In Downtown Los Angeles, a culinary revolution is unfolding, spearheaded by the enthusiastic team of the Badmaash Restaurant: Chef Pawan Mahendro and his sons, Arjun and Nakul. Known affectionately as the “Badmaash boys,” they are introducing the city to the rich flavors of Indian Chinese cuisine through their latest venture, Hakka Hakka. This series of pop-up events, which started delighting the taste buds of food lovers on November 13, is set to make a grand return on Monday evenings starting at the end of January 2024.

The concept of Hakka Hakka is rooted in the rich history of the Hakka people, a subset of the Han Chinese who moved across the globe, including India. This migration led to a unique culinary fusion, where traditional Chinese recipes were infused with the flavors and ingredients of Indian cuisine. In Kolkata’s Tangra district, where many Hakka settled, this place became a melting pot of these flavors. This is where popular dishes like chili chicken, chow mein, and the famous chicken Manchurian were created. Chicken Manchurian is a mix of deep-fried chicken, cauliflower, prawns, and more, all seasoned with soy sauce.

After chef Pawan Mahendro graduated from culinary school, he perfected his skills in Hakka cuisine at Mumbai’s Golden Dragon restaurant at the Taj Hotel. His wife, Anu, recalls her father celebrating special occasions with Indian Chinese meals, a tradition that greatly influenced their sons Arjun and Nakul. Growing up in the Greater Toronto area, a place that is known for its Hakka food, the brothers came to love these dishes, seeing them as an essential part of their family celebrations.

While South Asian restaurants throughout the Southland offer glimpses into Hakka-style dishes, the Mahendros aspire to establish the first restaurant in Los Angeles dedicated exclusively to this fusion cuisine. Their search for the perfect location is ongoing, with Nakul imagining a lively, festive environment similar to the Hakka dining spots in Toronto, like Federick’s or China Cottage. He envisions a busy place in an area like West Hollywood, featuring a full bar to match the bold flavors of their cuisine.

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Nakul Mahendro passionately explains their vision, “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. Imagine your favorite American Chinese food but with chiles, heavy garlic, heavy ginger, and Indian spices.”

The excitement surrounding Hakka Hakka is evident,  especially with their $100 set menu announcement for the January 2024 comeback. Guests can look forward to a delicious adventure starting with hot and sour soup and corn cabbage Manchurian, followed by a variety of dishes such as chili chicken, hot and sweet garlic fish, crispy lamb, and Chinese greens. The meal will wrap up with Chowpatty beach kulfi, also known as mango malai, providing a sweet end to a diverse and flavorful feast.

This new culinary venture by the Badmaash boys is more than just a restaurant; it’s a celebration of cultural fusion, a showcase of creative cooking, and a nod to Los Angeles’s varied tastes. As the city anticipates the full launch of Hakka Hakka, food lovers and those who enjoy culinary exploration eagerly wait for what’s sure to be an unforgettable dining experience.