Put your stash of Magic Masala seasoning packets away because these Vegetarian Hakka Noodles don’t need help in the flavour department.
Has anyone ever been out for Indo-Chinese food and not ordered Hakka Noodles? I could be mistaken, but I’m 83% sure it’s international law that you order at least one portion.
What is Indo-Chinese food?
Indo-Chinese cuisine is a treasured part of India’s food culture. The Chinese immigrant community in India began centuries ago, and many settlers lay down new roots around the ports of Kolkata and Madras. The vibrant and flavoursome cooking of India’s Chinese communities has carved a place in all our appetites.
Indo-Chinese favourite dishes
In Indo-Chinese cooking, the techniques of Chinese cooking meet Indian flavours (and vice versa), to create fresh, exciting dishes. The fiery heat of Chilli Paneer, offset by the tang of Gobi Manchurian or the mild, carby goodness of Burnt Garlic Fried Rice and Hakka Noodles. It’s flavour-rich comfort food that’s fast and filling. It’s not uncommon to spot Schezwan Dosas (that usually contain no Sichuan peppercorns), Manchow Soup, Honey-Chilli Potatoes and Chow Mein Samosas on Indian restaurant menus everywhere.
Who decides what is authentic?
The world of Indo-Chinese food is vast, rich and may seem utterly inauthentic to many people. But really, who cares about “authenticity” when the food tastes this good?
Indo Chinese food around the world
While Indo-Chinese is an integral part of India’s culinary scene, it’s also made its way around the world and is loved among Indian communities outside of India too. It’s a popular street food choice, as well as a restaurant favourite. Many Indian restaurants today even have separate menus for their Indo-Chinese dishes. In the UK, Chilli Mogo (or Indo-Chinese chilli cassava) is a very popular dish. It has come to be loved by many and is a product of those who have roots in both India and East Africa (where cassava is a staple carbohydrate).
Food travels with us
It is the beautiful evolution of cuisine through physical migration and cultural shifts; Food without borders. How to serve Hakka Noodles Hakka Noodles are an any time, any place noodle affair. This vegetarian version makes for a delicious lunch or dinner. Serve them with other Indo-Chinese favourites such as Chilli Paneer or Gobi Manchurian, or simply as they are.
30-minute Vegetarian Hakka Noodles
These Vegetarian Hakka Noodles are the ultimate quick meal. I often serve Vegetarian Hakka Noodles alongside some pan-fried tofu for added protein. However, you could always throw in some soy mince, seitan or tempeh.
My recipe for Vegetarian Hakka Noodles is has remained the same for years. It’s one of those timeless dishes you can count on when the contents of the fridge looks sparse and you’re short of time. Have it on the table in under 30 minutes and use whatever veggies you have to hand. I usually have carrots, cabbage, peppers and spring onions. Indeed, you can mix it up and throw in peas, corn, green beans, mange tout or baby corn. It’s a very forgiving recipe.
Thin, wheat flour noodles are the most common choice but this recipe works well with any type of noodle. Try it with rice noodles or mung bean noodles for a lighter, gluten-free version. Note that you’ll also need to use gluten-free soy sauce or GF tamari if gluten free.
Cook them according to package instructions but reduce cooking time by 2 minutes. I like to add turmeric to the water for colour but you don’t have to. I do not add salt to the water in this case as I wash the noodles later. The noodles should be about 80% cooked and a little firm to the bite. Once boiled, quickly drain the noodles in a colander and rinse them well under cold water. This washes away excess starch that causes noodles to stick together as they cool. Toss the washed noodles in oil so they do not dry out. They will be seasoned in the wok.
I like to julienne the veggies for this dish, so they are long and thin, just like the noodles. Ensure they are all cut to a similar size so that everything cooks together, time wise.
A wok is the best pan for this dish (cast iron, to be specific) but you can use any type of pan. Ensure it is smoking hot and all your ingredients are ready before you start cooking. This dish will come together in around 5 minutes (wok time, noodle cooking is separate). It’s the high heat over a well-seasoned cast iron wok that gives Chinese dishes their signature smoky flavour/aroma. This is called “wok hei” which translates to “breath of the wok”.
Sometimes, if I’m craving something deeply savoury. I won’t go into the health or political debates around using MSG except to say that it’s a personal decision. Do your own research and make your own choices. This recipe is delicious both with and without MSG. David Chang has some interesting thoughts on the subject of MSG.
2 as a main or 4 as part of a larger meal.
Ingredients: What you need to make Vegetarian Hakka Noodles
- Thin wheat flour noodles (these are the most commonly-used variety for this dish but any noodles will work).
- Any oil with a high smoke point (e.g. rapeseed, sunflower, vegetable)
- Peppers (capsicum/bell peppers)
- Chinese leaf cabbage or any other white cabbage
- Bok choy
- Dried red chillies (or fresh chillies/chilli flakes)
- Light soy sauce
- Rice vinegar (or any white vinegar)
- Ground white pepper
- MSG (optional)
- Large wok, kadai or frying pan (cast iron, aluminium or steel work best), but any will do.
For the noodles:
- 250 g dried thin wheat flour noodles (or any noodles of your choice)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp oil
For stir frying:
- 1 tbsp oil (sunflower, vegetable, peanut, canola or rapeseed are ideal)
- 1 carrot julienned
- 2 peppers julienned
- 80 g Chinese cabbage or white cabbage finely shredded
- 1 bulb bok choy
- 6 spring onions finely chopped, white and green parts divided
- 50 g baby corn quartered lengthways
- 4 large cloves garlic crushed
- 3-4 dried red chillies or to taste
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tsp white vinegar
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp MSG (optional)
- Bring a large pan or wok filled with plenty of water to the boil. Add the salt and turmeric. Boil the noodles according to package directions, reducing the cook time by two minutes. The noodles should be 80% cooked. They will appear red but the colour will change once stir-fried. Drain the noodles and wash them under cold running water to remove excess starch so they don’t stick together. Add 2 tsp oil and toss to coat all the noodles well.
- Heat up a large wok or pan. Once smoking hot, add the oil, garlic, dried chillies, spring onion (white parts only), and peppers. Stir fry for 30-40 seconds and then add the carrot, cabbage, baby corn and bok choy in rapid succession. Stir fry for 1 minute and then add the soy sauce, vinegar, white pepper, sugar, salt and MSG (if using). Stir to combine.
- Quickly add the cooked noodles and stir fry or toss to coat them well in the vegetables and light sauce. You will notice the colour of the noodles changes almost immediately. It will go from a reddish orange to egg yellow. This is due to the vinegar and the heat of the wok. Stir fry for no longer than 1 minute and then serve, garnished with the spring onion greens.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. Eat within 2 days.
- Serve with your favourite Indo-Chinese dishes.
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If you like this recipe, you’ll love this Chilli Paneer