To warm up on a cold afternoon or evening, serve Tan Tan noodles, which I first tasted in a Sichuan restaurant in Hong Kong. Given its Sichuan origin, I expected something spicy — but even so, I was quite unprepared for its explosive quality. The noodles arrived preceded by a wonderful aroma and were served in a bowl shimmering with red chilli oil. It was a delightful experience, featuring the classical spiciness of chilli beans, garlic, ginger and Sichuan preserved vegetable. I immediately tried to recreate the noodles when I returned home. The result is this recipe and I have enjoyed the noodles many times since. An essential ingredient is the Sichuan preserved cabbage or vegetable; it is worth the search and can be found in Chinese grocers. The dish can still be made if you omit it, but the Sichuan preserved cabbage elevates the dish far above the ordinary.
Heat a wok or large frying-pan over high heat and add the oil. Put in the preserved cabbage or vegetable, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the rice wine, chilli bean sauce, sesame paste, soy sauce, sugar and stock. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 3 minutes.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the noodles for 2 minutes if they are fresh and 5 minutes if dried. Drain well in a colander. Divide the noodles into individual bowls and ladle the sauce over them. Serve at once.
© 1995 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.