22nd March 2014
Some time ago, we went to an Indian Chinese restaurant, the volunteers and I, in the interests of researching the best food in the world to bring to a supperclub near you :-)
We're not bringing it to a supperclub near you.
We traipsed off into the fringes of East London near the Essex borders and sampled this "special" type of Chinese food, highly recommended by an Indian patron. Indian Chinese food is the kind of Chinese food you get in India. These are Chinese migrants who set up Chinese restaurants in India, but also started to cater for local tastes. Thus you get a sort of fusion cooking, which is also influenced by the regions of China they came from.
In London we have mainly Cantonese food, though that is changing, as most of our Chinese immigrants came from Hong Kong. In India, the story is much more confused. Some of their migrants came overland over the southwestern Chinese border, through Nepal, Burma and similar routes, though the Hakka probably came by sea from southeast China. Western Chinese cooking already sometimes uses "Indian" spices like cumin, which you could definitely taste in many dishes as well as turmeric. However, just to confuse matters, there was a whole class of dishes called "Manchurian", something I've never seen before and Manchuria is in the opposite direction, up on the northeastern border with Korea! "Manchurian", not that dissimilar to some Cantonese dishes, consisted of different ingredients covered in a gloopy spicy/curried sweet and sour kind of sauce. Yup, it tasted as good as it sounds. I think this was actually a local invention, I suspect it bears no relation to real Manchurian cooking.
The worst thing on the menu was stir fried paneer. As someone who grew up eating fabulous chinese food, I just couldn't bring myself to order it. The Chinese barely eat dairy as it is (although I did have stir fried milk once, in Hangzhou, that also didn't have much to recommend it), and certainly not paneer.
The meal was edible, and the spicy garlic pork was good, as I remember, but honestly, we couldn't dare to offer any of it on our table. You probably think we're mad for even trying (it WAS quite an effort to get there, we all had to take a train from Liverpool street!), but actually I did have some amazing Western Chinese food in Georgia of all places, and Indian people love it, so I suppose you never know. I guess the message is - we go to great lengths to bring you the best.
So, instead, we're going to cook you some excellent vegetarian food - from India AND China, not the hybrid of the two!! After all this fuss about meat eating being as bad for you as smoking, it's a good time for us all to eat less meat, and particularly India has some of the greatest vegetarian food in the world. China has tofu - which even I enjoy in the right recipes, like our amazing black pepper tofu recipe, never before served at a supperclub but very highly rated by friends.
Come and enjoy our non-fusion supperclub and sample the best of both worlds - separately :-) On the menu will be:
Dhokla and Handvo with pomegranate Raita - 2 kinds of Gujarati savoury cake, typically served as a snack
"Delicious" Tofu - one of my favourites; it doesn't seem to have another name. It is, well, delicious.
Chinese Aubergines- the last time we served this everyone ate half an aubergine each, there were none left!
Beansprouts in "prickly" Sichuan Peppercorn oil
Stir fried "3 Silk" - potato, peppers and carrots
Black Pepper Tofu
Paneer Butter Masala - home made and excellent
Vegetable Dhansak - this is a veggie curry with pulses, that is so tasty it never fails to please, the recipe is from a Ugandan Indian family
Broccoli and Coconut Milk Curry (I love this curry!)
Kheer - Indian Rice pudding
Mango Pudding - a Cantonese classic.
The cost will be £45 of which £35 will go direct to Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org to book.