DON DON NOODLES (COLD NOODLES WITH SESAME SAUCE) (dandan mian)
This is the most famous street food of Szechwan. Its name echoes the hollow, clunky sound of the two sticks hit together by the itinerant vendors who hawked it through the streets. They sold a portion of cold, cooked noodles over which they would ladle out each ingredient of the sauce separately-sesame paste, soy sauce, hot peppers, scallions, raw garlic, and ginger. The buyer mixed the noodles and condiments together himself. Nothing could have been simpler, cheaper, or more delicious.
Though the most common of street foods, dandan mian is a renowned specialty of Szechwan; it is the noodle version of the classic Szechwanese combination of a cold main ingredient with a peppery hot, sesame paste-based sauce. Kidneys, chicken, and eggplant, among other things, are served with this sauce. Noodles, the cheapest of all foods, allows every man to be a gourmet. Such is the glory of the food of Szechwan.
Note that this is an assembled dish; each portion is put together separately. The sauce materials are enough for about four portions.
12 cloves garlic
3-inch piece fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons water
1 pound noodles, fresh Chinese or fettucine
(one portion of each of the following per serving)
1 tablespoon garlic- ginger-water mixture
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
- 1-2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes in oil
1/8 teaspoon ground roasted Szechwan peppercorns
4 teaspoons sesame paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of your cleaver, then peel. Chop the garlic coarsely into pieces about the size of a pea.
Peel the ginger, then chop it into small pieces, about the size of a match head.
Put the garlic and ginger into a small steep- sided bowl or mortar. Add the salt and then, using the handle of your cleaver, a wooden spoon, or a pestle, mash every- thing together until it turns into a coarse paste. The salt helps the pulverization along, as well as bringing out the flavor of the garlic and ginger.
Add the water to the mashed garlic and ginger and stir well, so the water and the juice of the mashed ingredients are thoroughly combined.
Clean the scallions, then chop them, both green part and white, very fine, until they reach the consistency of farina; you should have about 1 tablespoon of chopped scallions for every individual serving of noodles.
Bring a large pot of water to a rapid, rolling boil and cook the noodles according to the directions that are on the package; fresh Chinese noodles take from 5 to 10 minutes. (Test them as they cook to make sure they don't overcook and become mushy.) Drain the noodles, rinse them in cold water, and then drain them again.
Put each individual serving of noodles on a separate plate or bowl. Then add the following ingredients to each : the garlic- ginger-water mixture, chopped scallions, hot pepper flakes in oil, ground roasted Szechwan peppercorns, sesame paste, soy sauce, and sugar.
Note : Before eating, each diner should mix his sauce ingredients and noodles together very well.