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Vegetarian Dan Dan Noodles with Tofu and Shiitakes

Vegetarian Dan Dan Noodles with Tofu and Shiitakes

Vegetarian Dan Dan Noodles defy tradition since the traditional topping for the fiery noodles normally starts with ground pork. But I promise you, this easy meatless version is every bit as addictive.

Vegetarian dan dan noodles ready to eat on a plate with broccoli

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Authentic dan dan noodles are made with Chinese wheat noodles like lo mein. The noodles are tossed in a sauce made of Chinese sesame paste, garlic, hot chili oil, black vinegar, and shiaoxing wine.

The noodles are then topped with ground pork that has been sauteed with ginger, scallions, preserved mustard greens (ya cai) and Sichuan peppercorns. Sometimes broth is added to the bowl to make it soupy.

a bowl of the tofu and shiitake topping for vegetarian dan dan noodles
Tofu and shiitake topping for vegetarian dan dan noodles

Can you make authentic vegetarian dan dan noodles?

It may not be authentic, but I make vegetarian dan dan noodles by replacing the pork with crumbled tofu and minced shiitake mushrooms.

This combination of golden-brown caramelized shallots and garlic, ginger, scallions, fermented black beans, pickled mustard greens, soy sauce, and shiaoxing wine, is delicious. I honestly like the tofu version even better than the meaty original.

sauce and toppings for vegetarian dan dan noodles
Toppings and sauce for vegetarian dan dan noodles, plus uncooked fresh Chinese lo mein noodles

Can I make vegan dan dan noodles?

I use honey to add a touch of sweetness to the sauce, but you can easily replace that with sugar or another sweetener in order to make it vegan.

What ingredients do you need to make dan dan noodles?

The ingredients for vegetarian dan dan noodles are mostly things you likely have in your kitchen. Some might require a special trip to a Chinese or Asian market or an online shopping spree.

The basics include tofu, shallots, garlic, ginger, scallions, peanuts, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and vegetable oil.

A few specialty ingredients can be found online or in Asian markets

To make a good vegetarian version of dan dan noodles, you will also need the following. I’ve included easy substitutions, too, in case you don’t have access to a Chinese grocery:

  • Shiitake mushrooms (you can substitute button or cremini mushrooms). Finely chop them to mimic ground meat.
  • Chinese salted or fermented black beans (find these at a Chinese or Asian market or buy online. You can leave these out if you don’t have them, adding additional soy sauce for salt)
  • Preserved mustard greens (ya cai) (find at a Chinese or Asian market or buy online. You can substitute chopped kimchi or any kind of winter greens)
  • Chinese or Japanese sesame paste (find at a Chinese or Asian market or buy online or substitute natural peanut butter mixed with sesame oil)
  • Shiaoxing cooking wine (or substitute dry sherry or dry white wine)
  • Chili oil (either homemade or store-bought)
  • Chinese wheat noodles or egg noodles (or spaghetti or linguine), cooked according to the package instructions.

What does dan dan mean in Chinese?

Dandan is type of over-the-shoulder carrying pole that street vendors used to tote the noodles and sauce (which hung from baskets on either end of the pole). So dan dan noodles essentially means “street vendor noodles.”  

vegetarian dan dan noodles with tofu and shiitake mushrooms on a plate shot from overhead
Vegetarian dan dan noodles

Can you make dan dan noodles ahead of time?

While this recipe has several parts—noodles, topping, and sauce—each of the parts can be cooked separately. You can the toppings and/or sauce ahead and keep them in the fridge. Cook the noodles just before you’re ready to eat.

Or you can make everything in advance and enjoy it all cold or at room temperature. Vegetarian dan dan noodles makes a great take-along lunch for work or school.

Store the sauce, toppings, and noodles separately so that the noodles don’t absorb all of the sauce and become mushy.

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Yield: Serves 6

Vegetarian Dan Dan Noodles

Vegetarian Dan Dan Noodles

Tender noodles are tossed in a savory sesame sauce and topped with tofu and shiitake mushrooms. The dish is fiery, filling, and fantastically addictive.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • For the topping
  • 1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced (or red onion)
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped (or button or cremini mushrooms)
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese salted black beans, rinsed and chopped (optional)
  • 1/3 cup preserved mustard greens (or chopped kimchi)
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry or dry white wine)
  • 1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
  • For the sauce
  • ¼ cup Chinese or Japanese sesame paste (or no-sugar-added peanut butter + 1 tablespoon sesame oil)
  • ¼ cup lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or substitute coconut sugar for vegan)
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons homemade or store-bought chili oil, or more to taste
  • For the noodles and serving
  • 16 ounces fresh Chinese wheat noodles (or spaghetti or linguine)
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts

Instructions

  1. Remove the tofu from the package, pouring off
    the water from the package. Wrap the tofu in a clean
    dish towel and set it on a plate. Place another plate or a baking dish on top and add cans or other heavy items to weight it down. Let stand for 30 to 45 minutes to press out excess water.
  2. Make the sauce by whisking together the sesame paste, soy sauce, vinegar, and honey until well combined. Stir in the scallion and add the chile oil a little at a time until you achieve your desired level of spice.
  3. To cook the topping, heat the cooking oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the shallots and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the
    mushrooms have released their liquid and turn golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Crumble the tofu and add it to the pan and cook, stirring
    occasionally, until the tofu begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ginger, scallion, black beans, preserved mustard greens, wine, and soy sauce and cook, stirring, until the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes more.
  5. While the tofu is cooking, cook the noodles according to the package instructions (usually about 3 minutes in boiling water for fresh noodles). Drain.
  6. To serve, place a serving of noodles in a serving bowl and spoon some of the sauce over them. Toss to coat the noodles well and then top with some of the tofu topping.  Garnish with scallions and chopped peanuts. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information

Yield

6

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 614Total Fat 34gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 27gCholesterol 0mgSodium 855mgCarbohydrates 63gFiber 11gSugar 11gProtein 22g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

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