If you're not accustomed to spicy dishes, this Chinese noodle dish might leave you with a slightly scorched tongue. Dressed in a sauce comprised of chili oil, sesame paste and Sichuan pepper -- a berry husk that literally numbs the mouth as it imparts a woodsy, slightly lemony flavor -- it's typical of the fiery cuisine associated with the Sichuan province in Western China.
Sichuan pepper is available is most Asian markets and also at Penzeys Spices in the Strip District; in a pinch, you can substitute dried red pepper flakes. Five-alarm chili fans may want to double or even triple the amount of chili oil for a true Sichuan experience.
12 ounces thin dried Chinese egg or wheat noodles
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 1/2 teaspoons tahini or Chinese sesame paste
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar or good-quality balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons chili oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
1/2 pound ground pork or beef
Salt to taste
Handful of dry-roasted peanuts, finely chopped
Bring large pot of water to boil and cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain noodles, rinse under cold water and drain again thoroughly. Transfer noodles to a serving dish.
Prepare sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce, rice wine, sesame paste, black vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil, sugar, Sichuan pepper and water. Pour half the sauce over noodles and toss to evenly distribute. Set aside. Reserve other half of sauce for pork.
Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add garlic, ginger and scallion whites and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add pork and stir-fry until it is crispy on the outside and no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in reserved sauce and cook for another minute. Salt to taste.
Spoon cooked pork mixture over noodles, sprinkle the scallion greens and peanuts on top, and serve.
Serves 3 to 4.
-- "The Chinese Takeout Cookbook" by Diana Kuan (Ballantine, Dec. 11, 2012, $30)