Home Cookin’: Doug Muder’s Vegan Dan-Dan Noodles

February 26, 2024

Welcome to our second edition of “Home Cookin’.” Anyone in Bedford of any age, whether they are a five-star chef or a novice just learning the correct way to boil an egg, is invited to share their favorite recipes – and cooking stories and photos. Perfection is not required, but a sense of learning, adventure, and fun is always welcomed. The easiest way to get involved is through our Share Your News link. Please remember to include your contact information in case we have questions. 

Submitted by Doug Muder:

It’s a problem every cook faces eventually: The guest you’re going to want to cook for has dietary restrictions that eliminate your usual repertoire of dishes.

For me, it popped up when friends who moved to the West Coast decades ago began planning a visit. They have since turned vegan, and I was raised in a meat-and-potatoes family. The few non-meat main dishes I know lean heavily on eggs or cheese, which are also off the menu. What to do?

One option, of course, is to learn something completely new. Googling “vegan mains” produces a wealth of options, many of which are probably marvelous. But as I confessed in a previous article, I am something of a novice in the kitchen. Going from “I saw this on the internet” to “I’m ready to serve this to guests” is quite a trip for me. 

Isn’t there another option? Well, yes. Another possibility is to veganize a recipe you already have confidence in. 

A bad approach to veganization is to take a meat-based recipe and just leave out the meat, such as spaghetti and meatballs without the meatballs. Another possibility is to replace meat with some traditional vegan protein such as tofu, which Wikipedia traces back to the Han dynasty in China. But in recent years, food technologists have given us another option: plant-based substitutes designed to imitate the taste and texture of meat, like the Beyond Burger.

Obviously, the imitations aren’t perfect yet. So, there are plant-based meatballs, but still no plant-based T-bone steak. 

The recipe I picked to adapt was one I had cooked three times recently and was starting to feel confident in: Dan-Dan Noodles from The Essential Wok Cookbook by Naomi Imatome-Yun (a book that has yet to steer me wrong). The recipe calls for ground pork, but the meat is just one ingredient, not the essence of the dish. A lot of the texture comes from the noodles, and the pork flavor is surrounded by fresh ginger, chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns, and peanut butter. To my thinking, this gives a pork-substitute a lot of room for error. 

I had to replace two other ingredients to make the dish truly vegan. The chicken broth became vegetable broth, and the lo mein egg noodles became linguini, which is wheat-based. For the pork substitute, I went with LightLife’s soy-based Gimme Lean sausage.

After a test-run, I made one more change: For some reason (maybe because Gimme Lean has some spices of its own) my veganized dish came out hotter than when I made the Imatome-Yun recipe, while otherwise tasting quite similar. Since you can’t remove spice after the fact, I compensated by making a bit more linguini. But in the revised recipe, I lowered the amount of chili oil. 

Gimme Lean comes in 14-ounce tubes, where the recipe calls for 12 ounces. You could just go ahead and use it all because nobody ever complains if there’s a little too much sausage. But if you don’t trust plant-based meat substitutes, you can also use the extra two ounces for practice. I made a patty and fried it up for a breakfast sandwich with some very non-vegan egg and cheese on an English muffin. That gave me confidence to proceed.

I’ve rearranged the Imatome-Yun instructions for the novice cook, who can be thrown by instructions that require doing two things at once. In general, in wok cooking, things should happen really fast after you light the burner. Anything that can be done before that moment should be.


  • 2 tablespoons of peanut oil
  • 12 ounces of Gimme Lean
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped ginger
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1½ tablespoons chili oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil for the sauce plus a little for the noodles
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 8 ounces linguini
  • 2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
  • 3 scallions.

Step 1. Prep

  • Peel and chop the ginger
  • Crush the peppercorns
  • Chop the peanuts
  • Slice the scallions
  • Cut the Gimme Lean into patties

Step 2. Mix the sauce. In a small bowl, mix the broth, chili oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut butter, and Sichuan peppercorns. Everything should mix together but the peanut butter, which will stay in a few lumps. Don’t worry, those lumps will melt.

Step 3. Make the noodles. It’s just linguini; you’ve probably done this before. Every brand is slightly different, so follow the instructions on the package. When the noodles are done draining in the colander, massage in a little sesame oil to keep them from sticking together. 

Step 4. Heat the wok. Turn the burner to medium-high, add the peanut oil to the wok and swirl it around. If the oil starts to smoke, turn the heat down a little until it stops. Ideally, you want to keep the oil just below its smoke temperature.

Step 5. Begin cooking the sausage. Add the sausage patties to the wok. Salt and pepper them as you would meat patties. As they cook, start breaking them up into smaller chunks. Once the patties are broken up, begin to stir-fry.

Like many other meat substitutes, Gimme Lean doesn’t brown quite like meat, so if you’re used to working with ground beef or pork, your instincts will be screaming that something is wrong. For one thing, it’s stickier than ground meat, and will cling to knives and other utensils. It also doesn’t smell quite right while it’s cooking. (The first time I used a meat substitute, I completely lost faith in what I was doing when the household dog didn’t come to investigate.)

In the original recipe, this step is only two minutes, but with Gimme Lean, you’ll probably need more like four minutes. 

Step 6. Add the ginger and keep stir-frying. The original recipe allows two minutes for this as well, but if your meat chunks aren’t completely solid yet, give it a little more time. Pluck a piece out with chopsticks, blow it cool, and see if it feels right in your mouth. Don’t worry about the taste yet; you’ve still got sauce to add.

Step 7. Add the sauce. Stir it in until the peanut butter melts and everything is well mixed. Then reduce heat to a simmer and let it sit for 6-to-8 minutes. The sauce should start to thicken.

Step 8. Turn off the burner and add everything else. Add the noodles, peanuts and scallions. Then toss it all around to combine. It’s ready to serve. 

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