It was in 1963 that my cousin Ebenezer Edwin, very fondly known as Eben Annan (annan in Tamil means elder brother), took us along with his siblings to ‘Allies’ a popular Chinese restaurant on Mount Road. I was introduced to a new world of food preparation, taste and flavour. I ate noodles and fried rice for the first time and loved every morsel of it. After that I never had a chance to eat Chinese food till I got married. My husband loved Chinese food and my mother-in-law, unusual for her generation, was also enthusiastic about it. We used to go to Chung King behind Allies, as Allies had lost its popularity by that time (70s).
I became acquainted with Chinese food preparation when Yen Swan Chie joined the graduate course in Home Science. She came from a family of domiciled Chinese in Chennai, and her father, Dr. Min Sen, was a dentist in what is still known as China Bazaar. She was highly intelligent and had a great sense of humour and I enjoyed teaching her Physiology, Nutrition and Cookery. In 1971, I was in charge of the Home Science Association of my college, the purpose of which was to invite guest lecturers to speak and give demonstrations on related subjects. I asked Yen Swan Chie if she could demonstrate the preparation of noodles. She was delighted by my request and brought her sister-in-law who was the family noodles expert. The Yens were in the habit of making their own noodles, but told us where to shop for the ingredients, especially the commercial noodles and soya sauce. All those who attended the demonstration were thrilled because the sister-in-law spoke in Chinese and Yen Swan Chie translated it into English.
Thus started my culinary adventures in Chinese cooking. Yen’s noodles recipe used locally available vegetables such as beans and peas, and the cooking procedure was also rather elaborate. It involved frying the noodles first before mixing them with the other ingredients. She also used arrow root or corn starch suspension in water to give a glutinous texture to the final product. My recipe on the other hand is a much simpler version, with the taste and flavour derived from various Chinese recipe books that I had collected. Chinese food available in India is adapted to the Indian palate as is my recipe (but mine is milder than typical Indianised Chinese).
Due to the long list of ingredients and procedure involving many steps, I prepare the stir-fried pork the day before. This saves a lot of time, compensating for the tedious cleaning and cutting of vegetables. As this recipe involves bulk and quantity make sure you have large utensils to cook in.
For the pork
- ½ kg lean Pork
- 1 T minced Garlic
- 1 tsp grated Ginger
- ½ tsp Pepper powder
- 1 T Chilli powder
- 1 T dark Soya Sauce
- 1 T Vinegar
- 1 tsp Salt, or to taste
- 2 T Vegetable Oil
For the noodles
- 600 g or 3 pkts egg Noodles
- 2 T minced Garlic
- 1 bundle Spring Onion
- 2 large Capsicum
- 4 medium Carrots
- ½ small Cabbage
- 2 T Tomato Sauce
- 1 T dark Soya Sauce
- ½ tsp Pepper powder
- 1 tsp Chilli powder
- ½ tsp Aginomoto
- 1 T Schezwan Chutney
- ¼ C vegetable Oil
- 1 T Salt, or to taste
- 3 L Water
To stir fry the pork
- Chop the pork into 1 cm pieces. Marinade the pork with chilli powder, pepper powder, soya sauce, vinegar, and salt. Set aside for 30 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the minced garlic and fry till it begins to dry. Do not brown.
- Add the pork with the marinade and the ginger and stir on high heat till the pork changes colour.
- Lower heat, cover the frying pan, and allow the pork to cook. Usually it does not require water, but if it is too dry add 2 T water.
- When pork is cooked, remove from heat and set aside.
To prepare the noodles
- Boil 3 L water with 1 tsp oil and 2 tsp salt in a large pan or dekshi.
- Add the noodles to the boiling water. Do not cover the vessel. Lower heat and cook till the noodles are tender.
- Drain the noodles in a colander and set aside.
- Dice the spring onion, capsicum, carrots, and cabbage. Boil the carrots and cabbage in ½ C water till cooked but not mushy.
- Heat the oil in a very large heavy-bottomed pan. Add the garlic and fry for a minute on low heat.
- Add the capsicum and fry. After a minute or so add the spring onion and the aginomoto and stir till tender.
- Add the pork with the oil and the boiled carrots and cabbage with any leftover liquid and stir.
- Add the sauces, the chilli and pepper powders, the schezwan chutney and 1 tsp salt. Stir for 2 minutes till nicely blended.
- Add the noodles, mix gently to avoid breaking them, till they are well coated with pork mix.
- Remove from heat and serve.
- The pork and the vegetables should be cooked on low heat only. Even a slight browning at the bottom of the vessel will change the taste.
- The schezwan chutney is milder than the schezwan sauce available here (I use Ching’s). If the sauce is used, use only 2 tsp.
- Chicken can be used instead of pork, but neither beef nor mutton lends itself to this dish