Indo Chinese cuisine is an exciting break from the everyday meals I make at home.It cuts the boredom of rolling flatbreads, boiling lentils & picking rice – the sizzling wok replaces the whistling pressure cooker. The kitchen suddenly beams with warmth of sesame oil, tang of vinegar and smoky soya sauce.The bliss is rounded off with the kick from indian spices like red chilli powder or garam masala– you have a marriage of cuisines.A cuisine which occupies an emotional space in the heart of every Indian & which greets them with a promise of satisfaction. The concept may sound little weird to few but for me its indulgent & addictive – I am yet to meet an Indian who doesnt like it.
Talking about Indo Chinese I tend to travel back in time to ol’ college days – I fondly think of the little hangout near college – ‘ The Yak’. A dimly lit room, walls adorned with red & gold cloth hangings and a seating capacity of just ten – the place eternally smelled smoky & was jam packed. I have lived so many of those silly yet cute occasions of college life there, particularly the sunday evenings when the hostel mess was off. Right from exchanging those inquisitive glances when the love birds walked in as we snacked on vinegar soaked chillies to hideous gossips that followed over slurps of steaming thupka or taming chopsticks to behave, everything was so much fun.There were no contemporary interiors or ornate themed furniture, no uniformed waiters or elegant cutlery & serveware, I doubt there was an AC even – but it was one time of life with good friends & good food.
A widely popular vegetarian dish of the indo chinese genre, Gobi Machurian is nothing but batter fried cauliflower florets in a ‘Manchurian’ sauce. Do not confuse the origins of ‘Manchurian’ sauce – it definitely has nothing to do with that region in South East Asia. Creatively masterminded by chinese who lived in eastern parts of india for centuries, just imagine it to be an amber-colored, tangy and remotely sweet sauce with hints of indian spices. Indo chinese IS what it is due to typical indian condiments – I make it a point to use the indian brands for the authentic taste. However, you can confidently use your pantry to try this recipe.
You will find streets of India dotted with vendors selling robust Indo Chinese (sometimes better) than what we prepare in our homes. Just drop the calorie bug off your mind when you hit the streets though. From traditional chowmein, chicken lollipops, chilli noodles to chop suey – everything has the essential indian tadka. It is difficult to resist the aroma emanating from their woks when garlic & ginger saute in turmeric hued seasme oil or when soya sauce simmers with generous pinches of garam masala. Even more mouth-watering is the way those carts look – neatly arranged rows of shredded vegetables, oiled noodles and odd colored sauce bottles – promising that everything is made FRESH!
Coming back to the recipe, manchurian sauce can be dry or wet – it’s totally your call. I prepare the consistency somewhere in between. It coats the cauliflower florets thoroughly but is not runny. Anything from deep-fried cauliflower, paneer (indian cheese), chicken strips, breaded tofu, shrimp or vegetable balls can be combined with this sauce to make lip smacking appetizers or main course. This dish cannot be made in advance, it tastes best when the cauliflower is crispy (freshly fried).
For the Gobi Fritters
- 1 medium cauliflower
- 5 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 Serrano chilli, minced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
- 2 fat garlic pods, minced
- 1 tsp dark soya sauce (I use Ching’s brand)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup water (or as required to make the batter)
- Canola Oil for frying (or vegetable oil)
For the Manchurian Sauce
- 2 tsp dark soya sauce (I use Ching’s brand)
- 4 tbsp chilli- tomato sauce (I use Maggi Hot & sweet)
- 1/2 tsp honey
- 2 tsp cornstarch +4 tbsp water
- 3 tbsp pure sesame oil
- 2 tsp ginger, chopped
- 3 garlic pods, chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions, white parts
- 1/4 cup chopped red onion
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to tolerance)
- 1/4 tsp garam masala
- 1.5 tbsp white vinegar (or to taste)
- For Garnish – chopped scallions(green parts)
Making Cauliflower Fritters
Cut the cauliflower florets into halves or quarters. Wash thoroughly under running water & let the water drain.
Meanwhile, in your fryer let the oil heat up. In a bowl, throughly mix all the ingredients listed to make a smooth batter . Dip the gobi florets in the paste and deep fry on low-medium heat till golden brown. Drain on paper towel. Set aside. (Tip :- Let the fritters stay warm in the oven while you make the sauce)
Note – I do not boil the cauliflower before frying. Do not fry the florets on very high heat else they will be raw from inside.
Making the Manchurian Sauce
In a small bowl, whisk together soya sauce, tomato-chilli sauce & honey. Set aside. In another bowl, mix cornstarch & water and let stand.
In a wok/pan , heat up the oil to smoking hot. Add chopped garlic & ginger and cook for 1 minute or till you smell the aroma. Next add the chopped scallions (white part) & red onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or till light brown in color. Add the coriander & turmeric powder next along with the soya sauce mix made earlier. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat or till you see bubbles on the sides.Next, add the cornstarch mix to the wok. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-4 minutes till the sauce thickens.
Next, taste & adjust the salt in the sauce. Sprinkle the garam masala & vinegar to the wok and stir everything well.Remove from heat and add the fried cauliflower to the pan & (very gently) toss well so that the florets are evenly coated.Dont stir too much with spoon at this point, else cauliflower gets mushy.
Garnish with chopped green scallions & serve immediately.
- Substitute dark soya sauce with tamari.
- Adding tomato – chilli sauce adds extra heat, you can substitute with plain tomato ketchup of choice.