Mom’s Veggie Noodles

Noodles! The mention of this word to any average Indian these days seems to spark off a drop jaw reaction along with some accusatory looks that convey only one thought “You eat that?? Really? Do you know they found lead in that??”

Image Courtesy: Internet
Image Courtesy: Internet

Maggi and Me: Sigh…So, let me set this straight – Not all noodles are Maggi noodles! Apparently noodles=Maggi for most red blooded desis and why not?? In fact that’s the way it should be. I have a lot of fond memories of Maggi – the magical packet that could end hunger in a jiffy. The dish that would power dance practice and monotonous home work sessions and sometimes just boredom. When Maggi was introduced in India(in the 80’s I think) I was in school  and there was just 1 flavor – Masala. Remember this ad? A picture of a kid holding oodles of stringy happiness twirled around a fork over a bowl of noodles… Everybody was in to try this out!! That was the start of a new Indian tradition and soon the yellow packet found its way into many kitchens in the country- and in those days nobody cared for trivial things like Maida or Ajinomoto (MSG) As kids we ran all over the place and played outdoors and sweated out anything that was bad for us!

As we rolled into the 90’s and then 2000’s, Maggi started introducing new flavors and its quality also seemed to be on a steady decline; the noodles were like threads and the less said about the masala the better (at least those who have tasted the original tastemaker would agree). I for one lost all respect for the magical name when they introduced Sambar flavor Maggi! Chinese and Sambar – really? That was it for me and thereafter Maggi was a very rare dish that was eaten when I didn’t have anything else in the fridge! And I am not so surprised by what has happened now – what else can we expect other than  a high percentage of MSG, colors, lead and what not when you have these different “healthful” flavors attacking your hunger in 2 minutes!

The Real Noodles of my life: Now, in the midst of my Maggi a.k.a growing up years my mom discovered tomato flavored Hakka noodles. Yes people!! This was way back in the 90’s. I still remember the brand – it was called Golden dragon and the noodles were supposed to be made from rice. Now, these noodles did not come with a taste maker and mom had to make it with loads of stir fried vegetables, tomato and chilli sauce. And I should tell you I went agog over this particular preparation. It always figured during school common lunches and it always sold out! Many of my classmates loved this and anytime I took this to school I had to worry cos everyone ate this, leaving very little for me! Now, for me noodles = my moms version! She even added garam masala to it for a long time and for someone who scoffs at sambar flavored Maggi, let me tell u, this dish was a hit! It had any veggies she could find – potatoes, carrots, beans, peas – u name it  and it was there! And it was bliss. Now when I say noodles to anybody, it means this and not Maggi and you are damn right, I will feed my son this veggie loaded goodness no matter what anybody says. So help me God!

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So without further rambling on this point, here is a spin of my old ladies’ version that I make these days, but…..no garam masala 🙂

This recipe should be good enough for 2 adults with a moderate appetite

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What you need

– Packet of Hakka noodles. These days I only find Ching’s hakka noodles on most super market shelves and no Golden dragon! So if you find golden dragon, go for the tomato flavored one. Last I checked the ingredients on a packet of Chings Hakka, it said it was made from Wheat. I can only believe them
– 1 medium sized onions – chopped into thin long slices
– 1 medium sized carrot – chopped into thin juliennes. Don’t be tempted to add too much carrot. It changes the taste.
– 1 medium sized green bell pepper – chopped in long slices. I prefer to use green or a combination of green and red bell peppers.

All vegetables mentioned above are absolutely necessary – at least in my world 🙂

– 1/4 c French cut beans if you have some on hand
– 1 clove garlic – finely sliced. Optional
– 1/4 c finely sliced cabbage if you have some on hand
– 1/4 c partially steamed broccoli florets if you have some on hand
– Salt to taste
– Pepper to taste
– 1 tbsp tomato ketchup. Use Heinz or some such brands that are not too sweet. Maggi ketchup is too sweet and honestly now we question what is inside anything that says Maggi
– Green Chilli sauce – Again these days one only finds Chings brand. Back then mom and even me to some extent have used a brand called Sing Ho green chilli sauce. It was more authentic and potent and not as tame as the Ching’s version. Now, this sauce is for those who can handle it and I suggest that you add it while you actually eat the noodles and not while preparing it
– 1 tbsp Soy Sauce – optional
– 3 tbsp cooking oil

How I do it

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– Prepare the noodles by dunking it in a pot of boiling water generously doused with salt. Once it softens up and is cooked (you can tell by pulling it out with a fork and breaking it) drain it in a colander and add it to a bowl of cold water with some ice. This keeps the noodles moist and adds a glaze to the final dish.

– Heat a large pan or a wok (if you have one) and add the oil. When the oil is hot enough, add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions turn translucent and raw smell of garlic is no longer present

– Add the carrots (if you are using them) and sauté until the carrots and beans are partially cooked. Tip: To reduce cooking time, you can steam the carrots and before actually adding them here

– Add the bell peppers, broccoli florets (if using) and pepper and sauté well. Keep sautéing for about 5 to 10 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. They should not get mushy and should still retain some crunch

– Now add the tomato sauce and soy sauce (if using) and mix well. Now for those that dare to use the chilli sauce in the entire dish, now would be a good time to add it!

– Add the salt and cabbage (is using) and sauté for about five minutes and reduce the heat to the lowest setting possible. If you are using gas, I would suggest you switch off the stove. Tip: careful with the salt as all the sauces have some amount of salt and the noodles have also been salted. You can always add more salt later if you need

– Drain the noodles from the cold water and add them to the veggies and mix gently to incorporate the veggies and the noodles. Do a taste test and add any salt, pepper or other sauces per your preference. if you are using a gas stove, switch on the stove again. Cook for few minutes and remove off the stove!

All you need to do now is heap some noodles into a bowl, stick a  fork in it, twirl the noodles around the fork and you know the rest 🙂

Note – You can add vegetables of your choice. I have used potatoes, peas, spring onions and mushrooms and have found them to be  good. This dish is pretty versatile – as long as you don’t turn any of the vegetables into a mushy mess!

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