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Szechwan noodles

What is it about fusing different cuisines that makes them taste so good? We know we can expect a variety of delicious meatless options from Chinese and Indian cuisine, but combine the two and you get Indo-Chinese or Hakka cuisine—something truly remarkable to enjoy on Meatless Monday.

The cuisine gets the name "Hakka" from the Chinese ethnic minority that emigrated from southwest China to Kolkata and Mumbai in the early 1900s. Over the years, the Indian taste for spice blended with the sweet and umami focused Hakka palate, resulting in a cuisine unique to India's Chinatowns. Since then, the Indo-Chinese food traveled much further afield.

Nestled among the busy shops in a Sugar Land retail center, Aling's Hakka Chinese Cuisine brings the South Asian cooking style to Houston-area diners. The casual resaturant's loyal following spans far beyond the Sugar Land bubble, though. The not-so-tiny restaurant is often packed to the brim with regulars, both from Sugar Land and those willing to make the trek out from the city.

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Aling's Hakka Chinese Cuisine is a sweet and spicy affair.

Image: Megha Tejpal

With dishes such as chili paneer and Szechwan noodles, the large menu of meatless selections may sound familiar, but many pack an unexpected punch. Almost every food category on the menu, from appetizers to entrees and noodle dishes has a vegetarian option, including spring rolls, pakoras, fried rice, and hot-and-sour soup. In fact, almost nothing is off limits for vegetarians at Aling's.

The American chop suey, (one of the most popular dishes on Indo-Chinese restaurants menus in India, but rarely served in America) is a towering plate of grilled strips of chicken, fresh vegetables tossed in a tomato-based gravy sauce, served on a bed of crispy noodles and topped with a Bombay-style fried egg. This classic dish is a must-have and can be served with or without chicken and egg to accommodate vegetarian and vegan diners. But if you want to dig in on a Meatless Monday, leftovers will be necessary—it's the only day of the week that Aling's doesn't serve lunch and dinner.

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