Every week, when I work on my meal plan, I aim for at least half of my dinners to be meatless. If you are a regular reader, you know I’ve sworn off dieting, but I do have certain goals for the way I eat because I believe these simple guidelines promote health. Basically, I try to eat the following three things no more than once a day: Meat, wheat, and cheese. As a food plan, it’s not very complicated.
I’m not perfect, but hearty, delicious vegetarian main dishes like this one certainly help me keep me on track with those goals. After my recent visit to the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival, I’ve had mushrooms on my mind. No matter how many different recipes I make with them, I’m always having new ideas. Because of their meaty texture and savory flavor, I’m often inspired to use mushrooms to replace the meat in dishes.
Dan dan noodles, a staple in Sichuan restaurants, are something I’ve wanted to tackle in my home kitchen since falling in love with them at Han Dynasty and sampling the same dish almost everyplace else it’s served in Philly. Though the versions I’ve had are all a bit different from each other, the noodles are always tossed with a nutty, spicy, meat-laced sauce. My favorite versions include plenty of sichuan peppercorns–the ingredient that tingles with a numbing buzz across your lips and tongue when you eat it. The distinctive spice is faintly citrusy in aroma. I sought out a bag specifically to make this recipe. You could omit it, but it does lend it some sparkle.
So I kept the sichuan peppercorns but I wanted to dump the meat. I knew the dish would be lighter and possibly even more flavorful. Minced mushrooms–I used button and shiitake–turned out to be the ideal swap. For an “Almost Meatless” version, you could replace the shiitakes I call for below with the more traditional ground pork. Because everything is chopped or mixed in the food processor, the whole dish comes together in about the time it takes to boil the pasta.
I’m adding this one to my list of vegetarian weeknight go-tos (perfect for Meatless Mondays). Please tell me in the comments what you like to make for dinner on nights you want to be meat-free.
Dan Dan Noodles with Mushrooms
10 ounces button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons peanut oil
16 ounces udon noodles or spaghetti
For the sauce:
2 serrano chiles
2 garlic cloves
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sriracha or other hot sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sichuan peppercorns, ground in a pepper mill or spice grinder (optional)
For garnishing the bowl:
1/2 english cucumber, cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
2 scallions, sliced thin
Working in batches, pulse all the mushrooms in the food processor until finely chopped but not pureed–about 3 one-second pulses per batch.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the mushrooms, season with salt, and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and have browned, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil the noodles according to package instructions and rinse very well.
While the mushrooms and noodles are cooking, add the serrano chiles, garlic, and ginger to the food processor and pulse until minced fine. Add the peanut butter, water, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, srirach, sugar, sesame oil, and sichuan peppercorns and puree until smooth.
When the mushrooms are browned, reduce the heat to low and add the sauce to the skillet. Add the drained and rinsed noodles and toss to combine. Serve in deep bowls garnished wit the cucumber, cilantro, and scallions.
This post was written as part of a partnership with the Mushroom Council