Penne Cole's thoughts on food, travel and more
It’s my latest obsession, something to fill in the gap when I can’t get my beloved curry laksa or asam laksa. It’s dan dan noodles from Sichuan, China. Deliciously spicy, a little tangy, and packed with Sichuan peppercorns that make your tongue numb, this little bowl of noodles is a delight, particularly in winter.
I first tasted it at Taste of Shanghai in Eastwood, Sydney and fell in love with it but I got a rude shock when I tried it in Hong Kong. I went to two Shanghainese restaurants and one Taiwanese restaurant there hoping to duplicate the culinary experience from Sydney but every single one of them served something that tasted like peanut butter. Here in Sydney, the dan dan noodles, while sprinkled with some peanuts, is predominantly a spicy, sour soup. The noodles are topped with some preserved vegetables (zha cai), a smattering of minced pork, some scallions, leafy greens, and a whole lot of chilli. I wonder why a dish can share the same name but taste so different?
At under AUD 10, this definitely qualifies as a cheap eat in Sydney, where even the fish and chips can cost you AUD 40. It’s available at any of the Taste of Shanghai restaurants from World Square in the CBD to Ashfield in the suburbs.
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