From the nostalgia-coated chilli chicken-fried rice combo served at dimly-lit diners to the fiery Schezwan paneer rolls doled out at roadside stalls, Chinese food is ubiquitous. And so, recently, when Union Minister of State Ramdas Athawale called for a ban on Chinese food, Twitterati jumped to the defence of the foreign cuisine, pointing out its Indianisation into what’s now called Chindian.
But how did this take place? Food anthropologist Kurush Dalal points out that when the Chinese came to Mumbai in the beginning of the 20th century to work in different industries, they needed their own food. “In the process, many of them set up their own shops. However, typically, Chinese food is bland, which doesn’t work well for Indians who like spicy food. Also, they had to make do with available raw materials. So, they came up with the combination of fat, starch and spices to tweak their food for Indians,” says Dalal, giving us the example of how Nelson Wang, of SoBo’s China Garden, devised the Manchurian sauce by mixing Chinese and Indian spices, including kothimir (coriander).
While sparks fly along the LAC in Galwan Valley, and politically over Chindian food, two chef-restaurateurs share their favourite recipes.
Ko chi kum
Executive chef Gautam Mehrishi of Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre says this is his spin on the Chinese kung pao chicken, using fermented black kokum syrup and an Indian spice mix. “Kung pao chicken’s story begins in Guizhou, south China. As a young boy in the early 19th century, Ding Baozhen accidentally fell into water and was saved by a local. To thank the man who saved his life years ago, Ding visited him and served him a dish featuring diced and marinated chicken, peanuts, and spicy Sichuan peppercorns,” he tells us.
Diced boneless chicken – 200 gms Egg – 1 no
Besan – 20 gms
For the dip:
Chopped ginger – 1 tsp
Chopped garlic – 1 tsp
Spring onion – 1 medium bulb cut in dices and greens, chopped
Green capsicum – 1 no diced
Onion (medium size) – 1 diced
For the kokum concoction:
Juice made from 20 kokum berries
Palm jaggery – 100 gms
Sweet potato pulp
Honey – 30 gms
Chef Gautam Mehrishi
Mix the kokum juice with melted jaggery, sweet potato pulp and salt. Ferment this for two days, strain it and add honey. Then mix 20 gms of Pendur/Kashmiri chilli powder, 5 gms of organic coriander powder, and 6 gms of black pepper powder with the kokum extract before cooking.
For the gravy:
Black pepper powder – 6 gms
Fresh coriander leaves – 20 gms
Sliced almonds – 10
Sliced square ginger – 5 gms
Groundnut oil (cold pressed)
Corn flour – 5 gms
Make a batter of besan, egg and water with salt and dip the chicken dices for 10 minutes and deep-fry till crispy and golden. Heat a wok with groundnut oil, add ginger and garlic, and sauté. Then, add diced onions, peppers and spring onions, and cook. Add some stock or water and bring to a boil. Now, add the kokum and spice mix, and cook the fried chicken in it. Finish with chopped spring onions and coriander leaves. Check seasoning and adjust thickness of sauce with corn flour and water mixture and garnish it with fresh coriander.
Veg Manchurian dry
Nikita Poojari, director, Shiv Sagar Foods & Resorts Pvt Ltd, shares that they have been serving Chindian food since the ’90s to cater to the demand, and veg Manchurian dry is always a favourite.
For Manchurian balls:
Cabbage (chopped) – 1 cup
Carrot (chopped) – 1 medium or ½ cup
Spring onion (chopped) – ¼ cup
Capsicum (chopped) – ¼ cup
Salt to taste
Black pepper powder – ½ tsp
All-purpose flour – 2 tbsp
Corn flour – 2 tbsp
Oil for deep frying
For thick Manchurian sauce:
Corn flour – ¼ tsp Water – 2 tbsp
Sesame oil – 2 tbsp
Ginger (finely chopped) – 2 tbsp
Garlic (finely chopped) – 2 tsp
Green chilies (finely chopped) – 1 or 2
Onion (finely chopped) – ½ cup
Tomato ketchup – 1 tbsp
Soy sauce – 1 tbsp
Chilli sauce – 1½ tsp
White distilled vinegar – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Black pepper powder to taste
Spring onion (green stalk; chopped) – 1 tsp
To make the balls, chop all the vegetables finely or mince them. Add salt, pepper, the all-purpose flour and corn flour. Mix well and try to pinch together using your hand. It should come together and you will be able to form a ball. If it is crumbly and dry, sprinkle a little water and try binding it together. Start shaping all the balls; you will get around 10 portions. Now, heat the oil in a pan on medium heat and fry them till they are golden brown. To make the Manchurian sauce, add corn flour in a small bowl. Pour 2 tbsp water and make a lump-free mixture. Now, heat sesame oil in a pan on medium heat and sauté finely chopped ginger, garlic and green chillies for a minute. Then, add the chopped onions till they are soft. Now add ketchup, soy sauce, chilli sauce and vinegar. Throw in the corn flour mixture and let it simmer for two minutes or till you get a thick sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drop the fried Manchurian balls and toss them till they are coated with the sauce. Sprinkle the spring onion greens and serve immediately.
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