Without a doubt, my favorite food is Sichuan Chinese. It shares similarities with other forms of Chinese cooking but it has elements that make it one of the most unique regional cuisines I have ever had. One of the hallmarks of Sichuan cooking is the combination of “hot” and “numbing”. The hot generally comes from chili oil or dried chilis and the numbing comes from the Sichuan peppercorn. The peppercorn has a bright citrusy flavor and leaves your mouth with a slight numbing feel.
I looked up a handful of recipes but none of them fit the flavor profile I was used to having so I wove the recipe below together from some of those along with what felt right to me. The result was a cross between the traditional Chengdu cold noodles I was shooting for and another noodle dish called dan dan. I think it turned out great so no complaints here!
Some of the ingredients for Sichuan cooking can be hard to come across. If you are able, you should definitely go to an Asian grocery if you are going to attempt this dish. If you can’t, I have included substitutes for some of the hard to find ingredients. Note that most store-bought chili oil is weak and relatively flavorless. I have included a picture of the brand I use beneath the recipe. That particular brand is no joke…it is hot and full of flavor.
Hot & Numbing Sichuan Cold Noodles
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 12 oz pack of Chinese egg noodles (linguine can work as substitute)
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce, divided (regular soy sauce can work as substitute)
- 3 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons ginger, minced
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons Sichuan chili oil with garlic
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoon Chinese sesame paste (tahini or peanut butter can work as substitute)
- 4 green onions, rough chopped
Bring a pot of water to boil and set aside a large bowl of ice water. Cook your noodles until done, drain, then immediately put the noodles in the bowl of ice water to cool.
Place the peppercorns in a dry pan and toast over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once they are fragrant and just starting to smoke a little, remove them from the heat and pour them into a bowl. Grind the peppercorns using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder (or try to chop them with a knife).
In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of salt with your ground pork. Next, in a pan over medium high heat, cook your ground pork until it is about half done. Add in the garlic and ginger and continue stirring until everything is cooked through and incorporated. Turn off the heat on the pork and set it aside.
Mix the remaining soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, brown sugar, and sesame paste in a bowl until the sugar is dissolved.
Drain the noodles again and toss with the sauce. Lastly, toss in the pork mixture, the green onions, and peppercorns, mixing well to evenly distribute everything.
Serve cold or at room temperature.