Dan Dan Lasagne
This inspired recipe from Jon Kung fuses two culinary heavyweights, lasagne and dan dan noodles. In place of the classic tomato-based ragu, Jon layers this lasagne up with a spicy dan dan-inspired pork sauce to create a truly special dish.
When I was little, I would sometimes ask for lasagne minutes before dinnertime. Of course, we had only ready-prepared lasagne at home and it was in the freezer when I asked, so after a few thwarted efforts, I learnt about the necessity of thinking ahead for dinner.
This cheesy and indulgent lasagne is how I’m bringing my love for that childhood favourite into my tastes as an adult. The sweetness of its tomato sauce is replaced with a tingly and spicy dan dan noodle–inspired mixture that better suits my present-day need for spice. Feel free to get a little freaky and try this with lamb mince instead of pork mince; use an extra teaspoon of cumin if you do.
|175g||lasagne sheets (preferably the curly edged kind)|
|175g||mozzarella cheese or Wisconsin brick, grated|
|25g||grated Parmesan or Manchego cheese, or crumbled goat’s cheese|
|For the dan dan sauce:|
|1 tbsp||neutral oil|
|1 medium||white or brown onion, diced|
|8||garlic cloves, grated|
|1 tbsp||grated fresh ginger|
|1 tbsp||Szechuan peppercorns|
|2 tsp||ground cumin|
|2 tbsp||chopped dried Szechuan chillies or other hot red chillies|
|4 tbsp||ya cai (preserved mustard leaves)|
|4 tbsp||water or ready-made chicken broth|
|¾ tsp||light soy sauce or Tomato Soy Sauce (page 52 of Kung Food)|
|800g||canned whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, with their juices, blended or mashed|
|neutral oil, for greasing|
You will need: a 23 x 33cm casserole dish.
Make the lasagne: bring a large pot of salted water to the boil over a high heat. Add the lasagne sheets and cook for 1 minute or so less than the packet instructions indicate (they’ll continue to cook in the oven). Drain, rinse with cold water and toss with the butter to prevent sticking.
In a large bowl, mix the ricotta with 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in the mozzarella and the Parmesan and set aside.
Make the dan dan sauce: in a large sauté pan, heat the oil over a medium-high heat. Add the pork mince and cook, stirring often to break it up into smaller pieces, until browned and mostly cooked through, 5–8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Return the pan to a medium-high heat and add the onion, garlic, ginger, Szechuan pepper, cumin, dried chillies and ya cai. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the water or broth, soy sauce, tomatoes with their juices and cornflour and stir to mix well. Return the pork to the pan and use your spoon to further break down the pieces of pork for an even consistency.
Reduce the heat to low and cook until the loose liquid has evaporated as much as possible and you have a very thick and uniform meat sauce. (The sauce can be cooled and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.) Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Grease the bottom and sides of a 23 x 33cm casserole dish with an oiled piece of kitchen paper.
Spoon a very thin layer of meat sauce across the base of the oiled dish. Place a layer of pasta (usually 3 or 4) side by side over the sauce and then add one-quarter of the cheese mixture. Follow with another pasta layer, one-third of the remaining meat sauce and one-third of the remaining cheese. Then drizzle with a little chilli oil (about 1 tablespoon) and add a few dashes of five-spice powder (about ½ teaspoon). Repeat two more times, until you have four layers of pasta, finishing with the last of the cheese on top. Sprinkle with more chilli oil and five-spice.
Bake for 30–45 minutes until the lasagne is bubbling and the cheese layer on top begins to brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool and settle for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.