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Indian Chinese questions

v. gautam

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[Dear Rushina, will you please forgive me for cluttering up your thread? Felt too embarrassed to start a new one, as this already involves Indian Chinese cooking]

Dear Friends,

Could you please shed some light on 2 issues in Indian Chinese cookery that has been puzzling me for a while.

When/where did the term and item “Manchurian xyz” appear in India? Speaking of the Kolkata scene, the only comparable item seems to have been ‘Fish balls in tomato sauce’ which was served only at Peiping restaurant. The other well-known/venerable establishments, Waldorf, Jimmy’s Kitchen, Chung Wah et al. simply had no tomato ketchup based dishes c. 1955-1980 [ How Hua etc. had not been born, or were in their infancy]

Two popular items were Fried Spring Chicken and Fried Chili Chicken, and each of the places mentioned served slightly different versions. The same can be said of Prawn rolls that exhibited even larger differences in style and content. Jimmy’s Kitchen supposedly had the best fried chicken, Waldorf the best Prawn rolls, and Peiping chili chicken.

The chili chicken comprised a poussin blanched/parcooked in a lu of water, soy sauce and ginger, then dried and deep fried [Waldorf used to dust their chicken with starch, Peiping not, leading to quite different end results]. Then comes the finish, which was not revealed. Probably a tiny bit of sugar was caramelized in hot oil, soy sauce was splashed in, onion cubes and chopped green chillies followed, last the chicken, rapidly glazed and serves with scant clinging sauce. Note : no tomato anywhere.

This chilli chicken had become so popular that by 1980 caterers serving Hindu Bengali weddings had devised a Chilli Bhetki [barramundi, a fish like sea bass], that retained quite a bit of the characteristic green chilli/soy sauce flavor of the original. Moreover, Bengali home cooks had created their own chicken/fish versions, faithful to the chilli-soy duo, with never a hint of tomato or any Indian spices.

Googling ‘chili chicken’ recently, came across a range of recipes quite unlike anything remembered from Kolkata. Not a single Chinese restaurant ever used Indian spicing (save green chilli), not even cilantro. Although Peiping had an Indian section, none ordered from it ever, except once when I did, to be met with an incredulous response from the then-Chinese manager. Indian Chinese in Kolkata, in that time period at least, appeared not to have incorporated some of the Indian spicing associated with Indian Chinese in today’s India.

What does fried chili chicken involve, according to the taste memories of eGulls?

Wonder if somebody here knows Nelson Wang, the famed Chinese restaurateur of Mumbai, whose roots lie in Kolkata’s Chinese restaurant kitchens. Perhaps he could weigh in, although he is an exceptionally important and busy person. [it would be wonderful if egullet could have Mr. Wang for a Q&A session, given the growing interest in Indian Chinese dishes.]

Thanks for your forbearance.

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you could start a thread on indian/chinese chilli chicken recipes and it would likely outlast us all!http://www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/aug222004/br2.asp

looks like you're on the right track-

Probably for the first time we are made aware that there is nothing authentic about Manchurian dishes in the Chinese cuisine and it was the ingenious blending of Chinese food and Indian preference that gave birth to this popular food all over India. The man behind this was Nelson Wang, a Chinese from Calcutta who later became a successful hotelier in Mumbai.

mrs balbir singh from the early'60's includes a few indian/chinese recipes that she says are 'very popular'-ingredients include tomato sauce,green chilli,red chilli..

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Wonder if somebody here knows Nelson Wang, the famed Chinese restaurateur of Mumbai, whose roots lie in Kolkata’s Chinese restaurant kitchens. Perhaps he could weigh in, although he is an exceptionally important and busy person. [it would be wonderful if egullet could have Mr. Wang for a Q&A session, given the growing interest in Indian Chinese dishes.]

I have read a rather long piece in the Times of India (I think) where Mr. Wong says that he created the dish and named it so himself. I will look for it and post it here asap

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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For Gautam and everyone else,

Indian Chinese is a result of two different influences, niether of which have anything to do with Calcutta.

