Ingredients
For the Chili Oil (if making your own)*
  • 1 ounce dried red chilies, chopped or about 1/4 cup red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon (a palmful) Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • 1 inch ginger root, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame
  • 1 cup peanut oil
For the Noodles
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, grated or minced
  • A splash dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 rounded tablespoons Tahini paste or creamy peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground Sichuan peppercorns
  • About 1/3 cup chili oil, homemade or store-bought
  • 12 to 16 ounces medium to wide noodles/Ramen noodles
  • 1 bunch farm spinach, washed and coarsely chopped or 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup peanuts with skins, toasted and chopped
  • 1 small bunch scallions, chopped or thinly sliced
5-Spice Pork for Dan Dan Noodles (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 3/4 pound ground pork
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons (a splash) dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon (a scant third of a palmful) Chinese 5-spice powder
Preparation

* Chili oil is simple to prepare and if you have a well- stocked pantry you can make it with ingredients you already own. 

If making your own chili oil, place ingredients in a small pot over medium-low heat and cook until a fry thermometer registers about 325°F. Cool to room temperature then strain.


For the noodles, bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook noodles to just-tender but they still have a bite. Reserve half a cup of starchy water; drain.
 
Heat peanut oil in a wok-shaped pan or large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic and ginger 1 minute then add sherry, stock, soy, Tahini, light brown sugar and pepper. Add reserved starchy water and noodles, and toss 1 minute. Remove from heat and toss with chili oil.
  
For the pork (if using), heat the oil in a large skillet or wok-shaped pan over high heat. Brown, caramelize and fine-crumble the pork; deglaze the pan with sherry. Mix in the Hoisin, soy and 5-spice; remove to plate. Toss with noodles.

Top the bowlfuls of noodles with peanuts and scallions, and serve.