Hakka noodles are a popular item found on Chinese restaurants in India. The dish was brought to India by Hakka Chinese immigrants (from Southern China) who started coming into the country (mainly via the port of Calcutta, the capital of British India) in the late 18th century. In the subsequent years, Chinese food in India has been transformed into a unique cuisine in its own right (distinct from either Indian or Chinese food), and Hakka noodles is one of the more famous staples of this cuisine. Both of my parents spent significant periods of their lives in Calcutta (and I was born there), and based on their recollections, I recently became interested in making Indochinese foods. As I researched Hakka noodles, I found that there is little agreement on what the essential ingredients are. So, my particular recipe here is based on my interpretations of firsthand description from my parents and information from the sources I consider most reputable. The dish is vegetarian, but can easily accommodate minced meat or strips of beef. The addition of cabbage, I think is essential for the desired texture of this dish. Finally, the use of dark soy sauce is required (not light soy sauce), because I have found that the Chinese in India exclusively cook with the dark variety (which is aged longer and contains more molasses, making it thicker, sweeter and less salty than the light variety). Overall, this is a really simple recipe to make, and it packs a lot of flavor!
Read on for the recipe:
12 oz. cooked Chinese egg noodles (if you can't find these at a local Asian store, you can cook your own egg noodles and allow them to cool)
3 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp ginger, minced
3-5 whole dried red chilies (substitute 1-2 tbsp crushed red chili flakes if you can't find these)
1/2 green cabbage, shredded or sliced
1 red pepper, sliced into narrow strips
2 carrots, shredded
1 tbsp. Sriracha sauce
1.5 tbsp. Dark soy sauce
1 tbsp. Tomato chili sauce (Maggi Brand - can be found at Indian stores - you can substitute with another tbsp of Sriracha)
A few green onions, chopped
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a wok. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, ginger, and red chilies, crushing the chilies roughly with your hands as you add them (I do this a lot, but be careful to not touch yourself without completely washing your hands with soap after crushing). Once everything becomes fragrant, add the cabbage, peppers, and carrots. Mix well, and cook until the vegetables are softened up (about 5 minutes).
Once the vegetables are soft, add the sauces and mix everything up. Lastly, add your noodles, toss to distribute the sauce everywhere. Season with salt to taste, and cook just until the noodles are fully coated and hot. Remove from the heat and garnish with green onions. Done! Eat alone or serve as an accompaniment for a full meal. This is a really simple and quick recipe, but it is incredible flavorful and has a bit of an exotic feel to it. Hope that you enjoy it!