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Dan Dan Mian - SF Dish of the Month (Jan 2013)

The dish of the month for San Francisco for Jan 2013 is dan dan mian. Here's a link to the vote: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/884029

The goal is to collectively try as many versions of dan dan mian as possible during the month of January! So let's start exploring and eating—report back with reviews and photos.

For more information on this dish, and for some ideas of where to try it, see this current discussion: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/884365

Dave MP

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  1. Had this on New Years Day at Sichuan Fortune House in Pleasant Hill. We informed the waiter we would like the Dan Dan Mian "spicy." Came with coarser ground meat than some versions I had and a significant amount of gravy. There was the pleasant tingle of the Sichuan peppercorns but the overwhelming spicy flavor was from the red chilis.

    A perfectly tasty version but not my favorite.

    1. I recently tried the dan dan mien at Spices 3 in Oakland Chinatown and it was awful. Don't eat it. The bowl looked really beautiful when it arrived with the beautiful color and sprinkling of meat bits in the sauce of the cold noodle dish, but it had a really funky vinegar smell in the sauce and the noodles were overcooked and spongy. I was disappointed given that I had an wonderful pickled vegetables and pork noodle soup there a few weeks earlier.

      3 Replies
      1. re: singleguychef

        So sorry to hear; I've enjoyed dan dan from Spices! 3 numerous times and had intended to revisit, inspired by this thread.

        Thanks for the tip; I'll steer clear for a bit. I do find their kitchen a bit inconsistent from visit to visit.

        1. re: Pius Avocado III

          Interesting. I had their zha jiang mein recently, and the noodles were also overcooked. The rest of the food was varied in quality, but their ma po tofu was top notch as always.

          1. re: Pius Avocado III

            Spices!3 changed hands last year. Reportedly more vegetarian-friendly, as you'd expect from the name of the owner, Vege House & Spices LLC.

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5049...

        2. Had them at Z & Y last Saturday. This is a dish we get here often. It can be variable here but is almost always excellent. We always order too much food and end up with lots of food to take home. These noodles are also excellent as take out. The noodles we had Saturday were fantastic, one of the more memorable versions we had had in a while. The noodles were perfectly cooked and toothsome with a perfect texture. The sauce was savory with a good balance of meaty umami and ma la spiciness from chili and Sichuan peppercorn. Very satisfying.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Ridge

            Tried Chili House's version, Z&Y's sister restaurant in the inner Richmond. Noodles were on the soft side, but really well seasoned. It was difficult to slurp these without coughing from the chili & peppercorn bits. Good amount of ground pork, spices, and chili oil. Almost too much chili oil for me, but I think that is the style of this dish, and cuisine in general.

            1. re: DezzerSF

              I had a chance to try them recently at Chili House as well. Found them just as you described except the noodles were just right and I enjoyed the amount of heat. Spicy, but not so much so that you can't taste anything after a couple of bites. I really liked their version.

              Although supposedly hand-pulled, the waitress admitted the noodles were not made in house.

          2. Sampled Z & Y's version on Sunday...they were very flavorful, but not the classic Dan Dan I've had in NYC/Flushing, or the versions from Land of Plenty. More sesame than I'm used to, but the balance was good, a nice bit of spinach (?) on top, but no preserved cabbage. The noodles did no seem overcooked, but were not at all chewy either. No great "ma la" sensations, but, like I said, decent.

            Then today, inspired by Melanie's post in the other Dan Dan thread, (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/884365) I hopped over (not literally) to Happy Golden Bowl in El Cerrito and had a bowl for lunch...of Dan Dan Mian. Well, the noodles were "toothsome", nice and chewy, properly cooked in my opinion, very nice texture. They were not soupy as some are, and the sauce, again, was well balanced. I should have asked them for more "ma la", but forgot. For about five bucks including tax, it was quite a bargain. I'd go back, but again, more sesame than I like in this dish. Highly recommended, even over Z+Y...

            The photo is from HGB...

             
            6 Replies
            1. re: sambamaster

              After reading about Happy Golden Bowl, I decided to give it a try on Saturday. I was there for a very early dinner/snack (around 4:45 PM), which meant I was the first customer after they reopened from afternoon break.

