• Modern Indian food includes more meat dishes as the population embraces a more omnivorous palate. (The India Today Group)Source: The India Today Group
Want your favourite Chinese dishes with a bit more kick? Then Indian Chinese food could be for you.
Alyssa Braithwaite

6 Sep 2017 - 10:51 AM  UPDATED 12 Sep 2017 - 6:15 PM

People are often wary of fusion food or restaurants that serve up two cuisines, assuming that neither are likely to be done very well.

But Indian Chinese might just change your mind.

Chinese food is reportedly the most popular foreign cuisine in India, but it's not Chinese food as it's known in China.

Indian Chinese food, also known as Indo-Chinese,  was born when Chinese migrants settled in Calcutta and adapted their cuisine to suit local tastes with the addition of Indian spices. 

And its popularity has spread around the world.

Amar Harrar has taken his love of Indian Chinese food all the way to Staffordshire, in the UK. He is one of the families who has opened up his kitchen on SBS’s forthcoming series Secrets of the Kitchen (Thursdays 3.25pm), making spicy Indo-Chinese ribs for his family. 

"Chinese food in India is, in my opinion, much tastier than it is in China," the 61-year-old says.

"The Chinese came across, they came to India and settled in India. They noticed that the Indians liked their spices a little bit more than they have in China, and this is one of those recipes that's been adapted."

His version is full of cumin and chilli powder, to give it the kick he loves. Other spices that are commonly added to Indian Chinese food include coriander seeds, turmeric, dry red chillis, black peppercorns and yoghurt.

In Australia, Melbourne's Dosa Hut, and Sydney's Indian Chopsticks and Dragon House, are some of the Indian Chinese restaurants serving the kind of Chinese food you would find in restaurants or street stalls in Mumbai or Calcutta.

"Our Chinese food is modified to make it more suit the Indian palate because we use ginger, garlic, chilli and some other Indian spices," Dragon House co-owner Mary Li tells SBS Food. 

"The dishes have been changed around, and we make a lot of specialised Indian-style Chinese vegetarian dishes for the Indian festivals, both vegan and non-vegan vegetarian dishes.

"Most of the Chinese restaurants in India would do this, and we have added our own spin to the dishes."

Li says 85 per cent of their customers are people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Fiji and Sri Lanka, while the remaining 15 per cent tend to be Australian, Korean, Japanese and Chinese people who are keen to try something new.

"They think it's really tasty and nice, it's different from the normal Chinese restaurants," Li says.  

According to Smart Cooky, some classic Chinese Indian dishes include chilli chicken or the vegetarian version chilli paneer (using a paste of hot chilli, garlic, ginger and spices), Manchurian (there are chicken, paneer, gobi, mutton and fish versions), date pancakes (fried layers of dough stuffed with dates), and fried rice (which is loaded up with red chilli powder, garam masala and green chillis). 

The India Times explains that many Indians are unaware that the 'Manchurian with noodles' they order from a street vendor's stall is named after a people from the north-eastern part of China, writing: "Perhaps in a parallel universe, the Chinese have developed a cuisine where Indian food is suited to their tastes. I wouldn't be surprised if they love sweet and spicy chicken skewers called 'Punjabi'."  

Secrets Of The Kitchen takes us into the homes of eight families to reveal what really happens in the kitchen. This three-part documentary airs 3.25pm Thursdays on SBS then on SBS On Demand.


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