'Don't try this at home' is a book which chronicles the 'culinary catastrophes' of celeb chefs. The book is like the curate's egg. 'Good in parts'.
My recent botched attempt to make biriyani reminded me of the first time I tried to make hakka noodles. This was soon after we got married. I told K that I'd make noodles. My mom used to make it in Calcutta. I had seen her at various stages of making it and felt that I could crack it easily.
A while into the noodles and I knew that it was a 'historical blunder'. The noodles were soggy, squishy. I hoped to rescue it with lots of oil, sauce and ajino moto. But it turned from sticky to worse. I went into the next room where Kainaz was catching up with a childhood friend on the phone. One look at my face and she put the phone down and tried to calm me. The next day I went and asked a Chinese fod cart guy at Nariman Point about the secret to firm noodles. The kind guy in a loongi, was not flustered by the question from the pin striped 'saab' and helped me out.
It's been close to nine years since then. A few disasters in between. But I can confidently say that hakka noodles are my forte now. I have written about pork and bacon hakka noodles before. Well this is with chicken. The plot remains the same. A few little tricks and you can get some variations.This is a nice way of making tough, chunky cuts of chicken, which you get if you buy a big bird, palatable. We were recently stuck with some at home.
Chicken Hakka Noodles (for 2)
- Boil 250 g chicken. Cut into little bits. You can cook it straight without boiling but will need more oil. Some say that's not a good thing
- Fry an egg, smash into pieces and keep it aside
- Finely chop one capsicum, one peeled carrot, two or three stalks of spring onions, a bit of cabbage and some small chillies
- Boil 200 g noodles. I use cheap local egg noodles. I find that the fancy, expensive ones (e.g Chings) don't have a spine.
- Boil the noodles in thrice the amount of water. Switch off the burner the moment the noodles become a bit flexible. DON'T OVER COOK. Strain it out and hold the strained noodles under a running tap of cold water. This is the secret to firm noodles. You don't even need to add oil though some advise that. Separate the strands with a fork.
- Take 4 tablespoons of oil in a non stick pan. You can't skimp on the oil. Use olive oil if you feel guilty. I do
- Once the oil's hot add a few pieces of chopped garlic. Or ginger. Once the fragrance of the garlic begins to mix with the oil add some sauces. I used a tablespoon each of dark soy, green chilly sauce and ketchup (adds a slight sweetness). This is the point at which you could experiment and go to a shop and buy oyster sauce, black bean sauce, Thai chilly plum...the world's your oyster in India these day. Cover the pan with a lid as the oil could splatter.
- Uncover the pan after thirty seconds and add the chicken. The meat should ALWAYS be added after the sauces and before the noodles and veggies. Meat takes more time to cook. And you want the flavour of the meat to spread through the noodles. In restaurants they just add stuff in the end. Pshaw!
- Stir the meat till its coated with the sauce
- Add the noodles. Add a tablespoon each of salt and black pepper. A teaspoon of ajino moto (skip this if it makes you wary). Pour a bit of vinegar so that the seasoning dissolves. Slowly fold the noodles around the meat. 'Fold' is a fancy, pretentious word which means 'stir the noodles in a way that the meat pieces are distributed evenly'.
- Stir the noodles till it looks cooked and till it has taken a bit of colour from the sauces
- Add in the vegetables. This comes towards the end as the veggies should have a bit of a crunch in them and should not be over cooked
- Stir for a bit more time on a high flame so that a few strands of noodles become a bit crunchy
- Top it with the crumbled fried eggs and you are done