Indian spices meet Chinese techniques
At the popular Ashland restaurant Chennai Woodlands, which specializes in South Indian dishes, manager Parthi Ramanujam says that there is a lot of demand for Indian-Chinese food. Indian-Chinese cuisine emerged as a result of the migration of Chinese to the Indian subcontinent many decades ago. Most came from the Indo-China border for, among other reasons, employment and political refuge.
As with Indian cooking, Chinese cooking is provincial and the staple is rice. Some regions use more spices than others, and the types of dishes vary. But when Indians went to Chinese restaurants in India, they were looking for spicy Chinese food. What emerged was a cuisine that merged Indian spices, which suited the local tastes, with classic Chinese recipes and cooking techniques. In addition, dishes evolved that suited the large Indian vegetarian population. And so Indian-Chinese food — Indian spices and seasonings overlaid with Chinese techniques — was added to the other culinary traditions.
Some popular dishes include dumplings in a hot, sweet, and sour sauce; Chinese fried rice, a spicier and more Indian-like version of the classic dish; chili cauliflower, marinated in hot peppers and garlic and deep-fried; and Hakka noodles.
The noodle dish that takes its name from the Chinese province of Hakka is one of the more popular Indian-Chinese dishes. Narrow and flat, almost square in shape, Hakka noodles are made with durum wheat, with or without eggs. The vegan variety is still rich in flavor, but light. (Look for the noodles at Indian specialty stores or at www.patelbrothersusa.com.)
Hakka noodles, usually served as a main course, are stir-fried with cabbage, carrots, red bell peppers, and snow peas. They’re not especially saucy in the pan, but a hot, vinegar-based sauce and soy sauce accompany the
m at the table. And though Indians eat their cuisine with their fingers or, in more formal settings, a fork, the Indo-Chinese continue, as always, to use chopsticks.
Hakka noodle stir-fry
Have the ingredients assembled near the stove so you can cook the dish quickly. Make the vinegar sauce a day in advance and refrigerate it. Serve the noodles with the vinegar mixture and soy sauce. Serves 4.
FOR THE NOODLES
|2||tablespoons sesame or peanut oil|
|1||package (about 9 ounces or 200 grams) hakka noodles|
1. In a large pot, bring the water, salt, and 1 tablespoon oil to a boil. Add the noodles and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes or until the noodles are tender but still have some bite.
2. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse them with cold water. Shake the colander to remove the excess moisture.
3. Transfer the noodles to a bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and toss gently but thoroughly.
FOR THE STIR-FRY
|3||tablespoons sesame oil or peanut oil|
|1||clove garlic, chopped|
|1||teaspoon crushed red pepper|
|1||teaspoon soy sauce|
|1||bunch scallions (white part only), chopped|
|1/4||head green cabbage, shredded|
|2||carrots, thinly sliced into 2-inch strips|
|1/2||green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 2-inch strips|
|1/4||pound sugar snap peas, cut on the diagonal into fine strips|
|Salt, to taste|
1. In a wok or large skillet over high heat, heat the oil. Cook the garlic and crushed red pepper, stirring constantly, for 10 seconds.
2. Add the soy sauce and sugar and stir-fry for 5 seconds.
3. Add the scallions and stir-fry for 10 seconds.
4. Add the cabbage, carrots, bell pepper, and sugar snaps. Stir-fry for 2 minutes.
5. Add the noodles and salt. Mix well and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
FOR THE SAUCE AND GARNISH
|1/2||cup apple cider vinegar|
|2||teaspoons thinly sliced hot green chili peppers|
|2||scallions, thinly sliced|
|2||teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley|
|1/3||cup soy sauce (for serving)|
1. In a bowl, combine the vinegar and chilies.2. Garnish the noodles with scallions and cilantro or parsley. Divide the mixture among 4 deep bowls and garnish each one with a wedge of lime. Serve with the vinegar sauce and soy sauce.