WHENEVER culinary instructor A. K. Sharma visits Calcutta with his family, his two sons look forward to eating at the Chinese restaurants there.
The teenagers, Aditya and Shorya, are so used to the Chinese food in India that they find the version in Singapore too bland.
The Singaporean family was based in Calcutta for four years in the early 1990s when Mr Sharma ran a boutique and took up cooking lessons part-time.
Chinese-Indian food is cooked Chinese style but uses Indian spices like curry or chilli powder.
Mr Sharma, 41, who conducts workshops at Chef's Warehouse, a culinary studio in Toa Payoh, says that such 'Chindian' food came about when large numbers of Hakkas settled in India before World War II and opened restaurants.
The immigrants modified their food to suit Indian tastes. For instance, sesame oil is not used.
Examples of Chinese-Indian food include chilli chicken made with chilli powder or green chilli sauce and garam masala, the North Indian version of curry powder. There is also the popular Manchurian chicken or meatballs coated with a spicy sauce.
He has been conducting cooking classes for 18 years and shares a recipe for Manchurian chicken given to him by a Chinese friend who runs a restaurant in India.
If you prefer a vegetarian version, use minced cauliflower instead of minced chicken. Add 1 Tbs more of cornflour and 1 Tbs more of plain flour to help bind the mixture.
Or you could use 250g lotus root instead of cauliflower. Cut it into cubes and boil in water till it softens. Mash and make into lotus root balls.
For variety, you can use, say, an equal mixture of minced cauliflower, carrots and capsicum to get 350g minced vegetable.
Chef's Warehouse is at Block 148, Toa Payoh Lorong 1, 01-927, Tel: 6252-2260
INGREDIENTS FOR CHICKEN BALLS
- 250g boneless chicken meat (preferably half thigh and half breast meat), minced
- 2 Tbs plain flour
- 1 tsp ginger, finely blended into paste
- 1 tsp garlic, finely blended into paste
- 1 Tbs cornflour
- 1 tsp light soya sauce
- 1/2 tsp bottled chilli sauce
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1/4 tsp salt (to taste)
- 200ml oil for frying
Ingredients for sauce
- 4 Tbs oil for frying
- 4 Tbs finely chopped ginger
- 1 Tbs finely chopped garlic
- 2 Tbs finely chopped green chilli
- 1 medium yellow capsicum, sliced
- 1 medium red capsicum, sliced
- 2 Tbs light soya sauce
- 2 Tbs green chilli sauce (available from Mustafa)
- 3/4 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 1/2 Tbs chicken seasoning powder mixed with 2 cups water
- 3 Tbs cornflour
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 stalk of spring onion, diced
- some toasted sesame seeds
1. Combine all the ingredients for the chicken meatballs, except the oil. Mix well and set aside for 15 minutes. Shape into 16 balls.
2. Heat oil in frying pan. Shallow-fry a few of the meatballs at a time till golden brown. Set aside.
3. To make the sauce: Heat 4 Tbs oil in a frying pan. Add ginger, garlic and green chilli. Fry over medium heat for a minute.
4. Add capsicum, light soya sauce, green chilli sauce, pepper, sugar, chicken powder and water. Bring to a boil.
5. Add fried chicken balls, cover and cook for three minutes over low heat.
6. Add cornflour thickening and stir continuously till sauce becomes thick.
7. Garnish with spring onion and toasted sesame seeds. Serve with rice or noodles.