Dan dan and duck man mei: Erchen Chang’s Chinese noodle recipes

Noodles are a thing of beauty when cooked correctly, and the way to my heart. I particularly love the elegant simplicity of wheat noodles, which are the most common type found in Taiwan. I’m always on the lookout for them in London, usually without much joy, so we now make our own at Bao Noodle Shop in Shoreditch, east London, our new restaurant that’s inspired by Taiwan’s beef noodle shops. We also serve today’s dan dan tofu noodles, an easy, non-broth-based dish that’s complex, balanced and extremely moreish. The second recipe, duck man mei is a more homestyle dish, using the leftover meat from a takeaway Chinese roast duck. It’s something I make regularly at home.

Dan dan tofu noodles (pictured above)
This simple, savoury dish is all about the balance of every component, so use good soy and good vinegar and you won’t go wrong. Make sure you thoroughly mix the noodles before eating.

Prep 10 min
Cook 25 min
Serves 3

For the dan dan tofu
200ml rapeseed oil – I use Duchess
150g firm tofu – I like Arty Vegan’s
2½ tsp (5g) grated fresh ginger
1½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
Salt
300g white wheat noodles – from any Asian supermarket. I use Sau Tao’s dan dan or Shanghai noodles, though Clearspring’s normal (ie, not wide) udon might be easier to get hold of; whatever you use, it’s important to use a white wheat noodle here.

For the dressing (per serve)
2 tsp soy sauce
½ garlic clove, minced
1 tsp Chingkiang black rice vinegar
3 tsp chilli oil with bits – one with Sichuan chilli oil, ideally
1 generous handful finely sliced coriander, to finish

Put the rapeseed oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Break the tofu into coarse, roughly 1cm cubes with rough edges, then add to the pan with the ginger, and fry, stirring, for two minutes. Add the chilli, white pepper, sugar, soy and a pinch of salt, then leave to cook gently, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, so the tofu soaks up all the flavours and goes very tender and fluffy. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Warm up three noodle bowls, and measure out and mix a portion of the dressing ingredients in the base of each bowl.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, then drop in the noodles and cook for two to three minutes (or according to the packet instructions). Drain, transfer to the dressing in the bowls and top each portion with five tablespoons of the dan dan tofu mix, making sure to include some of the oil. Add a generous handful of sliced coriander to each bowl, toss everything together so the noodles are glistening in the dressing and serve at once.

Duck man mei noodles

My partner Shing introduced me to this dish, and it’s now my go-to whenever we’ve got leftover takeaway Chinese roast duck. We eat half the duck with steamed rice and save the rest to turn into this. Whenever I order a roast duck, I always ask for extra bones, to turn into the broth for the base, which is a habit I’d very much recommend.

Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 15 min
Serves 2

For the roast duck noodles
½ Chinese roast duck (from your local Cantonese takeaway), meat stripped from bones, bones reserved
200g mixed fermented greens – preserved mustard greens, takana (pickled mustard leaves), preserved vegetables: you’ll find them in all good Asian food shops
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 thumb-sized knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 pinch white pepper
½ tsp Chingkiang black rice vinegar
100g rice vermicelli noodles
60ml sweet soy sauce (ie, the sauce that usually comes with Cantonese roast duck)
1 spring onion, finely sliced, to garnish

For the roast duck broth
About 200g Chinese roast duck bones (ie, from about 2 ducks)
1 litre cold water (filtered, ideally)
1 spring onion
1 knob fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 pinch salt
1 pinch white pepper

First make the broth. Put all the duck bones in a pot, cover with the cold water and bring to a boil. Skim the surface, turn down the heat to medium-low, add the spring onion and ginger, and leave to simmer for an hour (if the water level reduces below the top of the bones, add more water to cover).

Meanwhile, dice the leftover roast duck into 1cm cubes. Drain the fermented greens and chop to a similar size.

After an hour, strain the stock and discard the solids. Return the stock to the pan, season with the soy, salt and white pepper, and keep warm on a low heat.

Put the vermicelli in a bowl, pour over boiling water to cover and leave to soak for two minutes. Drain, use scissors to cut into shorter strands and set aside.

Put the vegetable oil in a frying pan on a high heat (if you have any scraps of duck fat, add them, too), then fry the fermented greens for a few minutes. Add the ginger, fry for another minute, then stir in the roast duck meat and season with the oyster sauce and a big pinch of white pepper. Add the noodles to the pan, pour the sweet soy sauce and vinegar over the lot, toss to combine, then taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

To assemble, spoon the duck noodle mix into bowls, ladle over enough stock to come just below the top of the noodles, garnish with the sliced spring onion and serve.