In one of our numerous chat sessions, as my conversation with my Chinese friend/colleague veered towards Sino-Indian relationship, the cultural differences and similarities, we couldn’t help but contemplate on the amalgamation of Indian intricacies into Chinese cooking. It veered towards a very interesting conversation about cooking styles, spices used, favorite dishes etc. etc. and she was extremely amused to know that there prevailed a very popular fusion cuisine known as “Indo-Chinese”. She had never heard of it (of course..who has unless they are from India?), and seemed intrigued by the names of dishes I was hurling at her. Manchurian, Mixed chowmein…wait what? Manchurian…what’s that?
As I pondered on it a bit more, I assumed that although it’s never really surprising to find tastes transcending national/international boundaries to give rise to a melange of flavors, the popularity of Indo-Chinese cuisine in India is something you have to see, to believe. This cuisine which started out as an assimilation of Indian sensibilities and beliefs into everyday cooking of the Chinese immigrants, has now been taken to a whole new level. While it’s almost natural for immigrants in any country to adapt to the new place they call home (who better than me to attest to the fact that that’s a very effective way to transform a dish to make their own), this fusion cooking style has perpetrated almost every nook and corner of the country. Anyone captivated by the cuisine has their own special version and everybody is right.
While my parents had no such inclination towards this form of cooking, I would happily assume that the rise of the “Chowmein-Manchurian” culture took place sometime when we were growing up. I am so elated (& grateful) to belong to a generation that grew up with the oh-so-delicious Indo-Chinese. Although my Ma never had much exposure to this cuisine, I still swear by her mixed Chowmein, Chicken Manchurian and Vegetable Manchurian that she so enthusiastically made. This is my version of the much loved Manchurian with some of my favorite spice additions. Who said that good just cannot become better? Well, here it is:
Veggie fritters spiced with Sriracha (red chilli sauce) & crispy garlic bits are tossed with cubes of red bell peppers, assorted sauces and some more crispy garlic. Served hot garnished with a generous sprinkling of finely sliced green onions. Perfect as an appetizer all by itself or a fabulous side dish with Roasted Garlic fried rice or the Chilli garlic chowmein.
For the Garlic Veggie balls:
Make a paste of the following:
- In a pan over medium heat, add 2 T of oil and sauté the garlic till its fragrant and light brown in color. Be vigilant since garlic burns really easily. Scoop out the garlic and set aside. They become crispy as they cool.
- In a wide-mouthed bowl, mix in all the ingredients for the garlicky veggie Manchurian balls. The batter should be thick so that you can make balls out of it. Add in a few drops of water if it’s too thick. I use the 1 T ice cream scoop to make similar sized balls. Make the balls and set aside.
- Heat up the oil over medium heat in a deep pan and fry the balls till they are golden brown in color. Keep it warm in an oven at 200oF.
- In the pan you fried the garlic, add in some more oil and sauté the chopped bell peppers (~30 secs).
- Make a paste of all the sauces along with water and add into the oil and peppers.
- After it boils, toss in the Manchurian balls till it soaks in all the goodness of the flavorful sauces. Adjust for salt if required.
- Serve hot with a generous sprinkle of green onions and some more crispy garlic.
While this dish tastes absolutely lip smackingly delicious just by itself, I served it with a side of vegetable fried rice. You could also try the Roasted Garlic fried rice or the Chilli garlic chowmein to up the garlic fest.
Till next time!