No matter what situation you find yourself in this September, there is no denying that this year’s back-to-school season is going to be a challenging one. However, I’ve always been a firm believer that it’s not what happens to you, but how you handle it, that determines your well-being and happiness. Personally, I think the kitchen is a great place to start!
My advice: think of your kitchen as a singular ecosystem. Instead of stressing about each meal as individual productions, aim to create food building blocks that are always ready to go. Spend a few minutes during your Zoom call breaks to stretch and make a sauce, pre-slice some vegetables, or even brown some meat. By the time your workday is done, you’ll be able to create an impressive meal in minutes, with a revolving door of pre-prepped ingredients to carry forward into the rest of the week.
This recipe for Turkey Dan Dan Noodles (担担面 or 擔擔麵 in Chinese, and sometimes transliterated to “Tan Tan Noodles”) demonstrates the ecosystem method well. Turkey is a versatile ingredient that adapts well to so many different flavour profiles and spice combinations. If you’re only thinking about turkey for your Thanksgiving feast or deli meat sandwich, you are definitely missing out! It tastes good eaten hot or cold, it’s healthy (both white and dark meat are high in protein and low in fat), and is also fairly inexpensive.
The history of this dish can be traced back to the Sichuan Region, and is thought to be named after the bamboo poles (the “dan”) that the noodle hawkers would carry across their backs. One side would have a basket with the ingredients, while the other held the bowls and cookware. Over time, the dish made its way to the Chengdu Region where the addition of minced meat (usually pork or beef) made its mark while the dish took on a more “saucy” rather than “soupy” form. Today, you can find as many Dan Dan Noodle recipes as you can find people who will insist that their version is the best or most traditional!
A couple of notes for this recipe:
- Think about this dish in layers. You want to have your soupy sauce at the bottom of the bowl, followed by your noodles, followed by your minced turkey, with the peanuts and greens on top. Mix it up with chopsticks right before eating so that all the layers come together at once in a bright burst of flavour and texture.
- Even if you don’t think you can handle spicy food, you should still add some chili oil for the flavour. Homemade is even better! The Sichuan peppercorns are also very special, as they contribute to the addictive “numbing spice” that the Region’s cuisine is famous for.
- You need something pickled. Sui Mi Ya Cai is a unique cardamine bean sprout pickle that is found in many traditional Dan Dan Noodle recipes, but it is hard to find in North American grocery stores. I’m using pickled mustard greens because it’s brighter and more readily available. If you really can’t get your hands on that, you could get away with mild pickled jalapenos or cucumbers.
Turkey Dan Dan Noodles
A lighter take on a traditional Sichuan favourite!
Minced Turkey Topping
- 450 g (1 lb) ground turkey
- 1 tbsp neutral cooking oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- ¼ cup preserved or pickled mustard greens, chopped
- ½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and loosely ground
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp Shaoxing Wine (or rice wine)
- 2 tbsp Chinkiang (Black Chinese) vinegar
- 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and loosely ground
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 4 tbsp Chinese chili oil (more if you can handle it!)
- 4 tbsp peanut butter
- 2 tbsp Chinese sesame paste If using tahini, use a smaller amount and add more peanut butter instead
- ½ tsp five spice powder
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 cups poultry broth
- 1 package (4 servings) of sturdy, dried, Chinese wheat noodles
- 4 cups poultry broth
- 2 green onions, finely chopped
- 1 handful roasted peanuts, finely chopped
- 1 cup pickled mustard greens could also use other pickles
- 1 cup thinly-sliced cucumber could also use bean sprouts
Heat neutral cooking oil in wok or shallow pan on medium-high heat. Cook ground turkey meat while breaking it up into small pieces. Drain excess liquid before adding in minced garlic and mustard greens.
Once turkey is cooked through, add in all remaining ingredients listed under “Minced Turkey Topping”. Stir until liquids are fully absorbed. This mixture can be prepared and stored in the fridge for up to a week.
In a separate saucepan, combine all the ingredients listed under “Sauce” and bring to a gentle simmer. Set aside and let cool. This mixture can be prepared in advance and stored in the fridge for up to a week.
When ready to cook, heat up minced turkey topping any way you prefer. At the same time, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook noodles until just tender. In another saucepan, heat up the sauce, adding in the remaining 4 cups of poultry broth (you can add more or less according to your preference) and bring to a gentle simmer.
When ready to assemble, divide the heated sauce equally between the four bowls. Add the noodles to each, followed by the minced turkey and remaining garnish (veggies and crushed peanuts).
Serve immediately and enjoy!
This blog post was sponsored by Canadian Turkey. Turkey facts also sourced from Canadian Turkey, but all opinions are my own.