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 Â 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'. Â 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 Â when the hostel mess was off. Right from exchanging those inquisitiveÂ 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,Â GobiÂ Machurian is nothing but batter fried cauliflower florets in a 'Manchurian' sauce. Do not confuse the origins of Â '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 Â 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.Â From traditional chowmein, chicken lollipops, chilli noodles to chop suey - Â 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 ofÂ 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 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 Serrano chilli minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger minced
- 2 garlic pods minced
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce I use Ching's brand
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup water or as required to make the batter
- Oil for deep frying
For the Manchurian Sauce
- 2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 4 tablespoon chilli- tomato sauce (I use Maggi Hot & sweet)
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 teaspoon cornstarch make a slurry with ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoon oil
- 2 teaspoon ginger chopped
- 3 garlic chopped
- 4 scallions white and green parts chopped separately
- ½ cup red onion chopped
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (hot), adjust to taste
- ¼ teaspoon garam masala
- 1.5 tablespoon rice vinegar adjust to taste
Making Cauliflower Fritters
- Cut the cauliflower florets into halves or quarters. Wash thoroughly under running water & let the water drain fully.
- Meanwhile, let the oil heat up in a kadai or any deep pot.
- In a bowl, throughly mix all the listed ingredients to make a smooth batter.
- Dip the cauliflower florets in the batter and deep fry on low-medium heat till golden brown. Fry in batches. Drain on paper towel.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 soy sauce mix made earlier.Simmer for 2-3 minutes 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.
- 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 very gently. Toss well so that the florets are evenly coated. Dont stir too much with spoon at this point, else cauliflower will break. Garnish with chopped green scallions & serve immediately.