Dan Dan Noodles with Seitan, Shiitake Mushrooms & Napa Cabbage
Most Asian markets carry the wonderfully pungent Sichuan peppercorns; they don't look like regular black or white peppercorns--they have a beautiful reddish-brown color and are cracked open as though they have exploded. To make ground Sichuan pepper, heat 1 tsp. peppercorns in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring, until darkened, fragrant and the first wisp of smoke appears. Quickly remove from heat. Grind into a powder in a mortar and pestle or place on a cutting board and gently crush with a rolling pin (1 tsp. whole peppercorns = about 1/4 tsp. ground).
Look for Chinese sesame paste--similar to tahini with a more prominent roasted-sesame flavor--in Asian markets.
Dark soy sauce (sometimes called black soy sauce) is thicker than regular soy sauce, with a touch of sweetness. Look for it in Asian markets or make a substitute by combining a bit of regular soy sauce with a tiny bit of molasses.
2 1/2 starch, 1/2 vegetable, 1 1/2 lean meat, 3 1/2 fat