Monday, March 4, 2013

Hakka in Halifax

I've been enjoying The Hakka Cookbook since I received a copy in the fall from the book's editor, who I am very proud to say is my friend! The recipes are written clearly and with warmth, and everything I've made so far has been delicious! 

The Hakka are a people who have moved over generations from their homeland in southeastern China. The book's author, Linda Lau Anusasananan, traveled to Hakka kitchens around the world to gather recipes for her book. In the places they settled, Hakka cooks incorporated local food cultures into their cooking practices. In India, "Hakka Noodles" are ubiquitous on the menus of Indo-Chinese Restaurants. Indians love Chinese food, and their demand for Chinese dishes like Chilli Paneer, Gobi Manchurian and Chicken 65 are a good reminder that national labels are not always the best descriptors for food or cultures!

I've made Anusasananan's garlic noodles several times, adapting the recipe by replacing the shrimp with tofu, or in this version, with steamed seitan that I made myself. 

I've also been making these noodles with the vegetables that are available here in the winter in Halifax: brussels sprouts, carrots and mushrooms!  The chili is an exotic treat.

This recipe takes a little time, but it's pretty simple.  Just prep the ingredients, and then it comes together really quickly.

I don't have a wok, and my stove isn't great, but I can still make this recipe work. The important thing is to add the ingredients separately in stages so that the pan doesn't lose too much heat.  Start with the mushrooms and get them brown. At the point you think they might begin to burn, add the onions, garlic and chili to cool down the mushrooms.  And keep going with every vegetable. Let me know if you try it out!

Winter Hakka Noodles
Adapted from Linda Lau Anusasananan's Garlic Noodle Recipe in The Hakka Cookbook
Makes 4 servings
Takes 1 hour

2 Tbsp. Shaoxing Chinese Rice wine (great to have on hand in the fridge)
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper (or black)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 loaf seitan, sliced (you could use tofu, or as in the original recipe, shrimp!)
12 oz dried wheat noodles (I used Shanghai noodles) 
about 12 shitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced (save the stems for making stock, or throw them in your next pot of rice)
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 red chili, sliced in two
2 cups sliced brussels sprouts
1 carrot, julienned
3 Tbsp. soy sauce

Mix the wine with the salt and pepper. Toss with the seitan, and let sit to marinate.

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees.
Cook noodles according to package directions so they are just firm.  Rinse thoroughly in cold water until cool to touch. Lightly toss with vegetable oil and set aside.

Coat the seitan with oil and toast for 10 minutes on each side, to lightly brown. Let cool on paper towels.

Coat the bottom of a wok or large saute pan with vegetable oil. On high heat, brown the mushrooms, about a minute on each side. Add onions, garlic, and red chili, and saute for about a minute. Add brussels sprouts and saute for one minute. Put a lid on the pan and let steam for one to two minutes.  Add carrots and saute another minute. Turn heat down to medium. Add the seitan, noodles and soy sauce. Toss gently to combine--tongs work really well.



  1. Great adaptations. That's what the Hakka do, adapt to the local environment. Glad you enjoy my book.
    Linda Lau Anusasananan

    1. I love your book, and I look forward to cooking from it more!