1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ pound ground pork
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger (about one 1½-inch piece)
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
3 tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce (substitute regular soy sauce if you can't find dark soy sauce)
1½ tablespoons Chinkiang or Black Vinegar (substitute rice vinegar if you can't find black vinegar)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Pinch freshly ground Sichuan peppercorns (substitute white pepper if you can't find Sichuan peppercorns)
Pinch ground star anise or Chinese Five-Spice Powder
12 ounces Thai or Vietnamese rice noodles (look for the round or flat, thick variety)
⅓ medium English cucumber, thinly sliced into rounds
½ cup roughly chopped mint leaves
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro
½ cup chopped roasted peanuts
Chile-garlic oil (optional)
1. Make the pork: Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the vegetable oil to the hot wok and immediately add the pork. Cook until browned and pork is nearly cooked through, about 2 minutes. Drain off half of the cooking fat and add the garlic, ginger and brown sugar. Cook until the sugar begins to caramelize, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce and set aside.
2. Make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, pepper and star anise until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
3. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain the noodles from the water and submerge in cold water, then drain the noodles and divide among four bowls.
4. Add a large spoonful of the cooked, seasoned pork mixture to each bowl and drizzle with soy dressing. Top each bowl with the cucumber, a sprinkling of mint, cilantro and peanuts. Add a drizzle of chile-garlic oil if desired and serve.