“Don-don” is Chinese onomatopoeia for “clap-clap” or “thunk-thunk”—the sound of the clapper announcing the vendor who peddled these noodles on the streets of Szechwan. True to the nature of real street food, there is no one “recipe” for Don-Don Noodles, only a multitude of tasty variations on a theme. The theme is a bowl of long, thin egg noodles, liberally topped with a spicy peanut or sesame-based sauce. Beyond that, the noodles may be hot or cold, and the sauce may be wild or tame, depending on which corner and from which vendor you buy it.
Put as many bowls as you have noodle eaters in a low oven to warm. Station a large heatproof colander in the sink. Put the sesame oil in the bottom of a large bowl suitable for tossing the noodles, then swirl the bowl to glaze it with the oil. If you lack one great big bowl, then divide the sesame oil between two medium bowls or stockpots. Have a pair of tongs or spaghetti forks alongside the bowl(s) ready to toss the noodles once they are done. Bring the sauce to room temperature, if chilled.
Bring a generous amount of plain water to a rolling boil over high heat. While the water is heating, fluff the noodles gently with your fingers to separate the strands. (Frozen noodles should be thoroughly defrosted in the bag, then fluffed like fresh before cooking.) Add the noodles to the boiling water, swish several times with chopsticks, then cook until the noodles look swollen and are firm but tender to the bite, about 2 minutes for fresh store-bought noodles. If you are serving the noodles directly, then add the shredded carrots to the pot after 1 minute, so they cook with the noodles. Drain immediately in the colander, then shake to remove excess water.
Add the drained noodles (and carrots) to the oiled bowl, then toss the noodles to glaze them evenly, lifting them up, and then showering them into the bowl repeatedly but gently so they do not break. Portion the noodles quickly into the heated bowls, and top each portion with a generous dollop of sauce. Garnish with a healthy sprinkling of coriander, for those who like it, then serve at once, accompanied by a bowl of extra sauce.
Invite each guest to toss his or her own noodles, as is customary in China where noodle eating is a participation sport.
Extra noodles may be kept warm in a regulation steamer or an improvised steamer (a covered colander set over a pot of simmering water), for those who want second helpings.
Cooled leftover noodles can be bagged and refrigerated for several days. Steam over high heat in a tightly covered bowl until hot. Leftover sauce keeps indefinitely.
© 1982 Barbara Tropp estate. All rights reserved.