              I thought the rendition was quite good. Noodles weren't very hot (temperature), and they were much thinner than I expected...somehow they looked skinnier than in Melanie and sambamaster's photos. There was a nice kick from the chili oil, and a good amount of sesame. The pork topping was also cold (i.e. straight from fridge) when it was served, so the overall temperature of the dish was just about room temperature when I mixed it all together. There wasn't much ma-la kick, but I sensed a bit.

              I also got a small plate of kimchi when I sat down, and I liked it quite a bit. Sweet and spicy.

              There's a large menu with several pictures, and it's easy enough to identify the Sichuan stuff and separate it from the less-interesting menu items. I'd definitely return, and I'm curious to hear what else is good here!

              Dave MP

               
              1. re: Dave MP

                That almost looks like a different dish! The noodles do seem different, and that you experience some components cold or room temp is disturbing...mine were nothing like that, though your description of the flavors is the same as what I experience. Try the water-boiled dishes and the stir fried tea smoked duck with chiles! Wow!

                1. re: sambamaster

                  Dave, did you request extra chili oil or something? Like sambamaster, the version I had there didn't have much chili oil. Damn good though. The link below includes my report and photo:

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8406...

                  Are there two versions on their menu? The one I had was $5 and was in a random section, not listed with the noodles.

                  1. re: hyperbowler

                    On the printed menu (which had lots of pictures), dan dan mian was only listed once. It was in the dim sum section, or something like that. And yes, it was $5.

                    I did not request special anything....but mine did have plenty of chili oil. It was spicy enough to make my nose run, and I probably wouldn't have wanted it any spicier.

                  2. re: sambamaster

                    It may have had to do with the time of day I was there....the kitchen had just re-opened from afternoon break, and mine was literally the first dish cooked since lunch.

                    1. re: Dave MP

                      I tried the Dan Dan noodles at Happy Golden Bowl recently at lunchtime and enjoyed them very much. As others say, well worth the $4.99. I really enjoyed the noodles. They had a good texture and seemed to be fresh-made, in a machine much like an Italian pasta roller, as the noodles were flat (but a bit thick), and a few were still connected at the end.
                      The balance of flavors was quite good, even though I couldn't detect any Sichuan peppercorn. It is possible my senses were a bit off, as I did have a cold, but there was certainly no powdered peppercorn, and I didn't detect any numbing or characteristic scent if Sichuan peppercorn oil was added. And yet, I really enjoyed the bowl.
                      The meat topping was cold, and the preserved vegetable was mixed in with it. I wouldn't have noticed it was cold if I hadn't tried a piece on its own before mixing it in to the warm noodles.
                      I'm definitely the sort of poster who thinks that dan dan noodles are easily and best (especially with Yuen Hop noodles) made at home, but I like to sample restaurant offerings to see if there is some other balance of flavors I might find interesting. This non-Sichuan peppercorn version surprised my by keeping my interest..

                       
                       
              2. Following a tip from Robert Lauriston on another thread, I ordered the off-menu Dan Dan Noodles at Mandarin Garden in Berkeley. It's a totally different take than I've had before. The noodles were almost submerged in a liquid consisting of, in part, chili oil. The liquid reminded me a bit of what some fish and meat based dishes are sometime immersed in. No visible sichuan peppercorns but a good amount of invisible ma la. It was topped with juicy bits of ground pork and green onions. No presence of sesame or peanut or salty/pickled vegetable matter.

                Either because I sipped up too much liquid (it's served with a soup spoon) or the noodles absorbed the liquid, it became less like a soup as the meal progressed. I liked the flavor of this dish dish quite a bit, and I also enjoyed the texture of the noodles.

                 
                2 Replies
                1. re: hyperbowler

                  I preferred the leftover noodles I ate for lunch a day or two later. I would not order them again.

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8516...

                  1. re: hyperbowler

                    I can't remember if this fits Melanie's Vancouver-style category, but this is how much of the DDM I've had in the Pacific Northwest (including Vancouver which, I guess, is technically in the Pacific Southwest!!!!) has been...am currently in Portland and will sample a couple places, but this is not my favorite style. When I return to the BA, I'm off to Mountain View to sample Chef Zhou's! Yea!!!