Wednesday, September 07, 2005

ABCD - Apna Bhartiya Chinese Dish

There are two kinds of office complexes in Bombay - the fab and the drab.

The first kind consist of steel, chrome and glass. Blue and orange carpeting, Nescafe machines near the elevators - the kind of offices you see in interior design magazines.

The second are situated in drab 'industrial estates' which haven't been whitewashed since the last time Rajesh Khanna made a girl swoon... Which was, ahem, quite a while ago.

The one bright spot in these kind of office complexes is the canteen boy from the mandatory Udipi restaurant on the premises.

These grubby but ever-cheerful young fellas ferry coffees and dosas and samosas stuffed with the alu bhaji left over from lunchtime. Last week, our canteen boy Ramesh proudly came and announced -'Ab Chainis start ho gaya hai'. Promptly, we all placed inaugural orders.

Be Indian, Eat Indian
Udipi 'Chainis' is a unique brand of cuisine, an advanced version of the Indian family of Chinese khaana peculiar to this part of the world.

Vir Sanghvi, writing in his 'Rude Food' column credits Nelson Wang of China Garden with 'inventing' Indian Chinese. That was in the early '70s. Before that a few fancy restaurants served 'authentic Chinese'. And it found hardly any takers.

Then, one day Wang deep fried some gobi florets, dunked them in a hot n spicy Indian style sauce and came up with the exotic sounding name 'Manchurian'. And Chinese was permanently de-chinkified and took on Indian culinary citizenship.

Well, Udipi Chanis is the baap of even Indian Chainis. It consists of noodles or rice with finely diced carrot and French beans, cooked in an oily kadhai with generous slatherings of soya sauce. Then there are 'gravy items' with either chicken or veg fried something-or-the-others. Here the sauce is more viscous, garlicky and generally either dark brown or bright red.

And remember, Udipi Chinees is most compatible with that industrial strength Indian cola : 'Thums Up'. Enjoy the satisfying burp!

Bottomline: Indian food - especially curry and naan - has become hugely popular in many parts of the world. From there, it may just be a short step to 'Indianised' world cuisine - like Indian Chainis. Then maybe a further specialisation: 'Gujju Chinese'.

And thus, will India bring mighty China to its knees - begging for mercy!


  1. All the culinary jugalbandi makes my mouth water specially because today is Ganesh Chaturthi. This post, early this festival morning, exhorts me to teleport to my home particularily because it's redolent of all the mixy wixy succulent stuff my mom's magical hands conjure in the kitchen.

    The final statement in bold is a hyperbole :p Imagine the head of the state in China literally holding a platter in front of the Indian counterpart for the sake of cuisine competition. This one's definitely a filler for the next Bollywood movie 'China Plate' :p Oh, oh and I also know the song that pops out unconditionally after the Ninja ambush just before the interval

    ek hogaye noodle-dosa, nosaroll ban gaya re
    aur mooh main pani aya hain tho idli-manchuria re
    hamma hamma hamma hamma hamma
    hamma hamma hamma hamma hamma

    Excuse my sense of humor :)

  2. Hi Rashmi

    Followed a trail of many blogs to reach yours! Was a regular JAM reader when doin MBA in Mumbai; now dont get it in B'lore tho'.... Been a fan of ur writing esp those on education/career coz they're usually spot on and stuff which none else really dares to say publicly

    Neway ;on "Chainijj" food ; my first crush with it was when i had Sweet corn chicken soup at the famous Malaya restaurant in Cochin long ago(i was told by my dad that, the locals stoned the place during 1962 war:-))It was an occasional indulgence as a change from home food till i reached mumbai for my MBA.

    i remembr frequenting a Chinese food cart opp to my Mumbai Bschool; the boy also gets u beer frm the nearby wine shop; better than thumsup :-))But one day someone found out that they were using the water from the public toilet nearby for preparing the food. and the patrons developed stomach upset overnite !!

    Had the real Chinese food when i was in London on a office project. The first reaction was eeyuccckk!!!How on earth can anyone eat something as bland as this?No wonder it's the "Indian Chinese" food that rules in India.

    btw if you are also looking for not-so-young-any-more writers; do checkout my blog too

    would be honored if u'd leave a comment


  3. hehe...nice post :)
    We Indians have this habit of adapting to changes...but guess the common man will always get what he wants as far as food is concerned- Indianzied version of foreign thing.
    Not only food but also if one remembers ADs of foreign products - the one that comes in my mind right now is that of a cellotape (see I made American scotch tape to English Cellotape :P) - it had some punch line like "no kat-ka-tu" ...and all of a sudden it was given an Indian feel!
    Its all about demand and supply after all!

  4. I love chinese food, the "real' kind and the indianised version too.Here in Hong kong we get plenty of the first varity but I have to wait a whole year or two to taste the indian chinese food...and it's something i miss!

  5. believe me.. but the chinese in india tastes much better in india than what it tastes in china.. IT IS ABSOLUTELY EEEEEEKY..!!

    the only good thing is that u realise that shcezwan n manchuria are 2 different areas in china and the food tastes differs with the regions.. while the schezwan prefer the hot food.. the manchurians are more towards the bland side.. also there is the third form of chines food in chna and it something with k.. i fail to recall the name.. anways.. india mein hi njoyy chinese..!! udipi chinese is a bit too much.. but it sure is no hamr in tryin..!!

  6. Yes, Indian Chainees is quite tasty :-) but now we have moved on to the Chinese samosa...samosas with noodle sure the Chinese must be wondering why they did not think of this before...and no Gujju Chainees will not work for non-veggies :P

  7. I started appreciating the divinity (seriously) and deliciously different taste of “hamara” Indian Chinese food only after coming far away from the country. Reading your article just made me realize that I am perhaps missing some new “gastronomic” temptations everyday. Slurp!! Herez to the Indians and there innovativeness in …..well everything ;).

  8. Actually in large parts of south India - especially in restaurants of mallu origin the name has been changed to "Manjuri" from manchurian!

    Also remember the menu in Fountain restaurant ...which had named it manchuriANZ - and another dish challed chicken HONG KONG Bank...

  9. Anonymous11:39 AM

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  10. Anonymous8:08 AM

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