The history of Indian Chinese food or Indo-Chinese cuisine dates back to 18th century Calcutta (now Kolkata), the first capital of the erstwhile British Empire in India. In the backdrop of this politico-economic landscape, Calcutta soon began to witness an influx of Chinese traders and skilled and unskilled Chinese workers. However, how the idea of Indianised Chinese food spread from Tangra (in Calcutta) to the rest of the country is a bit unclear. But, in 1974, India’s first Sichuan restaurant opened up at the Taj Mahal hotel in Bombay, introducing locals to a fiery hot variety of Chinese food.

With its rice and gravy-based dishes, Chinese food was the ideal combination of foreign and familiar for Indians.

Indo-Chinese cuisine is an Indian interpretation of Chinese food, which combines the deep-fried, spicy flavors, that most Indians love, with Chinese ingredients like soy sauce and vinegar. Indian Chinese food has its own distinct flavors like Schezwan sauce (the Indian spelling of Sichuan), which uses dry red chiles (spelled "chillies" in India) as a substitute for Sichuan peppercorns. There is also a Manchurian style of cooking, where meat and vegetables are battered and fried in a spicy soy-based sauce with classic Indian ingredients like garlic, ginger, and green chilies.

Chowmein
Did you know that your favorite chowmein is an Indian innovation? Source: Anju Chhibber on Pixabay
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Essential Chinese Food Guide

There is a marked difference between traditional authentic Chinese food and Indian Chinese food. Indian Chinese food is packed with spices and fiery flavors. Check out this list of 10 dishes that synonymous with Chinese food in India, but were actually invented in India! These dishes define the Indian Chinese culinary experience - spicy, deep-fried, and absolutely indulgent! They are:

  1. Chilli Chicken
  2. Manchurian
  3. Chowmein
  4. Manchow Soup
  5. Spring Rolls
  6. Szechwan
  7. Darsaan
  8. American Chopsuey
  9. Date Pancakes
  10. Fried Rice

Popular Chinese Cooking Techniques For Chinese Recipes

  • Stir-fried foods create easy and flavourful dishes in minutes. Stir-frying creates recipes like egg fried rice that has great texture.
  • Steaming is considered to be an extremely healthy way to cook and is used in many recipes such as dim sums.
  • Boiling is one of the simplest ways to cook dishes such as Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce.
  • Deep frying is the key to tasty and crispy textures and creates dishes like spring rolls stuffed with veggies or fried noodles.
  • Roasted meats are done over a hot fire or in the oven. It helps to reveal the crispy skin and soft succulent meat beneath, such as the famous Peking duck.

Check out these trending Asian food blogs of 2021.

The Essential Chinese Food Ingredient List

Chinese cuisine is full of a diverse collection of unique flavors, which blend together and enhance each other to create the delicious Chinese recipes that we have come to know and love. When eating Chinese food you may not always recognize the different tastes but some of the essential ingredients are:

  • Dark soy sauce, which has a slightly sweeter and less salty taste than other kinds of soy sauce, is made from soybeans.
  • Fresh ginger adds heat to your dish, tenderizes the meat, and deodorizes fish.
  • Chilli sauce adds a spicy kick to your meal.
  • Toasted sesame oil is the key flavor in many dishes, most commonly drizzled sparingly to garnish a dish.
  • Black vinegar has a color close to that of soy sauce but it has a woody, malty, and pungent flavor.
  • Oyster sauce is a popular Chinese sauce that has a unique and fragrant flavor-enhancing property, used often in marinades.
  • Chinese five-spice powder has a powerful flavor.
  • Monosodium glutamate a natural flavor enhancer.
Chinese soy
You can't cook Chinese food without soy sauce. | Source: GoodEats YQR on Unsplash

Easy Recipes for Making Chinese Food in India

Manchurian Gravy

Ingredients for Manchurian Balls

  • 1 carrot (grated)
  • 5 tbsp cabbage (shredded)
  • 5 tbsp spring onion (chopped)
  • ½ onion (finely chopped)
  • ½ tsp ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tsp chili sauce
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp maida / plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • Oil (for frying)

Ingredients for Gravy

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1-inch ginger (finely chopped)
  • 3 clove garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 chili (slit)
  • 4 tbsp spring onion (chopped)
  • ½ onion (finely chopped)
  • ½ capsicum (sliced)
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp chili sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato sauce
  • ½ tsp pepper powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  •  cup water

Ingredients for Slurry

  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • ¼ cup water

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How to Make

  • In a large bowl take 1 carrot, 5 tbsp cabbage, 2 tbsp spring onion, ½ onion, and ½ tsp ginger garlic paste.
  • Add 1 tsp chili sauce, ½ tsp salt.
  • Mix well making sure everything is combined well,
  • Add 2 tbsp maida, 2 tbsp cornflour, and mix well.
  • Form a soft dough adding maida if required.
  • Prepare small ball-sized balls.
  • Deep fry in hot oil keeping the flame on medium.
  • Stir occasionally, until the balls turn golden brown.
  • Drain off the Manchurian balls and keep them aside.
  • In a large wok, heat 2 tbsp oil and saute 1-inch ginger, 3 clove garlic, 1 chili, and 2 tbsp spring onion.
  • Add ½ onion and stir fry on high flame.
  • Add ½ capsicum and stir fry until it shrinks slightly.
  • Add 2 tbsp vinegar, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp chili sauce, 2 tbsp tomato sauce, ½ tsp pepper powder, and ¼ tsp salt.
  • Stir fry making sure all the sauces are well combined.
  • Add in 1¼ cup water and boil on medium flame.
  • In a small bowl take 2 tsp cornflour and ¼ cup water.
  • Mix well forming a lump-free slurry.
  • Pour in cornflour slurry and mix well.
  • Continue to boil until the gravy thickens and turns glossy.
  • Add in prepared veg Manchurian balls, 2 tbsp spring onion, and mix well.
  • Serve Manchurian gravy with fried rice.
Manchurian gravy
The Manchurian gravy, whether veg or non-veg, is a favorite accompaniment with noodles or fried rice. | Source: Sam Moqadam on Unsplash

