Red dan dan noodles
August 28, 2010 4:57 AM   Subscribe

How to make Dan dan noodles ?

I've tried to make dan dan noodles (tan tan noodles in japan) at home but I can not manage to have them as red as these. What is the trick? Is my chili oil to weak? Are they using food coloring?
posted by cl3m to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I suspect what you want is "chilli goop" or spicy hot bean paste rather than chilli oil. In a Chinese noodle place there's usually a bucket with a few inches of munched up chillis, black beans, garlic, Szechuan pepper etc with a inch of red oil floating on top. That's what's floating in clumps in the picture. You can get that in a jar at an Asian grocer (although in my experience it's a bit underwhelming). You could grind the spices and saute in oil. Or you could get the little pouch at a Chinese grocer for mapo tofu and use that to fry your minced pork in.
posted by hawthorne at 6:31 AM on August 28, 2010

Are you using sichuan peppercorns? They can sometimes add a little color.

Your chili oil may also be weak. Apparently some folks use sambal oelek, which is not kidding around.

You might want to look into other reddish ingredients. It seems like beef broth might help, maybe some chili flakes, ginger sometimes goes red when stewed.

I don't make dan dan noodles often and it's not the red I go for but the flavor and the spice.
posted by kalessin at 6:35 AM on August 28, 2010

In the picture, there's red oil floating on red soup. I'm guessing your soup is not very red, even if you have some blobs of red oil on top. I think hawthorne is right: you want hot bean paste (sometimes called chili paste*) instead of chili oil. The bean paste will give a red color to the aqueous soup as well as the oil floating on top.

Side comment on kitchen chemistry: ignoring the noodles and other solids, your dish is a two-phase system, oil and water, and the red pigments will partition into each phase depending on their solubility in oil versus water. When chili oil is made, chili peppers are cooked in hot oil, which extracts oil-soluble compounds. Water-soluble compounds stay in the chili solids, which are discarded before the oil is bottled.

So your chili oil supplies red pigments that prefer to stay in oil, and you need to add some red pigments that prefer water. That's why the bean paste will help - it is basically aqueous so the red pigments in it are pretty happy in water and will mostly stay in the water phase of your soup. (Some will partition into the oil phase - plow through the 2nd link if you're feeling geeky.)

By the way, when I say "pigment" I mean any colored compounds, not necessarily artificial colors; most hot bean pastes are vivid brick red and as far as I know they don't contain artificial colors.

*Beware - label translation into English can be pretty inconsistent and there's quite a difference in heat and flavor between a paste that's mostly ground-up beans flavored with some chili, and a paste that's mostly ground-up chilies. Fortunately they look different, so look carefully at the bottle before you buy. Bean paste = darker, lumpier. Chili paste = brighter, smoother, usually runnier.
posted by Quietgal at 11:04 AM on August 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

I mix chicken stock, peanut butter and sambal oelek. Maybe not classic, but it's easy and you can vary the proportions depending on the Scoville level you want.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:16 AM on August 28, 2010

Also look for something called "Horsebeans preserved in chili." You can usually find it in china town. Its beans and such in a chili paste and it is BRIGHT red and will stain the crap out of anything, especially your food.

When I make my dan dan noodles, I actually don't use a soup base, so you might want to try it without and see if you can get the noodles to take on the color of the oil.
posted by Elminster24 at 11:30 AM on August 28, 2010

Yes, the secret ingredient is 豆板醤. Don't forget the sesame paste and sesame oil.

I've seen some recipes that use Lee Kum Kee Sichuan Spicy Noodle Sauce, but I've never seen it used in Japan.
posted by armage at 1:18 AM on August 29, 2010

Thanks for these great answer. I'll definitely try to get some of this chilli bean paste!
posted by cl3m at 1:53 AM on August 29, 2010

So the 豆板醤 which translates to doubangjiang looks an awful lot like what I described as horsebeans preserved in chili so you are probably on the right track w/ that.
posted by Elminster24 at 5:49 PM on August 29, 2010

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