- I belong to the generation of children that saw Chinese food taking the Indian market by storm. Despite living in a small town where new things took ages to reach the local shops, chowmein had entered the households in Jhumri Telaiya by early eighties, probably due to its proximity to the eastern metropolis of Kolkata and its China Town connection.
While initially it used to be the packed raw noodles that my mother would cook at home, her style, soon local restaurants also started selling “Chinese food”. They became so popular and so soon that old-timers had started calling it “another Chinese aggression”.
I too liked the mouthwatering ‘veg chowmein’ and ‘chilli paneer’ they sold at Prince Chaat, an ever crowded fast food outlet in Jhumri Telaiya that has not seen its popularity going down in more than two decades. So much so that the chilli-garlic chowmein and chilli chicken served at a proper Chinese restaurant in Kolkata had failed to impress me.
It was several years later that I realised that the bland-ish things I had tasted at the Kolkata joint was the original taste of China. And that the spicy and too much saucy things served at most other places in the country in the name of Chinese were anything but that.
We, the Indians, admit that we have managed to create an array of Indianised Chinese delicacies and developed a taste for them too. A few years back, a friend had told me how disappointed she was after tasting the real Chinese, and how miserable her life had been on the food front during her three-month stay in that country on an official project. “I wonder how they make such good Chinese in India,” she had told me.
I have never been to China to test the original, but have definitely frequented the high-end restaurants here that claim to sell authentic Chinese — Mainland China, Asia Seven, Shangri-La et al.
Well, authentic or distorted, Indians love Chinese food. And my husband and I are not exceptions.
The other day, I craved for something Chinese since morning. Though it was my weekly off, going out was not feasible and I learnt that the neighbourhood outlet selling Chinese food was not delivering that day. I was in no mood to relent and hence decided to fix something myself. The final platter consisted of fried rice, stir fried chicken and a salad.
Well, I really don’t know if you could pass these off as Chinese at all, but I enjoyed the meal. And you will too, I hope.
Food for Thought: Stir-fried chicken
Boneless chicken: 250g
Green Chillies: 4-5
Garlic: 6 cloves
Ginger: 1 inch
Sesame seed: 1 teaspoon
Oil to fry
Salt: To taste
Brown sugar: 1 tea spoon
Soy sauce: 1 tablespoon
Vinegar: ½ cup
Fish oil: 1/2 teaspoon
Preparation: Boil the chicken and shred it. You can use two forks for the purpose. Keep aside. Now, cut all vegetables into thin slices and keep aside. Mix well the sugar, soy sauce and fish oil in the vinegar and set aside. Heat oil and fry finely chopped chillies and garlic. Fry all the vegetables on a high flame for a while and add the chicken shreds. When done, add salt and the vinegar mixture. Cook till the chicken and vegetables are dry. Sprinkle some roasted sesame seed and serve with fried rice or noodles of your choice.
Last words: Cooking Chinese food is easy and less time consuming but needs your undivided attention. They have to be cooked on high flame, which requires your presence all the time. And it’s a myth that Chinese food is all about MSG — the salt version of glutamic acid, a non-essential amino acid that our body can definitely do without. It’s a flavor enhancer, but you can take my word for the fact that Chinese or Japanese food does not need to depend on MSG for people to like its taste. You can always tell the restaurant not to use MSG in the food you have ordered.