The Story Behind Manchurian — India's Own Chinese Dish

Did you know that the Chinese cuisine available across restaurants in India is a kind of cuisine in its own right? Yup, ‘Indian Chinese’ has got an identity if its own and that too – across the world, esp. in many parts of Asia. Something Chinese – that is actually ‘Made in India’!

Developed by the Chinese community of Kolkata by using Indian flavours and to suit Indian tastes, it has been around in the country for quite a while now. There are a variety of dishes on the Indian Chinese menu to suit every taste – sweet & sour or hot & spicy; with gravy or without gravy. The dishes are made with staple Indian spices like haldi powder, jeera, dhaniya powder, & chilli (red, green, black), combined with Chinese spices like Ajinimoto or MSG. (We don’t use it cause it’s unhealthy; and you know we’re very health conscious). This combination of spices gives the Indian Chinese dishes a distinct taste, much different from the original Chinese food.

Among the many Indian Chinese dishes, the ‘Chicken Manchurian’ is most popular on the Chinese menu. Probably cause it’s originally Indian and a spur of the moment dish.

It is said to be invented in Mumbai in 1975 by the restaurateur Nelson Wang (owner of China Garden at Kemps Corner). The dish was invented when Nelson Wang was caterer to the Cricket Club of India. The story so goes that a customer requested for something new and Wang responded to the request by putting together this dish with a slight difference in the masala mix – the Chinese soy sauce instead of the Indian garam masala, with a little cornstarch.

This small change in an otherwise regular recipe led to a whole section of ‘Manchurian’ on the menu – Chicken, Vegetable, Gobi, & Paneer.

Maybe, Wang should have christened the dish – Manchuralia or more aptly Dilchuralia! Very Cheesy. We know.

Of course, it’s not only Chinese dishes that have been given an Indian makeover. We (Indians) are, after all, famous for getting ‘inspired’ (plagiarism). Ahem. But unlike inspiration in other fields, in food it gives rise to something new and at times more delicious than the original. For, e.g. we’ve adopted Mughalai, European (British) and even Portuguese (it’s believed our love for potatoes is their contribution) dishes and modified them to suit our tastes.

Actually, it’s not just food.. being the adaptive lot that we are.. we tend to give an Indian twist to almost everything that the world brings to our doorstep be it food, sport, fashion or even language.

To Innovation, inspiration & adaption! To Manchurian – the original Indian Chinese!

alt Yummy Manchurian from Foodport's kitchen