Over time, they had assimilated and imbibed Indian sensibilities and beliefs. They even acknowledged Goddess Kali as their own, and offered noodles, chop suey, rice and vegetable dishes as an offering to her and as a sign of unity with the Indians.
This saw the emergence of a cultural fusion between the two nations and the first Indo-Chinese restaurant opened in Kolkata with hordes of people coming from all over. Kim Sa, an employee working there, decided to venture to the south to Madras and introduce this style of cooking. He is the great grandfather of my friend Claire, who runs a successful beauty parlour and restaurant in Bengaluru today. During a get together with her, she told me of this story and how dishes like fiery Dragon Chicken and Gobi Manchurian were born.
Indo-Chinese cuisine can thus be traced to almost 100 years ago and it has helped two countries bond like nothing else could. When I visited Claire, she made me a special dish that has many fans — sweet and sour prawn. She also told me how this strange but delicious cuisine tends to have Indian spices such as cumin seeds, coriander seeds and turmeric, which are traditionally not associated with authentic Chinese cuisine, and Oriental influences like chilli, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, Sichuan peppercorns, thus making it truly finger-licking good.
It’s amazing how one cuisine managed to tickle the taste buds of folks in every small town and city across India — noodles in any form is as popular in a village in Trichy as it is in Amritsar. It comes as no surprise that every region has also adapted and created their own versions of these desi Chinese dishes. This is no small feat, especially for a foreign cuisine, but which street do you see in India today, without a thallu vandi at least, Schezwan paneer dosa or chilli garlic fried rice?
Prawns, shelled and de-veined 16-20
Salt to taste
White/black peppercorns, crushed to taste
Red chilli paste 1 1/2 tablespoons
Corn flour 1 tablespoon
Oil to deep fry 2 tablespoons
Garlic, chopped 1 tablespoon
Ginger, chopped 1/2 tablespoon
Celery, chopped 1/2 tablespoon
Spring onion bulbs, roughly chopped 2-3
Medium- sized green capsicum cut into triangles 1
Tomato ketchup 2 tablespoons
Vinegar 1 teaspoon
Chaat masala 1/2 teaspoon
Spring onion, chopped 2 tablespoons
Step 1: Take prawns in a bowl, add salt, half of the crushed peppercorns, chaat masala, ½ teaspoon chilli paste and corn flour and mix well. Set aside to marinate for 10-15 minutes.
Step 2: Heat sufficient oil in kadai. Deep-fry prawns till golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper.
Step 3: Heat sesame oil in a non-stick pan. Add garlic, ginger and celery; mix and sauté till fragrant.
Step 4: Add remaining chilli paste and mix well. Add spring onion bulbs and capsicum; mix and sauté for two minutes.
Step 5: Add ¼ cup water and mix well. Add salt, remaining crushed peppercorns and tomato ketchup; mix well and cook for 1-2 minutes or till the sauce thickens slightly.
Step 6: Add fried prawns and mix well. Switch off heat, add vinegar and mix.
Step 7: Garnish with spring onion greens and serve hot.
Sweet and sour prawns
Prep time: 26-30 minutes
Cooking time: 21-25 minutes
Calories per serve: 160 cl
- This fusion food is best had fresh. When you reheat it in the microwave, it tends to dry up. If you wish to reheat, do so in a kadai with a little water
- Use seasame oil for best results while cooking Indo-Chinese dishes
— Chef Ramaa Shanker is the author of Festive Offerings to the Gods: Divine Soul Recipes