Dan Dan Ramen
If you’re anything like us, you spent your tweens, teens, and twenties with your face in a steaming bowl of instant ramen noodles. The seasoning packets were gloriously salty, the noodles were a giant springy blob you could chop-stick into your mouth in one go. (Three if you were the polite kid.) And then what happened? We all grew up, discovered restaurants and takeout menus, and now we just don’t hang out with our good old friend instant ramen as much as we used to — and we really should.
With all the home cooking we’ve been doing, instant sounds pretty awesome. So for this recipe, we’ve combined a plain pack of instant ramen with dan dan sauce, ground pork, and bok choy.
The dan dan sauce is super simple: all we do is whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chile oil, honey, and a few aromatics — it’s that perfect blend of salt, fat, acid, heat, and sweet. We sauté the pork with a bunch of garlic, ginger, and five-spice ‘til it’s crispy. And then, to keep things easy, the bok choy cooks with the noodles. Toss it all together, sprinkle on the peanuts and green onions, and you’ve got dinner.
In the test kitchen, someone said it tasted just like takeout dan dan noodles and that it would be great company for a beer and some bad television. That’s pretty much the best compliment ever. We too love the way the tangy dan dan sauce clings to the noodles, and the contrast of the crisp, clean bok choy with all those savory flavors. No, we haven’t lost the ability to shove a bunch of ramen noodles in our face, but it’s tasty enough that we tried to put the brakes on and enjoy it like the grown-ups we (sometimes) are.
Our tips: This recipe was written with pandemic kitchens in mind. You can use any kind of ground meat — or even a plant-based meat, like Beyond Meat. Similarly, just about any green will do in place of the bok choy. Also, if you’re cooking for one or two, portion the peanut sauce and pork ahead of time, stir in just what you need for dinner, and save the leftovers for another night.
For the noodle sauce:
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp chile oil
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, grated
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp ground coriander
For the meat:
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz ground pork (any ground meat or plant-based meat)
1 medium shallot, minced
½ Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp dry sherry
½ Tbsp hoisin sauce
½ tsp soy sauce
¼ tsp five-spice powder
For the ramen and bok choy:
3 pkg ramen noodles
3 heads baby bok choy, quartered, with leaves broken apart
Crushed peanuts, for garnish
Green onions, chopped, for garnish
Sesame seeds, for garnish
To make the noodle sauce: In a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chile oil, honey, sesame oil, garlic, pepper, and coriander. Whisk to combine fully and set aside.
To make the meat: In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering over medium heat. Add the ground meat, shallot, and ginger. Breaking up the meat with a spatula, cook until the meat is fully cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Add the dry sherry, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and five-spice powder, and stir to combine. Take the meat mixture off of the heat and set aside.
To make the ramen and bok choy: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and bok choy. Working quickly, cook the noodles and bok choy, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are soft but not fully cooked, about 2 minutes. Strain the noodles and bok choy, and then pour them back into the pot.
Pour the noodle sauce into the pot over the noodles. Stir to combine.
Divide the ramen mixture among 4 bowls. Top each with the meat and garnish with peanuts, green onions, and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.