Chinese by Indians. A simple yet strange concept, I was introduced to this cuisine when my friend Iris returned from a year in India. It was one of her favorite things to eat there. It came to into existence thanks to Chinese who migrated to India, and adopted their native cuisine to suit the local palate. I was inspired to try it myself by a post on Hakka noodles by Soma on eCurry.
What makes this dish explicitly Chinese? Well, there are the egg noodles and the tofu, as well as the soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar. What makes it Indian? There’s the cilantro, the tamarind and the tomatoes. The rest of the ingredients can be found in both cultures.
What distinguishes this from another east-west fusion dish? Couldn’t this same dish have been made, say, by Westerners cooking Thai? It seems so to me, at least. Particularly because this recipe is my interpretation of Indo-Chinese dishes. Indo-Chinese by a Westerner? That definitely describes it.
But regardless of how you look at its cultural identity, this is a fabulous combination of flavors — tart from the tamarind, sweet from the sugar, salty from the soy and spicy from the chili (all key flavors in Thai cooking, mind you). Plus, it’s rich from the plump egg noodles, and chock full of vegetables. In short, it’s now one of my favorite ways to stir-fry egg noodles.
For about 4 servings:
250-300 grams dry egg noodles (2 spirals; I buy them for 30 shekels a kilo at East-West; vegan alternative = wheat noodles)
6 garlic cloves
1 thumb-sized piece ginger
200 grams tofu
1 pepper, or 1 thai eggplant (they’re palm-sized)
1/4 cabbage (or 10 napa cabbage leaves)
3 tomatoes (these reduce and form part of the sauce)
oil for frying
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
1/2 teaspoon chili paste, or to taste (or a red chili or two)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 bunch fresh cilantro (100 grams, before stems are removed)
Bring water to a boil and cook the noodles until al dente. Strain.
While the noodles are cooking, pour a swirl of oil into a large wok. Chop the onions, and fry for a minute or two. Crush the garlic and ginger (with a mortar and pestle or by knife), and add to the onions. Fry until lightly browned.
Chop the pepper, carrot and/or eggplant, and add to the wok and fry for a few minutes. Add the tofu and the tomatoes.
Once all the vegetables have softened slightly, add the noodles (if they’re not yet cooked, turn off the flame and wait for a minute or two). Add the sauce ingredients and mix well. Chop and add the cabbage, stir-fry for another minute and then shut the flame.
Chop the cilantro, discarding any hard stems, and add to the stir-fry. Chop and add the chives, too.