It started when, a Delhi socialite discovered sichuan food and introduced it to one particular Delhi restaurant.

As Monica said (the article was probably one of Vir Sanghvi's), The main onus for creation of what we call Indian Chinese food can be laid at the feet of Mr. Nelson Wang owner of China Garden restaurant. He deep fried and masallafied the stuff and served it up.

I am sorry this post is vague, but I have put down what I can remember from Vir Sanghvis column. The said column has been compiled into a book in which Vir classifies this food as Sino Ludhiana.

I will reread the relevant columns and post in detail again.


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I might lean on to the chinese version of preparation here to prepare chicken and vegetable stir fry, Ive used it a couple of times and it comes from the Argo® corn starch and Martin Yan 's cooking recipe-booklet here it is then as it is in the cookbook:

This recipe is similar to the chinese-restaurant favourite, Moo Goo Pan, which takes its name from a province in northern China. Moo Goo means mongolia.Gai and Pan refer to rice and chicken.

Under 15 minutes

Makes 4 servings

3/4 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1Tbsp minced ginger or 2 tsp ground ginger

2Tbsp ARGO® corn starch, divided

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp dark sesame oil

2 Tbsp Mazola® oil

1 cup sliced mushrooms*

1 cup snow peas, halved*

1 small red bell pepper cut in thin strips*

4 green onions, cut into 3/4-inch pieces*

1. In a medium bowl, toss chicken with ginger and 1 tablespoon corn starch to coat lightly; set aside.

2. In a small bowl, combine remaining 1 tablespoon corn starch, chicken broth, soy sauce and sesame oil, set aside.

3. In wok or a large skillet heat oil over medium-heat. Add chicken and cook stirring quicklyand frequently (stir fry) 3 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.

4. Add mushrooms, snow peas, red pepper and green onions and stir fry 4 to 5 minutes or until red pepper is tender-crisp.

5. Stir soy sauce mixture until blended then pour into wok. Stirring constantly, bring to boil and boil 1 minute. Serve with rice.

*Time saver Tip: substitute one 12 or 16-oz package frozen Asian vegetables for above


This recipe was also on the package( no P47207104Z) cover of Argo® corn starch

I did enjoy making it very much and best of all is that it s so similar in taste to the indian chinese preparations, Ive adjusted my chilli additions slightly but otherwise it is perfect for me, and I also added milk 2Tbsp to 1. step above it helps tenderize the chicken better. And I did forgo the chicken broth but used water instead of it. work fine.


Edited by Geetha (log)
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But Rushina, how would you describe the restaurant cooking served for several decades in Kolkata, and presumably Delhi, Mumbai etc. before Wang et al.? Would it not be called Indian Chinese? I do think that fried chilli chicken was a response to perceived Indian tastes that long predated Wang [who by the way, grew up in the Kolkata Chinese food service establishment]

From my miserably limited knowledge of mainland Chinese foodways, the closest analogy to this might be Salt and Pepper Fried Shrimp/ squid etc., where I believe the pepper refers to green pepper. From dressing deep fried morsels with an oil/green pepper /onion topping, I can imagine [tho' w/o any real basis] how the eponymous chilli chicken might have evolved.

Finally, and this has nothing to do with Kolkata-centric chauvinism, note the name of an Indian Chinese restaurant in NYC, 'Tangra China' [or something similar]. This is in fact, harking back to Tangra in Kolkata, the location of a formerly large Chinese settlement [the Kolkata-Haora area being one of the earliest landfalls of the diasporic Chinese in India]. Indian Chinese very definitely has Kolkata connections. Why else would a relatively unfamiliar ethnic cuisine in NYC take the added risk of saddling itself with the non-euphonius name of Tangra....,[not too easy for Americans to pronounce, relate to or love] if not to clearly signal its antecedents, roots, indeed, AUTHENTICITY?

Employing the analogy of plant domestication, one could say that kolkata was the primary center, followed by the north and Mumbai a la Wang as secondary centers of both domestication and diversity in late 20th century India.

Edited by v. gautam (log)
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