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On a Hakka trail

As the month-long celebration for the Chinese New Year nears its end, here’s an ode to the most popular dish from China — Hakka noodles.

india Updated: Feb 27, 2013 02:19 IST
Debasmita Ghosh

Be it the five stars or street side joints, the one Chinese dish that’s possibly the most popular in India (and easily available too), is Hakka noodles. A plate of wok tossed “chowmein” perked up with greens, chillies and sauces is almost synonymous with the image of Chinese cuisine we have in our minds. But do you know that real Hakka noodles is far from what you’ve been eating all these years?

“Back in China, from where the dish originated, it’s usually cooked in soup, braised or just tossed. On the other hand, Indians use a lot of vegetables and chilli to make it spicy. So, the Hakka noodle that you see here actually belongs to the Indian-Chinese cuisine,” says Chef Thomas Wee of Empress of China, Eros Hotel, Hilton.

The India connect
Hakka dishes is the cooking style of the Hakkas — people who resided in and around the Chinese provinces of Guangdong and Fujian. “Groups of Hakkas migrated to different parts of the world, including India, bringing in several new skills, including cooking styles. A lot of them were known to set up eateries specialising in Hakka dishes, customising it as per Indian taste buds, and thus creating this new genre of ‘Indian-Chinese’ dishes,” says Sanjay Chadha of Asia Kitchen.

Authenticity vs Demand
Authentic Hakka noodles is made from unleavened rice or wheat flour dough that’s cooked in a boiling liquid. The noodles may be dried or refrigerated before cooking. While dry readymade versions are easily available in the market, strict Chinese taskmasters in most five stars, still prefer to make it in their kitchens. Chef Sam Wong of Crowne Plaza Today, New Delhi-Okhla, has been an expert in the same much like Chef Hu, the Cantonese specialist at The Oberoi, Gurgaon. “I often tweak the dishes to suit the guests’ tastes. Some enjoy lower levels of spice, some want slightly sweeter and saucier,” says Hu, who makes traditional hand-pulled noodles, cut fly noodles and even fish noodles at his kitchen. Adds Wong, “We never tamper with the basics. We only balance the flavours to suit the tastes. So, while Taiwanese noodles will be less salty, Cantonese would be slightly bland, and well, Indian Chinese would be the spiciest.”

Veg Hakka Noodles
1 packet Hakka noodles (200gm)
4 spring onions, sliced crosswise, greens and whites separated
1 cup purple cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup frozen beans
About 1 cup thinly sliced multi-coloured capsicum
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 medium celery, thinly sliced
1/2-1 cup bean sprouts
1-2 garlic, finely minced
1-2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce (depending on the brand, you might need less/more)
1 tsp vinegar (optional)
1-2 tbsp chilli sauce, as per taste (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak noodles in warm water for two-three minutes with a spoonful of oil, and then drain. Heat oil in a wok. Sauté all the vegetables, add the noodles and toss them for two minutes. Make sure the veggies are crispy. Add the seasoning as per your taste and toss well again on high flame. Garnish with spring onions.
-By chef Thomas Wee, Empress of China

Hakka points in Delhi
For a nice dish of Hakka noodles, you could head to the any of the following places:
My Humble House, ITC Maurya
The Monk, Hotel Galaxy, Gurgaon
Royal China, Nehru Place
The China Kitchen, Hyatt Regency
Mainland China, GK II
19 Oriental Avenue, Shangri-La
Pan Asian, The Sheraton, Saket
Chaobella, Crowne Plaza Today New Delhi Okhla
Kylin Premier, Vasant Kunj
Shiro, Hotel Samrat
Spice by Q’BA, Saket
TK’s Oriental Grill, Hyatt Regency
Mamagoto, Khan Market
Chopsticks, Asiad Village
Hao Shi Nian Nian, GK I
Asia Kitchen, Hauz Khas Village
Yo China (Chains across Delhi)
Taste of China, CP
China Doll, South Ex
Drums of Heaven, Green Park
Chungwa, GK II
Side Wok, GK I and CP
Soy, Khan market