Tan Tan. Or Dan Dan. Whatever you call them, these noodles might be my new favourite thing. And my new favourite thing only cost FOUR BUCKS at Parker Place!
You’ll remember this mall if you read my post on Parker Place BBQ, that awesome, meaty joint where I tried jelly fish for the first time and couldn’t get enough of their pork and rice. If you walk past this shop and further into the mall, you’ll end up in the food court, a packed circle of Taiwanese, Japanese, Chinese and Singaporean vendors dishing up trays of hot, cheap food.
I settled on the Shanghai Goodies stall as soon as I saw “tan tan” on their menu, since this is a dish I’ve been meaning to try. It cost just $4, so I figured I’d get something else too, and pointed to the sign for deep-fried pumpkin cakes; they sounded sweet and crunchy. The woman hesitated, then nodded and charged me $2.25 instead of the advertised $3. I didn’t think much of it, and waited for my food.
When it came up she put my food on a tray, then tried to switch my chopsticks for a fork. I indicated that no, I’d like to use them, and she shrugged before sliding the tray over. My tall, white, English-only self must be confusing to people sometimes.
My pumpkin cakes were definitely not pumpkin; I guess they had run out, and either she wasn’t able to communicate that to me, or hoped I just wouldn’t notice they were actually rice. Again, I must have really seemed like I was lost.
The cakes were salty and very crunchy, but rather plain. I wouldn’t order them again, not that I did in the first place!
The tan tan noodles, however, were amazing! Tan tan is a variation on ‘dan dan,’ the word ‘dan’ meaning ‘pole.’ Apparently Sichuan vendors used to carry bowls of these spicy noodles on either end of their peddler’s poles, and the nickname ‘pole pole’ eventually stuck. Because they were originally street food, I imagine it’s impossible to name any one recipe as ‘authentic,’ and I found many variations while researching online.
At first, Shanghai Goodies’ version didn’t look like much, a big pile of white noodles surrounded by a spicy red broth, topped with spinach leaves and peanut sauce. But once I stirred it all together, getting the bits of preserved vegetables mixed in with the broth and peanuts, it was sublime. The noodles were soft, but not too soft, and completely addictive once coated in the sauce, which was both fiery from chili and creamy from the ground peanuts. Many recipes I looked up included minced pork, but this version appeared to be meat free, sticking to its peasant roots. Truly, I will have a hard time ordering anything else the next time I go to this food court.
Based on a reader’s recommendation, I also sought out the nearby Cherry Fruit Juices and Icy Tea, and ordered the fresh mango and tapioca with ice ($4.25). My server first took a large block of ice and put in on a shaving machine, then scooped the ‘snow’ into a tall plastic cup. On top of it went milk, mango puree, small tapioca pearls, several large spoonfuls of fresh mango, condensed milk, and a final drizzle of sweetened and condensed milk.
It was ENORMOUS. And refreshing! I would totally order it again, but not recommend it to any of my lactose-intolerant friends.
Parker Place Food Court – another new, great find.
Vegetarian options available