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tofu-and-vegetable-dan-dan-noodles-by-food-to-glowFood has always been a big part of Chinese culture, but never more so than at Chinese New Year. Although officially kicking off this year on the 19th of February, feasting and celebrating is already evident in major cities across the world. Lanterns of gold and red, as well as paper cut outs of this year’s symbol, the goat, decorate restaurants, shops and homes. But this is all just so much window dressing. The real event is the food. Masses of it. Gleaming, steaming mounds of it.

tofu-and-vegetable-dan-dan-noodles-by-food-to-glowOutside of Asia itself, London has the biggest celebrations. A few years ago I was lucky enough to accidentally get caught up in a colourful – and very loud – rag-tag parade in London’s Chinatown . On a bitter bitter February day, looking for somewhere to eat (naturally), my family and a few ex-pat friends turned a corner and found ourselves in Chinatown. In seconds it transformed from a bit crowded and merry, people jostling and shouting good-naturedly, to ear-piercing firecrackers, clacking cymbals and arrythmia-inducing drums. And dragons.

Ducking and weaving like kites on a string, these silken, multi-hued dragons dove into the crowd, playfully waggled their tails, and then disappeared to pop up somewhere else, on another street. We temporarily forgot our by now gnawing hunger and followed the throng of happy people, going wherever it was they were going. We ended up in a fantastic restaurant, somehow bagging a spot despite it being the most crowded restaurant I had ever been in. I think rules may have been broken. Codes contravened. But it was fantastic. We felt the huge excitement of families getting together, telling stories, slurping noodles, pulling sticky lacquered flesh from fragile bones; seeing frocked and besuited children running around, high on unnaturally-coloured sweets.

You couldn’t hear yourself think. The steamed up windows and clacking of many dozens of chopsticks said it all. Grey and low though the sky might have been, the colours, sounds and smells of this tiny tangle of London streets made it a February day to remember. And you can’t often say that about February, can you?

tofu-and-vegetable-dan-dan-noodles-by-food-to-glowToday’s recipe to celebrate Chinese New Year is a vegetarian redux of a popular Sichuan region street food. The name ‘dan dan’ refers to the type of poles used to carry the pots of noodles and spicy broth along the street – pedlar’s noodles. Usually these contain spicy minced pork (Sichuan is known for its fiery, nose-running cuisine), but with just a few adjustments, plain tofu makes a fantastic substitute – healthier too. My family actually thought these Dan Dan noodles had pork in it. I had to tell them at least twice that it was crumbled and spiced tofu. That might freak some of you out, but I think it was more that this dish isn’t bland (which tofu is unless you tinker with it), and I did a rather convincing job with my crumbling. If you have a sceptical family, perhaps go with a half and half approach of organic, free-range pork mince and organic tofu.

My recipe is also a lot less spicy and oily than more traditional ones. Loads more vegetables too. If you want to ramp up the fire, add chilli oil and lay on the Sichuan pepper for an electric shock treatment to your nose and tongue.

That can’t be a bad proposition on a February evening, can it? Beats going to a shockingly bad movie that shall remain nameless… 😉

This post is sponsored by Cauldron Foods, makers of organic tofu. Check their Ultimate Guide To Streetfood for recipes and tips on global vegetarian food around the world.

PS >> You still have time to win a copy of Gut Gastronomy (UK residents only). See here for rules and how to enter.


Spicy Tofu and Vegetable Dan Dan Noodles

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy-to-moderate
  • Print

A soupy, slurpy mix of spiralised vegetable noodles, wheat or rice noodles, fragrant aromatics and heart-healthy tofu and cashews. Use all vegetable noodles if you like. Amounts of everything in this western China-style recipe are pretty flexible so go with what you have – and feel free to play with the spicing. You can even add a dollop of creamy peanut butter or cashew butter  to the broth – a slightly Taiwanese twist.

This looks a bit ingredient-heavy but it is simple and straightforward. I like to freeze my tofu, defrost it overnight in the fridge, and then squeeze out all of the liquid. Freezing changes the texture of the tofu – makes it very sponge-like (it actually looks like a sponge too) and better able to suck up all of the flavours. But usually I forget to do this…

150g plain organic tofu, pressed of liquid then crumbled (see image)

1 tsp toasted fennel seeds, crushedcrumbled-tofu-and-chinese-spices

2 tsp five-spice powder

1 tsp toased Sichuan peppercorns, crushed (optional)

1 ‘nest’ of wholewheat or brown rice noodles

1 tsp sesame oil, plus extra for serving if liked

600ml light vegetable stock or water

1 tsp rice vinegar or black Chinese vinegar (more to taste)

2 tsp tamari/soy sauce/coconut aminos (more to taste)

1 tbsp + 1 tsp coconut oil or light rapeseed oil, divided useDSC_0535

2 garlic cloves, minced or sliced

3 spring onions/small scallions, sliced

1 red chilli, sliced (optional)

