On a world map, India and China share a 2,000 mile border. On a menu of world cuisines, they are often layered, linked by the Silk Road spice merchants for a delicious effect.
About three centuries ago, a wave of Chinese launched themselves into new life in Kolkata, or Calcutta, the capital of the state of West Bengal in India. The restaurateurs among them figured out how to modify classic Chinese dishes and harness indigenous ingredients, creating another sub-genre of Chinese cuisine.
The United States got General Tso’s chop suey, egg foo yung, and chicken from their enterprising Chinese immigrants. India got dishes like lamb dumplings in a tasty cream of tomato cream, sweet and sour paneer, and Singapore rice noodles, sautÃ©ed with curry oil.
Now, these crossover classics are available in Amherst, along with a host of more purely Indian or Chinese fare, at a place called Inchin’s Bamboo Garden.
The spacious rooms in the square, including a bar and a private dining area, have been fitted with stone soldiers, bamboo partitions and acres of brown wood.
Inchin’s Bamboo Garden will let you stick to the Indian and Chinese basics, if you prefer. Potato-stuffed samosa turnovers (2 / $ 6) and crispy fried spring rolls stuffed with shredded cabbage, carrots and bell peppers (3 / $ 8) paint in the usual lines.
Not so Chinese bhel ($ 12), the Indian salad of crispy fried noodles and grated vegetables, cucumber, onion and tomato, garnished with soy sauce, garlic and chili sauce. It’s a juicy, catchy vegan side dish with a kick.
Momos ($ 3/8) are Tibetan-style dumplings, a bit larger than standard potstickers, stuffed with vegetables, chicken, or lamb. They are offered in four types. Steamed and fried are self-explanatory.
Szechwan is another option, but in Indochinese cuisine it doesn’t mean lip numbing pepper and Chilean oil locks like the Szechuan dishes of China. It’s more akin to a sweet and sour ginger garlic ketchup with lingering heat.
The last option was by far my favorite momo: masala butter. The fried lamb meatballs sprinkled with lightly spiced aromatic tomato cream made me regret ordering mo ‘momos.
But there were so many other things to try.
Manchow Chicken Soup ($ 6) features ginger as a regular chicken companion, in a blackened soy broth with chopped onion and plenty of fresh herbs.
Vegetarians have more than tofu to choose from here. Kung pao paneer ($ 16) is one of my favorite Indo-Chinese crossovers. Cubes of firm homemade cheese replace the chicken, while the rest of the act remains the same. They are sautÃ©ed in a fiery blend of ginger, garlic and chili pepper, to which are added celery, water chestnuts and peanuts.
Paneer tacos (3 / $ 13) loop in Mexican notions by filling crispy corn shells with crumbled paneer, the mild Indian cheese, along with carrots, cabbage, goat cheese and all things, sriracha ranch.
Singapore Rice Noodles ($ 15 to $ 17 for the vegetable, seafood, and meat versions) brings the union of India and China to the fore with thin rice noodles and grated vegetables cooked in wok in curry oil, coming out of smoked and golden turmeric.
Burnt Garlic Chili Fried Rice ($ 14- $ 16) was another flavor bomb and a sure-fire way for the heart of a garlic lover with a significant tolerance to spices. There are carrot shreds and chopped green onion chunks to freshen up the forks, and enough flavor to enhance the sparkle. It is marked with an asterisk on the menu, denoting a spicy dish.
Lamb sambal ($ 20) is marked with two asterisks (“very spicy”) on the menu, and it honestly came with those asterisks. The boneless lamb slices are marinated in chili-based sambal, with celery, onion and garlic, seared and served on a hot plate with a tea light inside to keep them warm.
Coal in Newcastle, I thought, as sweat trickled down my neck, seeking another bite as the pleasure quenched the pain.
Another lamb dish widely praised by the table was lamb keema ($ 20), a relatively dry meat dish served with rice or paratha, a toasted, flaky whole wheat flatbread. Squeeze the lime wedge onto the dish and line the flatbread with your own Indian lamb tacos.
The Chilli Mustard Fish ($ 18) brings a fillet of tilapia delicately cooked in a tangy mustard cream, presented on a nest of grated carrots and lettuce leaves. Her cheeky warmth lingered but didn’t hurt. Chili Shrimp ($ 20), on the other hand, brings two asterisk smoke in the form of jumbo shrimp sautÃ©ed in a bright tomato-based sauce that’s sweet at first, then with a serious flamethrower.
Desserts include competent renditions of gulab jamun, golf ball-sized donuts dipped in syrup and rasmalai, crumbly, cardamom-flavored cheese discs topped with cream and almonds ($ 6 each ).
Our waiter answered questions about the menu and got customer questions answered without complaint.
Slip down to Williamsville Place to explore the culinary sensations that traveled the Silk Road to Sheridan Drive.
5415 Sheridan Drive, Amherst (580-3032, bambou-jardins.com)
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday; from noon to 3 p.m. and from 5 to 10 p.m. on Saturdays; from noon to 3 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Sunday. Closed on Mondays.
Prices: appetizers, $ 6- $ 13; entrees, $ 14 – $ 20.
Atmosphere: peaceful exploration area
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Gluten-free options: lots of choice.
Photos: Explore Chinese-Indian Fusion at Inchin Bamboo Garden
Asian fusion restaurant
Old asian decor
Chilli mustard fish
Lamb Sambal at Inchin Bamboo Garden
Fried rice with chili with burnt garlic
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