The Badmaash boys are up to something new in Downtown LA with a series of pop-ups called Hakka Hakka serving an Indian Chinese menu. The pop-ups began on November 13 and will recommence on Monday evenings at the end of January 2024. Chef Pawan Mahendro and his two sons, Arjun and Nakul, wanted to cook this popular fusion cuisine in Los Angeles due to its enduring popularity in their hometowns of Toronto and New York City, and hope to eventually open a restaurant specializing in it.
Hakka refers primarily to a subset of Han Chinese who migrated around the world, including to India, and the culture boasts its own distinct cuisine. When Hakka immigrated to India, primarily in Tangra, Kolkata, they began adapting Chinese cuisine with local ingredients. Hakka cuisine tends to be meat-heavy instead of seafood-based due to the culture’s origins in Northern China. The Hindustan Times points to the 86-year-old restaurant Eau Chew as the originator of the cuisine. Notable dishes in the canon include chilli chicken, chow mein, and chicken Manchurian — a roughly chopped, deep-fried dish of chicken, cauliflower, prawns, and more flavored with soy sauce.
The elder Mahendro learned to cook Hakka food after culinary school at Mumbai’s famed Golden Dragon restaurant at the Taj Hotel, while his wife Anu says her father always took their family out for Indian Chinese meals on special occasions. Arjun and Nakul also associate Hakka with celebrations while growing up in greater Toronto where multiple restaurants serve the cuisine.
While Hakka-style dishes can be found at South Asian restaurants throughout the Southland, the Mahendros hope to open the first restaurant in Los Angeles specializing in the cuisine. The Mahendros don’t have a permanent location for Hakka Hakka yet and will continue to be on the hunt for the right venue. Nakul pictures the restaurant working in a neighborhood like West Hollywood, replete with a full bar to accompany the food. He envisions a bustling celebratory vibe like the ones found at places like Federick’s or China Cottage in Toronto, where diners write their names on clipboards at the front to secure a table.
“LA is ready for Hakka food because Hakka restaurants in India resemble American Chinese restaurants here. It’s a mentality of giving them what they want, like orange chicken and sesame chicken,” says Nakul. “Imagine your favorite American Chinese food but with chiles, heavy garlic, heavy ginger, and Indian spices.”
The Hakka Hakka pop-ups will restart in January 2024 and serve a $100 set menu that includes hot and sour soup and corn cabbage Manchurian followed by chilli chicken, hot and sweet garlic fish, crispy lamb, Chinese greens, Hakka noodles, and steamed rice. The meal ends with Chowpatty beach kulfi, also known as mango malai.
Source : Eater