Handful of raw cashews

1 ‘thumb’ of gingerroot, peeled and finely chopped

1 tsp (+) raw sugar

1 small-medium carrot

1 small courgette/zucchini or 6” piece of mooli

100g pak choi, choi sum or broccoli, sliced (I used baby pak choi)

1/3 red pepper, cored and sliced

Leaf coriander, fermented chilli soy beans or sweet fermented soy beans – to garnish, optional

1. Mix the crumbled tofu with the fennel seeds, five-spice powder and Sichuan pepper (if using). Set aside.

2. Cook the noodles in the stock or water. Drain the noodles and keep the liquid. Dress the noodles with the sesame oil and set aside, covered. Pour the water/stock back in the pan. Add the rice vinegar and tamari sauce to the liquid. Taste and adjust to your liking; keep hot.

3. In a small wok or a frying pan, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the garlic, spring onions, cashews and ginger. Stir-fry until the garlic and onion are softened, then add a good pinch of sugar – this helps to balance the flavours but won’t make things sweet. You can add more later if you like. Turn up the heat, make a well in the centre of the pan and add a dash more oil (1 tsp); add the crumbled tofu and toss around in all of the ingredients. Let the tofu heat through and the cashews start browning. Turn off the heat and cover.tofu-and-vegetable-dan-dan-noodles-by-food-to-glow

4. Spiralise or julienne the carrot and courgette. Set aside.

5. Pop some warm sesame oil noodles into each bowl; ladle over the broth – adding the pak choi and red pepper too. Add in the delicate whisps of carrot and courgette and top with the tofu-cashew vegetables. Add on coriander and extra seasoning like fermented chilli soy beans or even sweet chilli sauce. Serve immediately.DSC_0552tofu-and-vegetable-dan-dan-noodles-by-food-to-glow

* Note:  To make the tofu suitable for crumbling and not turning to mush, fold the tofu in a thick tea towel – union linen is very good – and top with a heavy, but not too heavy, pan (you don’t want the tofu to collapse, just be pressed). Leave for half an hour, then crumble, cube or slice – according to your recipe. The ‘freeze, defrost and press ‘method is even better but requires more forward planning. Something I don’t very often do.

Similar On Food To Glow:

Asian Broth with Awesome Add Ins (Pho)

Butternut Squash and Tofu Laksa

Coconut and Lemongrass Tofu Soup

Crispy and Sticky Black Pepper Tofu

Fragrant Tofu Thai Green Curry

My Ma Po Tofu

Tea-Smoked Tofu Gado Gado

Tamarind and Shiitake Tofu

Tofu and Aubergine Lime-Basil Stir Fry

Recipes From Others:

Asian {Veggie} Noodle Salad – The Muffin Myth >> Katie and I are often on the same wavelength. She published this at the same time as I did my own!

How To Make A Bowl Of Noodles – Fuchsia Dunlop (expert on Sichuan cookery), in The Guardian

Gochujang Spiced Dumplings with Roasted Winter Squash and Mushroom – Franglais Kitchen

Steamy Kitchen has tons of links to her own and others’ recipes – mostly meaty or seafood, but some veggie ones too

One Green Planet has loads of vegan Chinese New Year links


**This week I am linking up to A Mummy Too for Emily’s Recipe of the Week round-up; to No Croutons Required, co-hosted by Lisa (Lisa’s Kitchen) and Jac (Tinned Tomatoes); and to Extra Veg (founders: Helen/Fuss Free Flavours and Michelle/Utterly Scrummy) hosted this month by Kerry. Why not enter your recipe, or look for some cooking inspiration?**


41 thoughts on “Spicy Tofu and Vegetable ‘Dan Dan’ Noodles for Chinese New Year

  1. honeydewice says:

    yummy 🙂 love your photos!

  2. superfitbabe says:

    Looks delicious and so healthy! Love your Asian recipes!

    1. Thanks so much. I have just added links to quite a few of my old ones at the bottom of the post.

  3. Emily Leary says:

    That looks absolutely gorgeous. Tofu and noodles are two of my very favourite things.

    1. Mine too, Emily. But I kind of forget about tofu occasionally and kind of kick myself when I remember how easy it is to play with.

  4. Beautiful recipes and photos as ever Kellie. I would love a spiraliser, but they are always so huge. Yours doesn’t look so bad. Is it attached to that board or just standing on it?

    1. Thanks, Miss Jac. Here’s where I got my spiraliser: I LOVE it. In the summer I use it a couple of times a day (and on fast days). I tried a few out before settling on this tiny one. Some don’t like the lurid green, but I don’t mind cos it works so damn well and doesn’t take up any room. :-

  5. Hilarious! Well great minds think the same, as usual! Though, I’d argue that my noodles are basic and darn near bland compared to this gorgeous dish. I’ve seen it on Instagram and been looking forward to the recipe, I’m so glad it’s finally here. This is definitely going on my menu very soon. Yum!

