While the boundaries of any cuisine today are no longer limited to the area of origin, it is interesting to note how certain dishes and styles of cooking get amalgamated with the native culinary fare of a particular culture to form a completely new cuisine, just like the Indian-Chinese cuisine. Also known as desi Chinese, there are many dishes unique to specifically this fare, but is the manchow soup a part of it too?
There are countless examples of dishes that are a part of Indianized Chinese cuisine but find no mention in the authentic cuisine of China. But how did that happen? The traces of this fusion cuisine can be found in 18th-century Calcutta, or present-day Kolkata, which was the capital during the British Raj and a port for a lot of trade. That’s when the Hakka Chinese traders settled here and introduced us to classic Chinese fare. Largely inspired by the Manchurian style of cooking, it is nowhere close to what is cooked and served in Manchuria, a region in northeast Asia that is misunderstood by many. This style of cooking involves the heavy use of soy sauce and vinegar while cooking meat and vegetables and deep-frying the food items before adding them to the sauces. Commonly used ingredients are spring onions, bell peppers, and Indian spices like green chilies, garlic, and ginger.
And the famed manchow soup is believed to be a product of this method of cooking. Again, many would say that manchow soup is from Manchuria, as it is said to be an abbreviation of the name, but that’s not even close to the history of this delicious concoction. The etymology of the word refers to the term chow in Chinese cuisine, which is a term for "noodles", or "chowmein," as it is known in this country.
Although the soup is quite popular in Meghalaya, its origins can be traced back to Kolkata, the birthplace of Indian-Chinese cuisine. The manchow soup combines a host of vegetables, including spring onions, carrots, cabbage, and peas, but there is no limitation on the vegetables that can be added to it. These vegetables are sautéed in oil and then layered with a thick brown sauce made of vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and green chillies.
The USP of the soup, which is also one of the reasons for its name, is the stir-fried noodles that are added to the top of the bowl. Unlike hot and sour soup, which is a hot and spicy concoction from Chinese cuisine, this one may not have the extreme fiery flavours, but it definitely balances them with crunch. Nevertheless, manchow soup is one of the most perfect companions for a cold winter evening.