April 3, 2022

Scratching that chicken Manchurian itch

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A few weeks ago I happened to catch a show on cable TV called Slumfood Millionaire, and this particular episode focused on the Dharavi area of Mumbai. As I watched cooks preparing Indian Chinese dishes - including ones featuring the famous Manchurian and Schezwan sauces - I couldn't help but salivate. Having had a first taste of "Chindian" dishes thanks to her, I immediately messaged The Bombay East Indian Girl to tell her. She very kindly let me know that she would be happy to prepare something for me, as long as I didn't mind trekking over to her place.

Well... she is talking to someone who have planned many, many trips that revolved around restaurant meals - sometimes flying halfway around the world for a single reservation. So traveling for an hour on the train is nothing. I hesitated to impose on her, but eventually my curiosity got the best of me... and I invited myself over for lunch today.

I had ask our hostess for some Indo-Chinese food but did not specify anything in particular. She knows that, like her husband, I'm limited in my ability to handle the heat. So she dialed it down for me today. Meanwhile, Hairy Legs found out about my visit and managed to convince our hostess to serve up his favorite dish for us...

Masala dosa - I wasn't expecting to start with this, but of course I was only too happy to have dosa. The Schezwan chutney in the middle turned out OK for me, which meant it didn't have the kick that Sankala would have enjoyed.

We've got the filling made with spiced potatoes, which meant that I was half full after I polished off this delicious plate.

Spicy prawn pakora - these were battered and deep-fried, and meant to go with the Schezwan chutney. Delicious.

Silver pomfret kujit - our hostess had served up a fish kujit at the first pop-up I went to, and I really love the green masala with coriander and coconut. Very, very happy with this.

Chicken 65 - a famous dish where the chicken is often deep-fried, but as we've already had the deep-fried prawns, our hostess chose to do the "wet" version instead. I really love the curry patta.

Burnt garlic fried rice - this was really, really good. Our hostess definitely spent a good amount of time with this, making sure the eggs, burnt garlic, and basmati rice got the proper heat treatment in the wok. She definitely served up a better flied lice than either Sankala or I could have done, with proper wok hei (鑊氣).

Chicken chilli - this is, apparently, a dish that comes from the Hakka (客家) people, and comes in both "dry" and "sauce" versions. The boneless chicken cubes were coated in corn starch and came with lots of sauce. Stir-fried with onions, spring onions, red and green bell peppers. All the ingredients could be found in Chinese cooking, but the flavor combination would not be considered Chinese... at least not by me.

Chicken Manchurian - BABY, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR! I have been hearing about chicken Manchurian since about 15 years ago, and having now watched food shows about it, I finally got a chance to taste it.

This was... battered and deep-fried chicken in brown sauce. The sauce uses soy sauce as a base, with the unmistakable kick of minced ginger, along with garlic and spring onions. The umami in the sauce reminded me of mushrooms. It was strangely familiar and comforting, yet once again I knew that I had never tasted something like this before. I greedily spooned that brown Manchurian sauce onto my fried rice.

Kharvas - our hostess explained that with the current logistics situation, she was unable to get cow colostrum in liquid form and had to settle for powder. Jaggery is used to sweeten the pudding, and the unmistakable flavors of saffron and cardamom reminded me of the halwa I had in Oman. Of course, it wouldn't be an Indian dessert without some gold leaf on top...

We decided to enjoy our meal with a few bottles:

2020 Avani Amrit Pinot Gris - reductive nose. Definitely a little flinty.

2018 Sylvain Pataille Marsannay Rosé Fleur de Pinot - flinty with minerals, with nice red fruits.

2017 Avani Syrah - really fragrant and floral, lots of violets and eucalyptus. Not your box standard Aussie shiraz and reminds me of Giaconda's syrah. Beautiful.

We were really, really full. There was so much food, and I was so, so happy. Many thanks to our hosts for their hospitality, and I really look forward to attending more of her pop-up or private dinners in the future.

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