Vegetable Hakka Noodles

Ingredients

  • 300 grams noodles
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 green chili sliced
  • 1 stalk celery chopped
  • 1 medium red onion 100 grams, sliced
  • 1 large carrot 100 grams, sliced
  • 1 large red pepper 200 grams, sliced, can use a mix of green and red
  • 3 stalks green onion chopped + more to garnish
  • 2.5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar or white vinegar
  • teaspoon hot sauce like sriracha
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • pinch white pepper powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili oil

How to Make

  1. Boil the noodles according to instructions on the package. I was supposed to cook my noodles for 2 minutes only.
  2. Drain the noodles and wash under cold running water, this stops the cooking process.
  3. Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the noodles and toss so that the noodles get lightly coated with the oil and don’t stick to each other. Set it aside.
  4. In a wok heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon sesame oil on medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot add the minced garlic and ginger, sliced green chili and chopped celery.
  5. Saute for few seconds until the ginger garlic starts to change color.
  6. Add sliced onions and saute for a minute or two until the sides of the onion start turning light golden brown.
  7. Add in the sliced carrots, bell pepper, green onion and cook for 1 minute on high heat. The veggies should remain crunchy.
  8. Push veggies to the side, lower the heat, and add soy sauce, rice vinegar, hot sauce (like sriracha), and sugar (if using).
  9. Toss the veggies to combine well with the sauce. Add in the black pepper, salt, and white pepper.
  10. Stir in the boiled noodles.
  11. Using a pair of tongs, mix it well so that the noodles are well coated with the sauce.
  12. As a final touch, stir in a teaspoon of chili oil. This is totally optional.
  13. Toss the noodles well and garnish with more spring onion greens.

Learn about the diversity of Asian cuisine here.

Egg Drop Soup

Ingredients

  • Egg (white) - 2
  • Soya sauce - 1 tablespoon
  • Corn starch - 1 tablespoon
  • Coriander leaves (chopped) - 1/2 cup
  • Chicken - 50 grams
  • Salt - to taste
  • Red chili sauce - 2 tablespoon
  • Chicken stock - 1 liter
  • Hot chili sauce - 1/2 teaspoon

How to Make

  • Cut chicken into small pieces and, then, add a pinch of salt, cornstarch mix.
  • Add a half teaspoon of egg white and mix it again.
  • Drop the chicken pieces into boiling stock and let it simmer for around 5 to 7 minutes till the chicken floats on top.
  • Season it with some salt, chopped tomatoes, red chili sauce, tomato ketchup and soya sauce, hot chili sauce.
  • For a thick gravy consistency, add some cornstarch dissolved in water.
  • Take the egg white, beat it, and pour it into the soup.
  • Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves and serve hot.
Chinese soup
The egg drop soup is the perfect appetizer in an Indo-Chinese meal. | Source: Yung-pin Pao on Pixabay

Chicken and Egg Fried Rice

Ingredients

  • Long grain rice 2 cups
  • Spring onions 2 bunches
  • Capsicum/Green pepper 1/2
  • Fresh peas 1/2 cup
  • 1 cup chicken
  • Eggs 2
  • 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 tbsp Chilli Sauce
  • Black pepper powder 1 tsp
  • Refined oil 2 tbsp
  • Water 4 cups
  • Salt to taste

Ever wondered what makes Asian and Western foods different? Find out here!

How to Make

  • Wash rice. Add water and keep it on a high flame.
  • After about 7 minutes, turn the flame to low and cover the vessel with a lid, and let the rice cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Wash the vegetables. Cut capsicum lengthwise.
  • If you are using chicken, cook it in a pressure cooker and cut it into thin strips.
  • Once the rice is cooked, remove it from the vessel and spread it on a dish so that each grain remains separate.
  • In a wok or frying pan, take oil, heat it and add all the vegetables and fry well till slightly soft.
  • Add in the chicken and the eggs. Lower the flame and mix well with vegetables.
  • Add salt, pepper powder, rice, soy sauce, and chili sauce. Mix well.
  • Just before serving, on a medium-high flame, stir the fried rice till a nice aroma comes.

The glorious fusion of Indian and Chinese foods - of spicy, tangy, and greasy rice with noodles and gravy - has become a mainstay of dining out in India. Chinese restaurants and food stalls on streets are ubiquitous. Almost all cities and towns in India now have Chinese restaurants, mostly with names like Chung Wah, Wangs, China Gate, Mainland China, and Memories of China. More importantly, these restaurants mostly have Indian chefs at their helm. For Indians, Indo-Chinese is synonymous with comfort food. Despite the recent hostilities and political conflict with China, Indo-Chinese cuisine or Chindian is likely to remain a staple of Indian life!

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Shreyanjana

Shreyanjana is an archaeologist who ironically finds the written word to be the most powerful means of storytelling. A travel buff and a photography enthusiast, she has been writing and sharing stories of all sorts ever since she can remember.