Indian-Chinese food is one of the most popular styles of cooking in India. When I was growing up, that’s what we ate when we were hanging out with friends.
The cuisine is believed to have originated with the Chinese in Calcutta, a community that emigrated from China starting in the late 1700s. They moved to India in search of economic freedom. In the beginning they worked on the docks and in tanneries. Later, as businesses and restaurants were established, Chinese cooking was adapted to suit the spicy tastes of the Indian subcontinent.
With its robust flavors and spices, Indian-Chinese cuisine is very different from the Chinese food served in restaurants here. Beef and pork are absent because of the population of Hindus and Muslims, and spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, and hot chili are common. Popular meats include chicken, mutton, and fish. Non-Chinese vegetables such as cauliflower and potato, made in India’s vegetarian community, are part of the cuisine. The food is reminiscent of dishes from Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.
One of the main styles of Indian-Chinese food is Manchurian, and a popular dish is gobi Manchurian, cauliflower fritters. Some say it is named after the region of Manchuria in northeast Asia.
Indian-Chinese food is available at Indian Dhaba in Allston, Dakshin in Framingham, and Chennai Woodlands in Ashland.
At Dakshin restaurant in Framingham, says manager Raji Rajan, “Gobi Manchurian is among our more popular dishes, both as an appetizer and entree.” At the restaurant, the cauliflower florets are dipped into a spicy batter, then fried and sauteed with jalapeno chili peppers and onions. “The freshness, choice of cauliflower, and a special recipe make this dish really stand out,” says the restaurant manager. As an appetizer, the cauliflower is either served with a chili-garlic dipping sauce or coated with the sauce. As a main course, it is served in a salty and robust sauce, over fragrant basmati rice or fried rice.
Gobi Manchurian (Cauliflower fritters)
Serves 6 as an appetizer
Ginger-garlic paste, chili-garlic sauce, Kashmiri red chili powder and other ingredients can be purchased at an Indian market. This recipe is based on Dakshin restaurant’s (above).
1 large head cauliflower, cut into 25 florets
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. When the water starts bubbling rapidly, turn off the heat. Add the florets. Leave for 30 seconds, then drain and rinse with cold water. Pat the florets dry and transfer to a bowl.
2. Add salt, pepper, and ginger-garlic paste and stir gently. Set aside for 30 minutes.
4 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder or cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup water
2 cups vegetable oil
1. In a bowl, stir together the flour, cornstarch, ginger-garlic paste, salt, chili powder or cayenne pepper, baking soda, and water until smooth.
2. In a deep-fat fryer, heat the oil over high heat. Turn the heat to medium low.
3. Dip each floret into the batter. With tongs, ease the florets into the hot oil, cooking about 6 at a time. They are done when golden brown. Drain on paper towels and fry the remaining florets in the same way.
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 piece (1-inch) fresh ginger, grated
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 teaspoons tomato paste
4 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Salt, to taste
4 sprigs fresh cilantro, leaves coarsely chopped
1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. Cook for 1 minute.
2. Stir in the tomato paste, water, soy sauce, and salt. Stir well.
3. Pour the tomato mixture over the florets. Sprinkle with cilantro.
Credit: Visi Tilak GLOBE CORRESPONDENT. Boston Globe