Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chinese chaat for my Chicago girl

Chinese chaat!

Last week M left for Chicago.

M and I have been best friends since we were five years old. Or may be six. I do not really remember how it happened, but we used to live just a few blocks apart and became the closest of friends over music lessons that we both hated. Needless to say, at six, classical music seemed to be the dullest way to spend a Saturday morning. On other days we met in the evenings. As young kids, we must have played every possible street game known to mankind. Over the years, we just lazed around at the park or went out for coffee or drinks. Often we would head to the local market and treat ourselves to delicious street food - chicken momos, mutton rolls, Chinese food, and so on.

Anyhow, time flies by and as I got thinking of all the silly adventures we had growing up, and all the fun things we did behind our parents' back (and often getting caught). I recollected this incredibly embarrassing incident from our school days. Middle school - like the middle child, the middle seat on airplanes, and middle age - is tough. It is the age of budding rebellion suppressed by severe parental control! And things were no different then. In those days we did not hang out after school at movie theatres or pizza places or malls (of course there weren't any then); instead, after school, our respective school buses would drop us home. Afternoon were meant for homework - evenings were about play. So, hanging out after school meant permissions, permissions, and permissions in addition to saving pocket money. Anyhow, to break the monotony of school-dom, one fine summer afternoon M and I planned to head out after school for a  movie, without informing any un-consenting adult. I remember taking an autorickshaw after school to hers (a mere 7-8 kilometres apart), and hung around outside waiting for her. After about a quarter of an hour, M met me outside, and instead of heading out directly, we decided to take a tour of the school premises! And as we approached the school grounds, we were stopped by a stern nun. My white school uniform was a big giveaway. Obviously, I was the errant outsider, and we were promptly taken to the principal's room. Oh! The horror of it all! After threatening to call our parents and 25 minutes of a pretentious speech on propriety, honestly, and decency. we were let off, packed off in another autorickshaw, homewards.

Looking back, we often laughed about it. I wonder where the old nun might be today, probably still robbing young girls the sweet joys of stolen freedom!

But now in 2015, with M thousands of miles away, I thought of trying out one of our favourite dishes that we often had from the local market. They call it Chinese chaat, i.e., Indian Chinese indianized further! Its fried, spicy, and delicious. We often had a meal of what they call Veg hakka noodles + chili chicken combo and I can bet all my money that nowhere in Chicago will this taste be replicated!

Veg Hakka Noodles

What you need

1 pack noodles*
1 onion, medium size, cut into thick slices
2 large pods garlic, finely chopped
6-7 beans, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
2 tsp oil
1 tsp each, vinegar and soy sauce
1/2 oyster sauce (optional)
Salt to taste

How to 

Boil the noodles with some salt and a spoon of oil. Boil till just about cooked through.

In a wok, heat oil and add onions and garlic.Once they lose their raw smell and colour, add all other vegetables and cook on medium heat.

Then add the vinegar, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Turn up heat and stir for two minutes or so. I am quite certain that the Chinese chaat shop does not use oyster sauce but I have always used it and I think it adds a nice punch to the dish. But it's entirely optional, a bit of honey can be used instead.

Finally throw in the boiled noodles and give everything a good stir. Check for salt and add if needed.

Add the noodles. Give everything one good toss and plate up.

* I used these packs of noodles available locally with the vegetable sellers. I suspect this is the stuff used at tall street food Chinese joints. (Brand: Champion)

 Chili Chicken

What you need

300 gm boneless chicken 
1 large onion, cut into chunks
3 large garlic pods
4 green chillies
Garlic powder
Red chilly powder 
1 medium capsicum, diced
I egg beaten (optional)
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tsp each vinegar and soy sauce 
Salt to taste

How to

Chop up the chicken into small bit sized pieces and marinate it for an hour or so with salt, red chilly powder, garlic powder, and a paste of two garlic pods and two green chillies.

In the meantime chop the onions and capsicum into large chunks. Also, finely chop the remaining garlic and green chillies.

Just before cooking, add the cornflour to the chicken and give it a good mix. If you wish you could also roll the chicken in the egg and then coat it in cornflour. This ensures that extra crisp in the chicken.

Then add enough oil in a pan and fry the chicken pieces until they are nice and brown and cooked through. Set aside.

Now in the same oil (you could take some out if you wish, but I am certain the Chinese chaat guys don't care much about the on-going cholesterol problem in the country!), add the chopped garlic and chillies. Fry for half a minute on high flame and then add the onions and capsicum. After two minutes pour in the sauces. Saute. Add the chicken back to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes, adjust seasoning if needed, and you are done!


  1. You have perfected this dish. I know it because I am among the lucky few who have seen you grow to become, hmm aah, gastronome, yes!

    1. That coming from you is truly a compliment! :)

  2. I wish I had the met the Nun would have been such a delight. Alas!
    Coming back to present times, now that you know I have given up on eating chicken, how about substituting the poor cock a doodle doo with some Basa!!!

    1. Horrible nun! :/

      And yaas! Will do! Basa it is :D


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