Saturday, 3 October 2015

Chinese food - Indian ishtyle (or Sino-Ludhianvi food, dont ask!)

I think every Indian has their favourite memory of Chinese food - mine is of my visit to Matheran with a bunch of young teens during my first stint in Mumbai.  The evening the entire tourist visitor group were sitting in line waiting for this Chineese stall guy to cook their order, and watch how he would expertly prepare rice, noodles in a jiffy - literally a minute or two - toss it into this huge ultra hot Wok and expertly swish them around, throwing sauces, vegetables, and other ingredients (paneer, chicken, meat etc.) and then serve this out - into a plate, into our hands.  The food would be steaming hot and un beatably delicious.

After working in South East Asia for some time - and eating the real thing (well, whatever they can muster up for a vegetarian!!!) - I miss the Indian-Chinese food like crazy, and whenever we get a chance I gobble them up to make up for lost time.

And there are about a couple of restaurants that serve "Indian Chinese" food in South East asia, some with Indian chefs, but very few make it like what they do in India.

Image result for Indian Chinese restaurant Thailand

Vir Sanghvi writes about sino-ludhianvi cuisine when he refers to Indian Chinese as he traces the origins to various locations and how a special compromise had to be made to make a spicier version of the otherwise bland food, while keeping the meat selections more palatable (Indians usually only eat meat and avoid entrails and other parts).

Most food reviewers like Vir look down upon Indian Chinese, though they cant deny its popularity.

For vegetarians like me its a wonderful celebration of how inventive Indians can be.  While some would complain how Indians are not 'open' to the cuisines of China - I'd say we adapted it to suit our tastes - however far from the original we have strayed.

And as far as the real thing goes, Its really hard and I think even for the non-vegetarians.  In India, even the authentic Asian restaurants in Mumbai and Delhi do a bit of customization for Indian customers - because the original is really really quite something else.

Eating the Indian Chinese version of the same fried rice or noodles makes you feel like you have eaten the ripe version of a fruit as its flavours have fleshed out, while the original Chinese dish seems unripe, bland and raw.

Image result for indian chinese restaurant singapore

Here's the other fun bit - for vegetarians there really is not much of a choice, even in the Indian Chinese. You have rice and noodles, and varieties of those but really the same thing at the end of the day.  Then you have the vegetable Manchurian (which is like a meatball thing) only spicier. And then are a couple of variations of deep fried starters using paneer, pepper etc.   At more basic restaurants in Udipi you might get a Chinese bhel, which essentially is a version of Indian Chop suey. In India, the noodles are deep fried and then smothered with versions of tomato soup, sauce, ketchup, some sautéed vegetables and served as Chop suey.  The bhel version is similar but more spicier and tangier.

Its impossible to finish it by yourself, though I miss it - I really might finish it all by myself.

In India, given that there is such a wide choice for vegetarians and that would really be our first preference - the Chinees food is normally for special occasions or only once a while, that it gets associated with çelebrations.

One of my favourite lines in the recent movie Badlapur (not to be missed - get a DVD or rent it online) is when the hero is informed that his arch enemy is likely to die from cancer - and he says "that's great news - I feel like eating Chinese today"

And I think that sums it up - there are days you feel like eating Chinese, and only Indian-Chinese will doooo.... :-))

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