Pigging it: pork hakka noodles

After some seven years I recently handed over the ladles to our maid, Banu. We have a bit of a Kung Fu Panda thing going there as she is talented and is extremely enthusiastic but needs to be trained. Most of the things she turns out are quite nice - including Bengali recipes and a few Chinese and continental stuff with ready sauces. But she recently massacred two very delicate fresh water fishes treasured by us Bengalis - pabda and eelish on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Both were without salt and she had put onions in the eelish curry which is a culinary sacrilege. In fact I was planning to make the eelish myself but the poor thing took the initiative to make it when she saw it in the kitchen.

Anyway after 2 lousy meals I took matters into my own hands on Sunday night. I decided to make my pork hakka noodles. The only problem when I make it is that sometimes the noodles get squishy and over cooked. Kainaz hates that and gets a bit traumatised and emotional, to put it mildly, when confronted by slushy noodles.

Smarting from my own fish fantasies being spoilt I made a special effort to make the noodles a la dente (firm) and was quite succesful I must say.


Ok here's how I cooked it:
  • I boiled the noodles and strained the water the moment the noodle lost their stiffness. I had added a chopped onion bulb and some french beans in this while boiling
  • I then fried an egg and chopped it
  • I then added 4 table spoons of oil in a sauce pan, heated it and and added scrap ( a mix of bacon, sausages and ham) and some sliced ginger. I fried this till the meat became soft BUT not crispy and the bacon began to give out fat (you can substitute this with chicken cold cuts or boiled shredded chicken)
  • Then I added to the cause of Asian harmony by mixing a Chinese Soy sauce made in India and a Shanghai Chilly paste and a Thai Pad Thai sauce which Kainaz had got from Bangkok (You can just use soy and chilly if you don't have the others)
  • After this I added the noodles - some salt, ajino moto and vinegar.
  • I then added some finally chopped capsicum (green bell pepper) and spring onions. I added it towards the end as I wanted them to be a bit crunchy
  • I tossed this around and garnished it with the egg

The result was what Kainaz said were the best noodles I had ever made. In fact earlier in the day we were at, where else, Candies. Over there we saw Kylie Kwong making noodles in a wok and Kainaz told me that she wanted my dish to look like what Kylie was making. And I dare say it did!

The following are some of the influences on my hakka noodles:

  • My mom from whom I have picked up tricks like boiling the onion bulb and beans with the noodles and adding the greens towards the end so that you get a crunchy bite. She is quite famous in the family for her Chinese dishes. I am not sure but I think I had heard stories while growing up that she had learnt it from my dad who had learnt it from a Chinese cook in England
  • Two boys who used to run a cheap Chinese food cart at Bombay's Nariman Point. This was in the early days when my noodles just wouldn't turn out to be firm. I was going to work one day when I saw them boiling noodles before the lunch hour rush. I went and asked them how to get such separate strands. I am sure they must have been bemused by this young executive coming and asking them this. Anyway they told me that I should wash the noodles with cold water after boiling and try to separate it with a bit of oil using a fork. in fact my mom told me this too later
  • A restaurant called All Stir Fry at Colaba where you were supposed to load your meats and noodles and they would fry it in a wok. Over there it was written that we should add the meat at the top so that it goes into the bottom of the wok and cooks more. That's why I cook the meat first and then add the noodles later

So there you have the secret to my pork hakka noodles: oil, pork, eggs not what the doctor would approve but I am sure Anthony Bourdain would.

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