Dan Dan Lasagna

By / Food / March 13th, 2024 / Like

Reprinted with permission from Kung Food: Chinese American Recipes from a Third-Culture Kitchen by Jon Kung © 2023. Photographs © 2023 by Johnny Miller. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

When I was little, I would sometimes ask for lasagna minutes before dinnertime. Of course, we had only Stouffer’s lasagna at home, and it was still in the freezer when I asked, so after a few thwarted efforts, I learned about the necessity of thinking ahead for dinner.

This cheesy and indulgent lasagna is how I’m bringing my love for that childhood favorite into my tastes as an adult. The sweetness of Stouffer’s 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 ground lamb instead of ground pork; use an extra teaspoon of cumin if you do.

Serves 4



  • Kosher salt
  • 16 ounces lasagna noodles (preferably the curly edged kind)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 (15-ounce) ricotta cheese
  • 16 ounces mozzarella cheese or Wisconsin Brick, grated
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Manchego cheese, or crumbled goat cheese

Dan Dan sauce

  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil
  • 1½ pounds ground pork
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
  • 8 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dried Szechuan chilies or other hot red chilies
  • ¼ cup ya cai (preserved mustard greens)
  • ¼ cup water or store-bought chicken broth
  • ¾ teaspoon light soy sauce or Tomato Soy Sauce
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, with their juices, blended or mashed
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Neutral oil, for greasing
  • Basic Chili Oil
  • Five-Spice Powder

Make the lasagna: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the lasagna noodles and cook for a minute or so less than the package 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 medium-high heat. Add the ground pork and cook, stirring often to break it up into smaller pieces, until browned and mostly cooked through, about 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the onion, garlic, ginger, Szechuan pepper, cumin, dried chilies, 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 cornstarch 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 350°F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish with an oiled paper towel.

Spoon a very thin layer of meat sauce across the bottom of the oiled dish. Place a layer of noodles (usually 3 or 4) side by side over the sauce and then add one-quarter of the cheese mixture. Follow with another noodle layer, one-third of the remaining meat sauce, and one-third of the remaining cheese. Then drizzle with a little chili 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 noodles, finishing with the last of the cheese on top. Sprinkle with more chili oil and five-spice.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the lasagna 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.

photo credit: Johnny Miller

JON KUNG is the popular Chinese American chef, content creator and podcast host, who has amassed an online following of more than 2 million people for his unique style of third culture cooking, blending cultural traditions, flavors and ingredients that are meaningful and personal to him. After graduating from Eastern Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in theater arts and creative writing and earning a law degree from University of Detroit Mercy, Jon changed career paths to focus on cooking. He worked in some of the top Detroit kitchens before launching his own successful pop-up Kung Food Market Studio. When the pandemic forced him to shut down his pop-up, he turned to social media, where he created instructional yet entertaining cooking videos exploring the vast Chinese diaspora and applying culinary techniques of traditional Chinese cooking (stir-frying, braising, creating broths, using a cleaver) onto global flavors and ingredients. In addition to developing recipes, Jon hosts the podcast 1 For The Table with his close friend, legendary makeup mogul and extraordinary drag queen Kim Chi. Kung Food: Chinese American Recipes from a Third Culture Kitchenis Jon’s debut cookbook. 


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