan, cleaver) either. All you need are a few key ingredients—like schmaltz, Sichuan peppercorns, and fresh ramen noodles.

  • For the Sauce:
  • 1 1⁄2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp schmaltz (or duck or bacon fat)
  • 1 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp ground red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp finely sliced scallions
  • 1⁄4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1⁄2 tsp sugar
  • 1⁄2 tsp salt
  • For the Chicken:
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp schmaltz (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 tbsp minced or grated ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp chopped scallion whites
  • 1 tbsp ground Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp ground red pepper flakes
  • 1⁄4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 lb fresh ramen noodles
  • Chopped scallions

For the Sauce: Bring chicken stock to a simmer. Heat sesame oil and schmaltz in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add Sichuan pepper, red pepper, and scallions and cook, stirring constantly, until scallions have wilted slightly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Transfer to a large saucepan, pour in warm chicken stock, and reserve warm.

For the Chicken: Heat sesame oil and schmaltz in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, and scallions and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in Sichuan peppercorns, red pepper, and sesame seeds and cook 2 minutes. Add chicken, salt, and sugar. Use a fork or wooden spoon to break up the chicken and sauté until the meat is cooked through and the liquid has reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season liberally with salt. Drop noodles in pot and cook until al dente. Drain thoroughly, shaking the strainer to remove excess water. Add cooked noodles to reserved sauce and divide between four bowls. Top each with a generous helping of chicken. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve immediately.

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