If there has to be a dish that I overindulged on during college days, it has to be Manchurian – chicken, cauliflower, vegetable, dry, gravy, sweet,spicy, salty, you name it and I would raise both my hands. With that extra cash at the end of the month, saved from pocket-money each week, I, along with few other girls could be found in all sorts of street side places in and around the college or hopping onto public transport to far away Dilli Haat.There would be plates of greasy noodles, lightly crispy vegetarian(or not) deep fried dumplings coated in spicy manchurian sauce, gossip, laughter, half-finished assignments and a compulsory side of fruit beer for late lunches.
Having said that, indeed my appreciation for this ever so popular indo chinese dish stems from those days. Mum hardly made it, for cooking indo chinese at home is slightly redundant when you are living in India because (almost) always you will end up comparing it with that fantastic taste from the sloppy joints at street side. So while the hotspots around the city are to be held responsible for my insatiable appetite towards indo chinese, I never made it at home, it was only after I moved to States some five years back that I tried recreating it at home. Take chicken in hot garlic sauce or fried rice, talk gobhi manchurian or spicy schezwan noodles,by the end of the first couple of months here, I started getting there, developing recipes with the memories of how they should taste in my head and trying to replicate that inside the super hot wok. The fact that the husband shares my love for indo chinese fare and we kind of got tired of consuming overly sweet chili chickens & hakka noodles tossed with snap peas & broccoli (yikes!) and accepting the fact that the restaurants here just do not get it(or we like to think so),it was exciting to see those similar tastes turning on our meal tables from our own kitchen.
When you make indo chinese, besides ingredients, bring along a lot of patience to the cutting board. Spend the late afternoon mincing garlic and chopping ginger.Shred those carrots and cabbage finer than you think you would need, sniff and taste that mix of soy sauce with coriander & turmeric and shy away from de seeding those hot chillies, coz boy is this one spicy cuisine or what?This vegetable machurian recipe has stayed in my kitchen for few years now. I often make it on non-meat eating days or when I have a stash of miscellaneous vegetables that need to be used up right away. I would not say that deep-frying them is the best option but then you are not eating fried chicken so its kind of okay.You know what I mean, right?After all, its veggies!
Vegetable Manchurian is a widely popular dish of the indo chinese genre. It is nothing by vegetable dumplings 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 put together by chinese who lived in eastern parts of india for centuries, just imagine it to be an amber-colored, tangy and mildly sweet but hot 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 brands from indian store for the authentic taste. However, you can confidently do few a substitutions (see notes ) and use your pantry to try this recipe.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
For the Manchurian Sauce
- 1/2 tbsp dark soya sauce (I use Ching’s brand)
- 2 tbsp chilli- tomato sauce (I use Maggi Hot & sweet)
- 1/2 tsp honey
- 1.5 tsp cornstarch +4 tbsp water
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2-3 tbsp cooking oil
- 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
- 2-3 small green chili (use any mild/hot variety)
- 5-7 garlic pods, chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions, white parts
- 1/4 cup chopped red onion
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/4 tsp black pepper powder
- 1 tsp red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to tolerance)
- 3/4 cup to 1 cup stock (vegetable or chicken, don’t use water)
- 1 tbsp white vinegar (or to taste)
- For Garnish – chopped scallions(green parts), ginger, chopped green chillies
For the Deep fried Vegetable Balls
- 1 cup finely chopped cabbage
- 1/2 cup very finely chopped cauliflower
- 1/2 cup grated carrot
- 2 tbsp finely chopped scallions
- 1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
- 1/4 cup finely chopped green beans
- 1 small green chilli, minced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
- scant 1/2 tsp Salt
- 4 tbsp all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- Oil for deep frying
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 oils to smoking hot. Add chopped garlic, green chillies & 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 & black pepper powder next, stir for 10 seconds and then add the soya sauce mix made earlier.Stir for a minute or so and then add the stock. Simmer for 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat or till you see bubbles on the sides.Add the cornstarch mix to the wok. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-4 minutes till the sauce starts to thicken.
Next, taste & adjust the salt in the sauce. Add the vinegar to the wok and stir everything well.Remove from heat and add the fried vegetable balls to the pan. Dont stir too much with spoon at this point.
Garnish with chopped green scallions & serve immediately.
Making the Vegetable Balls
In a large bowl, mix together all the chopped vegetables. Add salt, mix(do not squeeze) and let sit for (not more than) 10 minutes. Add the all-purpose flour and corn starch next and gently mix together. If you feel that the mixture is on a dry side add a tablespoon or so of water (ideally you will not be needing it since the vegetables leave water from sitting in salt).
Heat up 2-3 inches of oil in a frying pan on medium high. Shape into small lime size balls and add to the frying pan, Make sure that the oil is not too hot(else the balls will remain raw from inside) or too low (else they will scatter in oil). Fry, turning on all sides to golden dark brown
Drain the fried vegetable balls on a paper towel before adding to sauce (recipe above).
Serve immediately with noodles or fried rice.
- Use any vegetables that you like (just do not use potato)coz trust me after frying they will anyhow taste good.
- You might be tempted (like me) to use food processor to chop the vegetables but trust me it makes them watery. I recommend chopping them with knife.
- Substitute dark soya sauce with tamari (for vegan)
- Adding tomato – chilli sauce adds extra heat. I get this sauce from indian stores. You can use just plain tomato ketchup or add mix of sriracha & tomato ketchup for a sweet, spicy tangy flavor to the sauce.
- The sauce can be made 2-3 hours in advance. Just fry up the vegetable balls and serve when you want to.
- If you forsee leftovers, store the sauce and vegetable balls separately. Toss them together just when you want to serve.
Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!