The best part about travelling to different places is the chance you get to sample the local cuisine. Thanks to the easy availability of global cuisine and the ingredients to prepare it, you can now relish delicacies from across the world from the comfort of your home. This exchange of culinary cultures has also led to the creation of fusion cuisines, such as Indianized or Desi Chinese cuisine, that harmoniously blend diverse flavours and influences.
You would be amazed to know that several Chinese dishes popular in India are actually "Desi" creations. While your mind may have started wandering in different directions now, the interesting fact to note here is that the Chinese cuisine we relish here is predominantly Indianized, including favourites like a chicken lollipop, chilli potato, and gobi manchurian, none of which are of Chinese origin.
However, for the latter, many have contested that manchurian originates from Manchuria, a region in north-eastern China, due to the similarity in its name. But the irony is that the inhabitants of Manchuria are unaware of the existence of this dish. In fact, the true origin story suggests that manchurian was created by a stroke of sheer luck when Nelson Wang cooked up a unique dish in response to a challenge from a customer at the Indian Cricket Club in Bombay (Mumbai).
It was essentially a gravy filled with chicken pakodas, but don’t worry; today, several vegetarian avatars of the humble Manchurian dish have entered the picture. Here are some vegetarian varieties you can try at home.
1. Vegetable Manchurian
As the name suggests, vegetables like cabbage, carrots, onions, and beans are finely chopped and rolled into a ball-like shape. Dipped in a cornflour slurry and tossed in bread crumbs, the balls are then fried. These lightly fried vegetable balls are then dunked in a thick and spicy gravy made with loads of sauces. Garnished with spring onions, the manchurian is a must-have.
2. Gobhi Manchurian
Available as an appetizer as well as a gravy dish, it tastes amazing in both its dry and curry forms. The gobi, or cauliflower florets, are separated and tossed in corn flour. Wrapped in chilli powder and a host of fresh spices, the florets are coated with a batter made of all-purpose flour and cornstarch. The fried gobhi is then covered in heaps of thick sauce, made with schezwan and soy sauce as well as ginger and garlic.
3. Mushroom Manchurian
This is a delightful treat for all vegetarians, as mushrooms have a fleshy, chunky taste just like meat. The button mushrooms are washed, cleaned, and cut before being tossed in a mixture of maida and cornstarch. For the curry, spring onions, coriander leaves, garlic, and capsicum are chopped and added with soy sauce and ketchup. This semi-thick curry can be eaten as a snack or even with fried rice.
4. Soya Manchurian
Take those soya chunks, and instead of making boring soya ki sabzi, opt for a desi Chinese soya manchurian. The chunks are covered in flour and spices. The curry is made very similarly to the mushroom gravy, and the soya chunks are simply dunked into it. The juicy chunks go well with a side of noodles or fried rice.
5. Potato Manchurian
The potatoes are diced into smaller pieces, and the onions and capsicum are sliced too. Red chillies, green chillies, tomatoes, and soy sauce are added to make a thick gravy. Then, the curry is filled with chopped veggies, and potatoes are tossed in maida and lightly fried before being added to the gravy. The potato manchurian works well with both steamed rice and fried rice.