For Saturday night’s dinner, I ended up making Hakka noodles from my favorite cookbook, 660 Curries (visit my page on Favorite Cookbooks!). I love this recipe. It seems complicated, but then it’s really not. And omg it’s delicious! The Mister said last night, “you know, this is one of those meals I wish the whole wok was full.” So I guess I’ll be doubling this one in the future. That way, we *might* have leftovers.
What the heck are Hakka noodles?!
But first: what the heck is Hakka?
Well…I didn’t know about Hakka people until I found the recipe for Hakka noodles in my curry cookbook. Unless anyone wants to correct me, the best way I can describe the Hakka people is to say that they are a particular Chinese diaspora and live all over the world. In fact, for Christmas I asked for and received a wonderful cookbook aptly titled The Hakka Cookbook: Chinese Soul Food From Around the World.
The Hakka noodles featured in 660 Curries hail from Calcutta, and this dish is an excellent example of Chinese-Indian fusion. According to Raghavan Iyer, the author of 660 Curries, Calcutta has one of the largest Chinese communities in India. Describing the awesome fusion that has occurred there, he writes:
The sharp smell of the fermented soy-based ingredients that salted many of the immigrants’ dishes piqued the Indians’ curiosity. The aromas of stir-fried meats in hot woks further tempted the Calcuttans, and ropes of fresh noodles, ready to boil and toss into bowls, became a common sight. The immigrants, on the other hand, incorporated many of India’s spices and chiles into their cooking styles, creating an Indo-Chinese revolution within the depths of their woks. Fusion noodle dishes became insanely popular, and Hakka noodles came into being. Today they are found at street-corner stalls, on restaurant menus, and in home kitchens all over India. (p.676)
And in my home kitchen.
Iyer’s recipe calls for 8oz of fresh or dried fettuccini-type egg noodles. I don’t much care for egg noodles, so I usually just use plain old fettuccini. But last night I only had linguini on hand. So I used that.
First, I boiled water to cook the noodles, then drained them and set them aside while I did other stuff: make the sauce, fry some tofu, chop cauliflower, slice tomatoes and onions, chop some ginger.
I made a sauce in a bowl with 1/4 cup tomato ketchup, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1tbs malt or cider vinegar (I used malt), and a mixture of 1/2 tsp cayenne, 1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika, and 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt.
Iyer uses actual paneer and suggests 4 oz of it, but I usually substitute tofu for the paneer. I had about 1/4 of a 1lb block of tofu left over from something I made earlier in the week, so I cut into into little rectangles. I fried it in some canola oil and once it was golden brown, I removed it from the wok and put it on a paper towel on a plate while I sauteed cauliflower and garlic.
Manny likes to clean up the oil spatter. Also that mat is to help him get up from laying down. He is old and has arthritis.
Iyer’s recipe suggests 1 cup of cauliflower and 1 large carrot and I’ve done it that way before, which is delicious. I didn’t have any carrots on hand, so I used two cups of cauliflower and left out the carrot. I have also in the past substituted cabbage for the cauliflower–also delicious. I added the tofu back in, and unfortunately didn’t have any cilantro to toss in, but if you have cilantro, you should include it. When the cauliflower got browned and tender, but still crunchy, I added the noodles (dunk them in some warm water to loosen them) into the wok for a couple of minutes before stirring in the sauce. Manny is hopeful that some cauliflower (or anything) will fall on the floor.
Once the sauce evenly coated the noodles and cauliflower, I stirred in a handful of grape tomatoes i had quickly sliced in half, a handful of sliced yellow onion, and fresh chopped ginger. I stirred and salivated for a few more minutes, until the tomatoes were warmed up.
I filled two bowls with this deliciousness and felt only a little bit sad that I didn’t have any bean sprouts or cilantro to throw on top, like Iyer suggests doing. Besides the nice taste and texture, it surely would have been a prettier picture. (Sorry.)
Since it was Saturday night, we ate ALL OF IT (yeah, we can be pigs) while we watched TCM’s The Essentials, which last night was a movie from 1950 called Gun Crazy. They didn’t know what they were missing, not eating Hakka noodles: