Indo-Chinese food (Sino-Indian cuisine and even Chindian cuisine). Typically, it’s the adaptation of Chinese seasoning and cooking techniques to Indian tastes. The Chinese immigrants of Mumbai were mainly from Canton. The Cantonese food is mostly bland and steamed, so it was a time taking process to introduce it to the Indian Palate. During the Second World War a group of Allied soldiers walked into a Chinese restaurant in Colaba, and asked the chef to cook something with a tin of corn that they had with them. So the chef used his culinary skills to quickly create the Chicken Corn Soup. A dish to be found not only in every Chinese restaurant in Mumbai, but in India.
And that is how the Chicken Corn Soup was invented
But it was not only the iconic Chicken Corn soup that was born on the streets of Mumbai, it was also the most loved and classic Indian Chinese dish which is an essential in every Indo-Chinese food menu – the Manchuriyan.
This classic Indian Chinese dish is made by deep fried chicken tossed in a sauce with a heavy dose of soy sauce. Though the name has been christened to be Manchuriyan it has no resemblance with the Manchu cuisine. This dish is loaded with green chilies, chopped ginger, chopped garlic and soy sauce. It’s umami, spicy and topped with garlic and green chillies.
Unlike Mumbai’s Cantonese, the Chinese immigrants in Kolkata were mainly Hakka. The Hakkas used lots of ginger and garlic to create flavourful dishes. So, around a century ago, Indo-Chinese food restaurants started to mushroom all over Kolkata. Indians rushed to try food of foreign origin which was spicy and tasty like their own.
But it was not just the big and small restaurants that were responsible for the Chinese food revolution in India, most of the credit goes to the street vendors selling Chinese food from bright red coloured hand carts; they brought to the street dishes like Chicken Lollipop, triple Schezwan Fried Rice and Manchow Soup.
Thanks to the street side Chinese entries, Indians from all walks of life could enjoy food of foreign origin, yet spicy and tasty like their own. Today every small town and city across India is familiar with the red carts and golden dragons.
Effect of Chinese flavours on Indian dishes
Classic Indian street food has also been heavily influenced by this revolution, in Mumbai, you can not only find dishes like Chinese Bhel and Schezwan Dosa, but you could also find people eating Chicken Manchurian with Tandoori Naan. So don’t be surprised if your Chinese food comes with chopped coriander and sliced onions.
The internet is full of Indian Chinese recipes that have incorporated Chinese flavours by adding Soy sauce or any other Indo-Chinese sauce. Triple Schezwan Dosa, Manchuriyan Idli, Szhezwan Raan Biryani, Chinese Bhel, etc.
How Could We Ttalk About Indo-Chinese Food Without Mentioning Schezwan Sauce?
Schezwan sauce or Schezwan chutney, whatever you like to call it, is something that proudly happens only in India. It’s different from the Sichuan/Szechuan sauce found in North America, and it has no Sichuan Peppers in it.
In the early 1970’s India gots its first restaurant serving Sichuan cuisine in an affluent hotel in Mumbai. And the people got to try the spicy side of the Chinese cuisine, something with which Indians could easily relate to. Every other Chinese food establishment tried to catch on the trend and offer fiery hot food. So the Schezwan sauce was born. This sauce is unique, hot , spicy and made with red chillies, ginger, garlic, onions, 5 spice powder, soy sauce, vinegar and a dash of tomato ketchup.
Today this sauce is not only served with Indo-Chinese food like schezwan Fried Rice, Schezwan Hakka noodles, Triple Schezwan Fried Rice or Schezwan Chicken Lollipop, but it has crossed boundaries and is now an essential ingredient in dishes like- Schezwan Dosa, Schezwan Bhel, Schezwan Momo, Schezwan Pizza, Schezwan Raan Biryani, and the list goes on. This fiery hot sauce goes well as a condiment with a lot of Indian snacks and appetisers.