Long before the rise (and fall) of so-called “fusion” cuisine, Hakka noodles managed to carve out a special place for themselves in Indo-Chinese culture. Seen only on some northern Indian menus, these noodles have transcended geopolitical boundaries to become a beloved staple by people of all walks of life.
The Origins of Hakka Noodles
Hakka noodles trace their roots back to the Hakka people, also referred to as the Hakka Han or Hakka Chinese. Unlike other Chinese communities, the Hakka Han don’t all come from one single region in China. The name Hakka means “guest families” in Cantonese. Made up of migrants fleeing the wars and upheaval during the Qing dynasty, they gradually dispersed and settled across the Indian subcontinent.
The city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) in India became the new home to many of these displaced refugees and over time, their vibrant fusion of Chinese techniques and Indian flavors were adopted as iconic, beloved street food dishes in India and beyond.
What Makes Hakka Noodles Special
Hakka noodles stand out from their other noodle brethren due to their distinctive texture and flavor. Made from a dense wheat flour dough, the strands are thin and long, with a remarkably resilient, springy, and chewy bite.
Sweet soy sauce is the primary flavor, leaning in on aromatic garlic and ginger, rather than the potent spices that create dazzling Indian curries. Due to their lack of overt heat, some consider Hakka noodles to be something relegated to the kid’s menu, but to let only youngsters relish this simple pleasure would be a true shame. They serve as a blank canvas, readily absorbing the flavors of any ingredients you throw at them.
Serving Suggestions for Hakka Noodles
Thanks to the long history of vegetarianism in India, paired with the expense and scarcity of meat, most recipes are naturally plant-based. Any vegetables available are fair game, but the most common additions include:
- Bell peppers
- Shredded carrots
- Bean sprouts
If such a mild approach sounds dull to you, you’re not alone. That’s why you’d very likely find fiery condiments tableside to add to taste, such as:
Hakka Noodles; Always A Welcome Guest
To this day, you can often find Hakka noodles being prepared on sizzling street-side carts in India, where skilled vendors effortlessly toss the noodles in giant woks, creating an enticing aroma that lures passersby. The art of making Hakka noodles is still being passed down through generations, preserving the original spirit and pride that goes into every plate.