A peek into the sumptuous past of the Indo-Chinese fusion foods

I am sure, the very mention of yummy Indo-Chinese fusion foods like Gobi Manchurian, Hakka noodles, Chili chicken etc. would bring water to the mouth of anyone who would love to eat out. These dishes comprise an integral part of today’s menu in any restaurant and the current generation is never bored of sinking their teeth in to these sumptuous dishes. A quick peek into the history of these fusion foods is equally sumptuous and this article deals with the same. Come on readers; let us get into the past to view how these eateries took their roots in India and mesmerized the natives with their fiery taste.

The birth of the fusion cuisine
The Chinese started migrating to India many centuries ago to spread the teachings of Buddhism and it was believed that the first person who approached India for material prospects was a Hakka (an ethnic community in China) named Yang Tai Chow, way back in the year 1778. He had found Kolkata his convenient home as it is accessible both by land and sea. Over the years many Chinese- mostly Hakkas- established their settlements in this metropolitan city of India and slowly developed a town of their own called the Chinatown. They tried their hand at many skills like being dentists, carpenters, beauticians etc to mark their firm foothold in our country and at last were successful in this regard only through their remarkable culinary skills. This was the origin of the fiery Indo-Chinese fusion food and then there was no turning back. They manipulated and merged the Chinese ingredients like Soya sauce, vinegar etc. with the Indian ones and were triumphant in satisfying the locals.
Legendary Chinese cuisines that swept the Indians off their feet:
Eau Chew was the very first Indo-Chinese restaurant that was very successful in catering to the Indian tastes. It was set up in Calcutta some 85 years ago and was very popular amongst the locals. Later, many restaurants of the same kind but that offered stunning food fusions sprouted in and around Kolkata. Fat Mama and Kim Fa were worth mentioning and did a wonderful job in tickling the Indian taste buds.
Some winning Indo-Chinese food fusions:
Paneer, the Indian cottage cheese, took the form of Sichuan paneer, Chicken curry took the form of chili chicken and the most sought after Indian dish, Aloo Bindi, took the form of Kung Pao potatoes stuffed in Okra. The Indians were head over heels in love with these fusion foods.
Are we missing out something? Yes, of course, our beloved Manchurian varieties which have taken a significant place on our platter for years! Now let us venture into some interesting facts behind this signature dish!
Interesting facts about Manchurian:
  • Manchurian is not a Chinese dish, though in India it is looked upon as one.
  • Nelson Wang, a Chinese chef at the Cricket Club in India located in Mumbai, was the creator of this delicious starter, on the request of a customer to cook a dish which was out of the menu.
  • This dish got instantly famous just by word-of-mouth.
  • The publicity that this dish acquired made Nelson Wang to start his own restaurant in Mumbai called China Garden.
  • China Garden is a well-known Mumbai institution even today.
Indo-Chinese Fusion foods spread its wings out of Kolkata:
Having made its mark in Kolkata, these fusion food cuisines started to expand beyond the metro only in 1980’s and were quick enough to gain immense popularity. According to a 2007 survey, they are India’s favorite cuisines, second only to the local food, especially amongst the youngsters. They exceed the Italian and Thai foods in popularity by a huge margin.
Reasons why the Indians welcomed the Chinese fusion:
  • The spiciness, greasiness and the Chinese taste were mixed together in right proportions by the Hakka Chinese, according to our people’s likings and the fusion foods became a huge hit.
  • The Hakkas were very careful in not ignoring the vegetarian population of India. They were smart enough to cater to the needs of the vegetarians who constituted about 31 percent of the whole population. Thus every meat dish had a corresponding vegetarian dish in the Indo-Chinese menu.
  • Not only this, they also catered to needs of the Jain population of India by excluding onions, ginger, garlic etc from their preparations.
Fusion cuisines around the globe:
The whole world came to know of the Indian-Chinese fusion foods when the Indians began to spread around the globe making countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Australia etc. their home. The Indo-Chinese restaurants sprouted around the globe including the USA, where the Indians searched for better prospects during the IT boom in the 1990’s. The fame of the fusion foods grew in USA’s cities like New York City, San Jose, San Francisco Bay area, where a sizeable portion of Indian population had settled. The one ulterior motive of these restaurants is to make the foreign settled Indians feel at home.
To conclude, one can never forget to thank the Hakkas for bringing these fusion foods to India. Long live the Chinese dragon and the Indian tiger fusion!


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