    1. I just saw yours pop into my mailbox and quickly zapped it into my link love section at the bottom of the post. This is all getting a bit spooky… 🙂 I haven’t read yours just yet – off to make dinner in a sec – but it looks far from basic. You need to have a word with yourself, Miss Trant!

  6. Violet says:

    Ooohhh, I love Dan Dan noodles and I love it when my mom makes it for dinner. 🙂 I’m going to share your vegetarian version with her. Thanks so much Kellie! 🙂

    1. I would be honoured. But not at all offended if she laughs! I appreciate your enthusiasm for my version. And that you took the time to tell me. 🙂

      1. Violet says:

        We like your version! 🙂

      2. Thanks so much!! :-))

  7. Jane says:

    This looks amazing! My roommate is vegetarian and has turned me onto tofu like no other. The more I make it, the better I get and the Tastier it becomes. Great recipe and pictures!

    1. Aw, thanks Jane. I’m glad you have developed a taste for tofu. It does take some tinkering with – but so worth it!

  8. Yum, this looks delicious!

    1. Thank you. 🙂

  9. I looooveeddddd it!!! What a beautiful dish Kellie.

    1. Wow, thanks Sonal!! Smiling at all of those o’s and d’s :-))

      1. Guess what? My dinner tonight was inspired by your post. Made 5 spice Chinese blend and made veg soup along with some stir fried pad Thai noodles, loaded with broccoli n baby corn and Chinese spice n soy sauce grilled tofu ❤️
        Will share on insta tomorrow. Will tag ya!! Muaah

  10. Cooksister says:

    Oh wow! Such a colourful bowl, and the flavours sound fantastic. Love your vivid description of CNY celebrations in Chinatown – it felt as if I was there!

  11. lizzygoodthings says:

    Love the combination of flavours and ingredients here, Kellie, and a great preamble to the recipe too! HNY!

  12. Lovely spicy noodle bowl. And freezing tofu to change the texture?! I’m glad to know about this since I don’t use tofu much and am not familiar with all the smart techniques.

    1. The one thing about food that you don’t know, I imagine. Glad to be of some use over here, Katie. 🙂

  13. I’ve just sent this link off to my friend in Hong Kong who said she “Wah!!! so beautiful and delicious” – hows that for an authentic approval 🙂
    Im just off to stick my decorations she posted me on my rice jars 🙂

    1. First of all, I’m jealous of your bespoke stickers – want. And secondly, that’s very sweet of her to say so – I am honoured. AS for your PS comment – thank you!!! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Sichuan peppercorns are the bomb, aren’t’they?

  14. ps. well we’ve just eaten this glorious dish for supper – it was bang on cos I had every ingred in the house incl the Sichuan peppercorns (love them). It was fantastic, bursting with flavour and the house smells gorgeous, thank you.

  15. Olive You says:

    YUM! I have a love affair with dan dan noodles. These are on the must-try list.

    1. Yay!! I hope you like this healthier version. 🙂

  16. Absolutely stunning photographs, what a beautifully colourful dish x

    1. Thanks for taking the time to tell me, Cate.

  17. Deena Kakaya says:

    I really enjoyed your steaming and bustling description of China town and even after all these years the place still makes my heart flutter. Your recipe is not any less cause for the flutters, what does it not have in it; spice, texture, kick and colour. Oh and the second pic you have shared- WOW xx

    1. Thank you, my friend. It is hands-down one of the most interesting areas in London. And that’s saying something!

  18. wheelie38 says:

    Great recipe, I accidentally opened a packet of tofu yesterday so now have something to do with it. I found you through #RecipeOfTheWeek

    1. I’m chuffed you clicked over from Emily. Thanks for your lovely comment, and taking the time to make it.I hope you like this way of using tofu. 🙂

  19. Looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve always wanted to try tofu but never been sure whether I would like. But this recipe looks Delish and has definately inspired me to try tofu and your recipe. Thank you


    1. I hoe you like it, Nichola. 🙂

  20. This looks very delicious. I have had an insatiable appetite for noodles lately, and this sounds like a fabulous recipe to try!

    1. I’m glad you like the look of this. I know that a few readers have made them and enjoyed them. I hope you do too!

  21. thespicyrd says:

    Seriously yummy looking! I’ve had the gluten-free Dan Dan Noodles at PF Changs before, and while they’re good, I have no doubt yours are much better, no to mention more nourishing as well! This reminds me of the time we took a family trip to San Francisco one weekend several years ago and it was pouring down rain the whole time we were there, but we could see the Chinese New year parade outside our hotel window, and the streets were packed with people, despite the pouring down rain 🙂

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