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Who invented the Manchurian, Indian or Chinese chicken? Kunal Vijayakar has the answer



Did the Chinese Really Invent Manchurian Chicken? Come on, you all know what a Manchurian chicken is. It is a spicy and oxidizing Chinese dish that is usually made with chicken, but also cauliflower or paneer. It is this dish that is your entry into Chinese cuisine. It is a dish that is universally available in any Chinese restaurant in India, now so commonly ordered in many corners of the globe and is available almost everywhere except probably in China. So why isn’t Manchurian chicken really available in the Greater Manchuria region or indeed anywhere in China? Well let me start by explaining how Manchurian chicken is made.

In a large bowl, beat the egg with the salt and the ginger-garlic paste, then stir in the ground chicken and cornmeal. Make balls of this chicken mixture and fry them and keep them aside. So what did you just do? What you did was you actually made pakoras from the kheema chicken, spiced with ginger and garlic and cornmeal instead of besan. Now prepare a sauce. Heat some oil in a pan, add the split green peppers, chopped ginger and garlic and chopped onion. This is the always familiar method of tempering, or tadka, as you would with any Indian dish. Halfway through cooking, add the Schezwan sauce, soy sauce, spicy red sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add water and corn flour to thicken the sauce. Add the chicken meatballs and garnish with the cilantro. It’s not just as desi as it gets, it’s a fairly straightforward recipe for everyone, including a street vendor, to understand, grasp, and execute. It is Chinese food in India.

The birth of Indian Chinese cuisine

But it’s important to take a look into the history of Chinese cuisine in India to fully appreciate cuisine that has evolved from the local cuisine of immigrants to the second best-selling Indian cuisine in the country. Indian Chinese cuisine originated in Calcutta around the 1700s when the Hakka Chinese (a very oppressed people) settled in the city. These Chinese traders and immigrants who lacked their own food began to sell dumplings, dim sum, noodles and rice as street food to feed their own, in areas like the Tiretta Bazaar. Even today, if you make your way to Tiretta Bazaar in Kolkata (commonly known as Old Chinatown) at 5 a.m., you can be assured of a hearty breakfast. Been there several times and feasted on hot and steaming dumplings, siu mai, fish ball soup, rice balls and sesame seeds, coconut balls and pork chops breaded with sticky rice and a variety of stuffed and steamed bread and dim sum. All homemade and steamed on the streets.

As the Chinese prospered, they opened small Chinese restaurants in Tangra, Kolkata’s other Chinatown. Having lived in India for a few centuries, the Chinese adapted their food with local ingredients which now suited their own palate and helped to woo the Indian customer. Legend has it that the first Indochinese restaurant to open in Kolkata was called Eau Chew (really?).

The origin of the Manchurian chicken

In Mumbai, the Chinese invasion (of the preferred type) has started in the infamous Kamathipura red light zone. I was told that it was on Shuklaji Street in Kamathipura, an allegedly unsavory street to this day, that the very first Chinese restaurant opened in 1895. It was called “Lok Jun” and I tell you. let it be decided whether “Lok Jun” sounds something like Chinese, or is an imagined and fabricated Hindi word.

As food became more popular among Bombay residents and the Chinese prospered, many Chinese restaurants began to open around the Colaba area, south of the city. There were families like the Thams and Lings who wooed the fearless and adventurous of Mumbai with egg fried rice, sweet and sour pork, steamed noodles, sweet corn soup, dumplings. fried pork, grilled ribs, cold pork, American Chop Suey, steamed fish. , Chilli Black Bean Shrimp, Wantons, Foo-Young, Chow Mein, Manchow and Hakka Noodles. Until then, all Chinese restaurants in Bombay have been Cantonese and Hakka – the milder, bland cuisine of the Canton region of China and the Hakka people – which use moderate sauces like sweet and sour sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce and plums and lightly stew, braise or roast their meats and seafood. Camellia Panjabi of Taj opened the first Sichuan Indian restaurant at Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. Golden Dragon was born when Camellia tasted spicy Chinese food at a restaurant in Hong Kong, poached the cook, and brought it back here.

But as we go through the annals of Chinese cuisine history in India, we better remember what we started talking about. The origin of the Manchurian chicken. It begins with the story of a man born to Chinese immigrants from Calcutta. Nelson Wang came to Bombay and worked as an assistant cook in a Chinese restaurant and flourished. He opened a small restaurant in Kemps Corner called China Town and also won the Chinese catering contract at the Cricket Club of India. It was there that, at the insistence of a club member who wanted something spicy and different, Nelson decided to throw chicken pakoras in a red sauce with onions, green chili peppers and l garlic, and poured vinegar and soy sauce to create what can be the most. memorable, everlasting and beloved Chinese Indian dish of all times. So, to answer the question: “Did the Chinese really invent Manchurian chicken?” Well yes and no. It was invented by a man of Chinese origin, but in India. So, I pretend and proclaim that Manchurian chicken is as Indian as pakoras can be.

Warning:Kunal Vijayakar is a Mumbai-based food writer. He tweets @kunalvijayakar and can be followed on Instagram @kunalvijayakar. His YouTube channel is called Khaane Mein Kya Hai. Opinions are personal.

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