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Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is the birthplace of Indo-Chinese food, which traces back to the Hakka Chinese traders who settled here in the late 1700s. Kolkata was the capital of British India at that time. Don’t worry, I am not going to take you deep into the history, but I want to introduce you to the cuisine, which is hugely popular all over India. Back then, Chinese immigrants started cooking their food using the ingredients that were available to them locally and started opening restaurants in the city, as their street food was becoming a favorite of the locals. The best way to describe Indo-Chinese food would be Chinese food adapted to Indian tastes. In India, it is referred to as simply “Chinese food.” It is a uniquely South Asian phenomenon, and when a South Asian says, “Let’s go eat Chinese food,” they mean dishes like gobi manchurian, hakka noodles, manchow soup, etc., not the Chinese food from China.

There are distinct flavors in Indo-Chinese cooking, like the Schezwan sauce (my favorite), which uses dry red chilies, and the Manchurian sauce, which is a classic, spicy, soy-based sauce with Indian aromatics like ginger, garlic and green chili peppers. It is fascinating to see how Indo-Chinese food has evolved over the years. These days, well-stocked grocery stores in Indian cities and South Asian grocery stores outside India carry instant noodles for Hakka-style noodles, manchow soup packets, premade sauces, etc. Another fascinating concept that was born out of the Indo-Chinese cuisine is fusion dishes—like Chinese bhel, chili-idli or Chinese pakoda, to name a few.



Reprinted with permission from Vegan Treasures of India by Anusha Moorthy Santosh. Page Street Publishing Co. 2023. Photo credit: Anusha Moorthy Santosh.

Umami Hakka Noodles [Vegan]

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Cooking Time


Ingredients You Need for Umami Hakka Noodles [Vegan]

  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon plus 4 tbsp (70 ml) neutral oil, divided
  • 1 large pack of noodles (see Tips)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced and layers separated
  • 5 green onions, green and white parts chopped, plus 3 green onions for serving
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into long, thin strips
  • 2 medium green bell peppers, cut into long, thin strips
  • 2 cups (140 g) or 1 small head cabbage, shredded or cut into long, thin strips
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili oil, optional
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

How to Prepare Umami Hakka Noodles [Vegan]

  1. Bring a large saucepan or Dutch oven of water to a rolling boil. Salt the water, add 1 teaspoon of the oil, and gently drop the noodles into the water. Cook the noodles according to package instructions, until the strands start to separate from each other, about 1 minute.
  2. Turn off the heat, and cover the saucepan or Dutch oven with a lid. Let it rest for 2 minutes. Drain the noodles into a colander, and rinse the noodles with water for 10 seconds. Set the noodles aside.
  3. Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Once the wok appears smoky, add the remaining 4 tablespoons (60 ml) of the oil, swirling the wok around to coat the surface with oil evenly.
  4. Add the garlic, stir for 10 seconds, then increase the heat to high. Add the onions, and cook, stirring continuously, for 10 seconds. Stir in the carrot, bell peppers, cabbage and sugar in quick succession, and cook for 30 seconds. The vegetables should not cook for too long and should retain their crunch.
  5. Add the cooked noodles to the hot wok or skillet, and season with salt. Add the ground black pepper, ground white pepper, soy sauce, chili oil, if using, and white vinegar, and continue to stir for about 1 minute, until the noodle strands are heated well and coated with the sauce. Turn off the heat, top with chopped green onions, and serve hot.
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How to Enjoy

  • Serve with a fork or chopsticks.
  • If you are packing this for a lunch box, you may slightly undercook the noodles and the veggies and pack the dish in a thermos.


  • You can find instant (dried) Hakka-style noodles in most South Asian grocery stores. They are called instant noodles as they are partially cooked, and when you make these noodles, you add them to hot boiling water and rest them just enough to rehydrate them. If you are unable to find Hakka-style noodles, you may use any other kind as well. Be sure to follow the package instructions for cooking the noodles to al dente.
  • It is important to chop/julienne the vegetables into long, thin strips so when they are briefly cooked, they retain the right crunchy texture.
  • Make sure you have all the ingredients set up right next to the wok while cooking, because you are cooking the noodles and the vegetables over high heat, and they should not be any delay while adding the ingredients.

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