January 16, 2012

Dan Dan Noodles: peanut-free goodness

Happy, happy birthday to Martin Luther King, Jr.  Hope your families are taking the time to reflect upon his legacy, his beliefs, and what you are doing to serve others.

Truth be told, Sarah and I are still in recovery mode from the holidays, the winter cold/flu season, and the reboot of the usual hustle &bustle of stay-at-home life with kids and their many activities.  Both of us have been working on recipes, meal ideas, and crafts for the blog but have had a bit of a time/energy challenge with transferring it over to the blog for our fabulous readers.

As we talked at a birthday party on Saturday, Sarah reminded me that Chinese New Year is just around the corner.  Yikes!  (Monday, January 23rd to be exact.)  For those of you that aren't familiar, Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year goes by the lunar calendar so the date is different from year to year.  Sometimes it's in late January and other years it's as late as President's Day.  This year it has truly crept up on me but I'm more than happy to dive into some Chinese cooking.

We shared some allergy-friendly traditional lunar new year dishes last year.   In preparation for this year's meal, I've been playing around with some noodle dishes.  A popular Chinese noodle dish is dan dan noodles.  Served cold and traditionally made with peanuts and Chinese noodles, it's a good target for making allergy-friendly.  It makes for an easy meal that is full of flavor thanks to the loads of fresh garlic and ginger.  Because it's a cold dish, parts or the whole dish can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until you're ready to put it all together.

There are a lot of different ways to make dan dan noodles some of which are completely free of vegetables.  It would make me feel a little too guilty to eat a whole bowl of the stuff without some plant goodness so mine calls for fresh carrots, zucchini or cucumber, and cabbage.  Feel free to experiment with different fresh, steamed, or stir-fried veggies or use the more traditional pickled cabbage (canned or jarred) that you can find in Asian grocery stores.  Add more minced garlic it you like.  Be really conservative with the sambal oelek if you're little ones or you aren't big fans of spicy food.  A little of the stuff already goes a long way!

Dan Dan Noodles
Adapted from Alton Brown's recipe on the Food Network

8 to 12 oz. of your favorite safe spaghetti, ramen, or other noodle/pasta (I've used fresh Chinese noodles and TJ's organic whole wheat spaghetti.)

1/4 to 1/2 head of cabbage. thinly chopped (In a pinch?  Trader Joe's sells already shredded cabbage.) 

For the sauce:
1/3 cup sunflower seed butter 
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 Tbsp soy sauce (Use gluten-free soy sauce or tamari if you are avoiding wheat or gluten) 
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth
chili paste (sambal oelek) to taste

1 or 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 cucumber or zucchini (I used the latter), julienned
2 green onions, finely chopped

  1. Boil noodles accordingly to package directions.  Drain and rinse, and set aside.
  2. Steam cabbage until wilted.  You can do this over the stove.  Alternatively, you can do steam with your microwave by putting the cabbage and a couple tablespoons of water in a covered bowl or deep dish.  I've done both methods and check every few minutes.  It usually takes less than 10 minutes.
  3. Drain cabbage and set aside.
  4. Mix sauce ingredients together.  
  5. Toss cooled noodles and cabbage with sauce mixture until evenly coated.  Add julienne vegetables and green onions and re-toss until well combined.
  6. For a spicy kick, add a little sambal oelek and mix well.  Taste and stir more in until you get your desired heat.
  7. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

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