Dan Dan Noodles — the slurpy, slithery Szechuan dish of hand-cut noodles in a fiery chili oil topped with pickled vegetables and (more often than not) flavorful ground pork — is a real treat. It’s light but filling, sharp but comforting, exotic enough that you can order it without embarrassment, but accessible enough that it can be served to your Aunt Charlene. The real thing is a far cry from the palate-stripped version served at chains like P F Chang’s — but the problem is, it’s kind of hard to find.
Just ask Chicago Food Whores — they went looking for the savory dish at Double Li, and instead of the “milky, salty, peanutty flavor” they were going for, they wound up slurping “a giant oily mess” made with the wrong kind of noodles — flat, eggy noodles instead of the appropriate hand-cut rice version.
So what’s a Dan Dan Noodle-loving girl to do? By far the best in the area are at Katy’s Dumpling House in Westmont, where the broth is intensely piquant and the hand-cut noodles are made fresh daily. In town, our top pick is the rendition at Spring World, where it’s more of a noodle dish than a broth dish (mix it up so each mouthful delivers a dose of ma la), but the flavors mix beautifully. If Spring World’s not on the agenda, you can give it a shot at Lao Sze Chuan (menu item K03), where the kitchen turns out a serviceable version that’ll tide you over until you can sate your craving at Katy’s or Spring World, or book a flight to Chengdu.
Double Li - In search of Dan Dan Noodles [Chicago Food Whores]