Vegetable Chow Mein/Hakka Noodles with Instant Ramen Noodles
Indo-Chinese food is the amongst the most popular cuisine in India. Indian’s who move out of the country miss this kind of fast food the most, because this cuisine is extremely difficult to find in restaurants. Noodles, fried rice, Manchurian – these are very uniquely Indo-Chinese dishes that evolved in the north east part of India (which is close to the China border). The people in this region borrowed flavors from both the countries and created a cuisine that is their pride now. These dishes are as famous as street food as they in fancy restaurants. I remember I was so excited when I saw chow mein on the menu of a Chinese take out here in the US for the first time. But then I discovered they were totally different from the yummy noodles that I am used to!
The recipe that I am sharing today is my favorite – chow mein. These are thin noodles that stir fried with some sauces and vegetables/egg/meat and are extremely delicious!! Chow Mein means fried noodles in Chinese. They can be stir fried (as we get them in India) or deep fried (as we get in the USA). These noodles are also known as Hakka Noodles in India. Essentially these noodles are stir fried with vegetables until they get an almost crispy texture. These are almost the not so juicy versions of the lo mein from a Chinese take out, but with more flavor! You can buy Hakka noodles in Indian grocery stores, Ching’s is the most popular brand.
But they are not readily available everywhere. So this time I thought of cooking these up with instant ramen (maggi) noodles. They are very inexpensive ($2 for a 12 pack!) and these noodles are the closest in consistency to the Indian hakka noodles. You can buy any brand of ramen noodles, any flavor. We are not going to use the seasoning that’s provided with the package. You could also use angel hair pasta, that would be fine too. The same recipe can be followed with rice noodles as well.If you are using instant noodles, cook them carefully because they cook really really fast! Boil a large pot of water as you would for cooking pasta. Bring it to a boil and add in the instant noodles, all at the same time. They cook in about a minute on high heat. Immediately drain the noodles and immerse them in ice cold water. This stops the cooking and helps in removing the excess starch from the noodles. This also ensures that the noodles don’t stick to each other. Drain the noodles from the cold water after 5 minutes and spread them in a large plate/bowl and let them air dry for a while, until your sauce is ready. These noodles can be prepared and stored in the refrigerator for a few days and used whenever required!
Another important thing about this recipe is that the vegetables must be sliced/julienne very thin. The vegetables must not be soggy, but remain crisp and crunchy in the noodles. You can also use the pre-sliced coleslaw mix and add more veggies if you like. You may also add in some scrambled eggs and add them in while adding the noodles. This recipe is a brilliant way of sneaking in veggies into your kids diet.
Instant noodles – 4 packs
Onion (sliced) – 1 medium
Green Pepper (julienne) – 1 medium (use red, yellow or orange peppers or a mix of all these for extra color)
Cabbage (julienne) – 1 cup (Substitute purple cabbage or napa cabbage)
Carrot (julienne) – 2 medium
Baby Corn (1 inch pieces)- 2 cups
French beans (julienne)- 1/2 cup
Mushrooms (sliced)- 1 cup (optional)
Use any vegetables that are lying in your fridge or freezer. Feel free to add in bean sprouts, broccoli, snap peas, chestnuts, bok choy and celery.
Spring Onions/Scallions – a small bunch
Garlic (chopped) – 6 large cloves
Ginger – 1 tsp (grated)
Salt – to taste
Pepper powder (preferably white pepper) – 1/2 tsp
Oil (preferably asian sesame oil) – 1/4 cup (use less if you are using a non-stick pan)
For the sauce:
Soy Sauce – 1/4 cup
Chilli Vinegar – 2 Tbsp (I’ll tell you a secret on where to find this in the method section below!!)
Hot sauce (I LOVE Sriracha brand) – 1 Tbsp (optional, substitute green chilli sauce if you can find it)
Duck sauce (I like to save the packets from Chinese takeouts) – 2 packs (optional)
Tomato Ketchup – 1 Tbsp
For the noodles:
- Boil a large pot of water as you would for cooking pasta. Bring it to a boil and add in the instant noodles, all at the same time. They cook in about a minute on high heat.
- Immediately drain the noodles and immerse them in ice cold water. This stops the cooking and helps in removing the excess starch from the noodles. This also ensures that the noodles don’t stick to each other. Drain the noodles from the cold water after 5 minutes and spread them in a large plate/bowl and let them air dry for a while, until your sauce is ready.
Tip: These noodles can be prepared and stored in the refrigerator for a few days and used whenever required!
For the sauce:
- Mix all the ingredients mentioned for the sauce in a small bowl.
Tip: You can make your own chilli vinegar by immersing 3-4 slit green/serrano chillies in 1 cup of white vinegar. Now here’s my secret – I save the water from the pickles jalapeno peppers. They are fabulous for recipes like this and various dips!!
To prepare the chow mein:
- Heat the oil in a large pan/wok on high heat. Add the ginger and the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Then add in the onions, cabbage, carrots, french beans, baby corn and mushrooms. Add a pinch of salt and the pepper powder and sauet on high heat for about 4 minutes.
Note: The logic here is to first add the vegetables that take long to cook. The other veggies like bok choy and peppers need not cook that much, so they are added along with the noodles. The bean sprouts need not cook at all, so they are added in the end along with the scallions (spring onions).
- Then add in the green pepper (and other peppers if using) and the cooked noodles. Pour in the sauce and toss to mix everything together. You can use the pasta/noodles spoon or use two wooden spoons and toss the noodles like you would toss a salad.
- Once mixed thoroughly, let the noodles stir fry for 5 minutes on high heat. Stir every minute to make sure they fry evenly.
- Finish with bean sprouts (if using) and lots of chopped spring onions (greens only, use whites while adding large onions in step 1).
Serve immediately. I usually serve my noodles with Gobhi Manchurian or Mushroom 65 and Fried Rice. Make all these and you’ll have a Ind-Chinese feast ready for your family. I agree its not the healthiest of meals, but it sure is divine in taste!!!
Try this recipe and you will be hooked!!!