|September 26, 2022

THE STORY OF INDO-CHINESE FOOD

Although the idea behind fusion food may seem like a modern interpretation of various international cuisines, you’ll probably be stunned to know that Indo-Chinese food has been in existence and has been a long-practiced tradition for well over a century now!

Indo Chinese food is simply known as “Chinese food” (or even “Chindian” cuisine!). Typically, it’s the introduction and adaptation of typical Chinese seasoning and cooking techniques to Indian tastes. This is primarily applicable to vegetarian dishes.

History and Origins

Indo Chinese food can be best described as an Indian interpretation of Chinese food, which deliciously combines the deep-fried, spicy flavors that all Indians love, with a Chinese twist, by adding ingredients like soy sauce and vinegar. 

Indian Chinese food has its own very distinct flavor like adding Schezwan (Indian way of spelling “Sichuan”) sauce, which uses dry red chiles (spelled "chilies" in India) as a substitute for Sichuan peppercorns. Then there's also Manchurian-style cooking, where meat and vegetables are battered and fried in a spicy soy-based sauce with classic Indian ingredients like garlic, ginger, and green chiles.

Indian Chinese food has now become extremely popular across India, especially in Mumbai, but its roots have always been in Kolkata. It’s a huge part of Indian culture now, so much so that many Indians believe that the food is authentic Chinese! It’s colloquially referred to as Chinese food and is so widespread that it can be hard to distinguish its influences.

Indian Chinese food gained popularity primarily because of the Chinese community living in Kolkata. The Chinese community in Kolkata is mainly of “Hakka” origin, which then naturally also influences the flavors and techniques used in making Indo-Chinese or rather, “Chinese Food”, as it’s commonly called across the country. 

The first settlement of Chinese communities in Kolkata goes back to the year 1778. By the early 20th century, Chinatown had developed and thrived in this area. 

Now, you can find Indo Chinese restaurants in the remotest of places across India. And with smartphones in everybody’s hands these days, searching for the best Chinese food available in your local area is a cakewalk! Just type in terms like “Indo Chinese restaurant near me”, “Indian Chinese restaurant near me”, “Indo Chinese near me”, “Indo Chinese food near me” or “Indian Chinese food near me” in Google, and you’ll be instantly greeted with listings of the best Chinese street-food or restaurants available in your immediate vicinity.

Typically, Chinese food uses spices like cumin, coriander seeds, and turmeric. These spices are usually used much more in Indian cooking rather than in Chinese, although they can be found to some extent in the Xinjiang region. Other major ingredients also include hot chili, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, red dried chili, black peppercorns, and yogurt. Similar ingredient lists can be found in other Southeast Asian countries with Chinese influences like Malaysia and Singapore.

Several different styles of dishes are quite commonly found in Indo-Chinese cuisine. However, two of the most famous are Schezwan and Manchurian.

Schezwan

Schezwan

“Schezwan” may at first look like a spelling mistake of Szechwan, however, it’s just the way these dishes are spelled out and written in India. Dishes with this name may or may not have any influence or strong resemblance to the actual food of the Sichuan province in China. Typically, Schezwan dishes focus on a spicy sauce with lots of red chilis and garlic.

Manchurian

Manchurian

Manchurian-style dishes are typically prepared from either meat or paneer, along with several vegetables in a thick, creamy, and spicy brown sauce. According to legends, “Manchurian” was created by a cook named Nelson Wang who described the process as starting from the most basic ingredients found in Indian cuisine (i.e., ginger, garlic, and green chili) and then adding soy sauce instead of garam masala.

To summarize…

Indo chinese

As you might know by now, Indo-Chinese food is a wildly popular comfort food that’s a staple in India. And now, this fusion cuisine has branched out across the whole country from its origins in Kolkata. This fusion cuisine is delicious and has certainly become an integral part of Indian cooking.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is Indian Chinese food?

Generally speaking, Chinese Indian food is characterized by its ingredients – Indian vegetables and spices, along with a heavy amount of strong and pungent Chinese sauces, thickening agents, and oil. Everything is then stir-fried in a wok. Indian Chinese food adopts Chinese culinary styles and then adds spices and flavors that are familiar to the Indian palate.

When did Chinese food start in India?

It is said that about 85 years ago, the Indian culinary world was mesmerized by a new cuisine. This happened when the first Indo-Chinese restaurant, the “Eau Chew” opened in Kolkata.

Where did Indian Chinese food originate?

Kolkata. Indian Chinese cuisine originated in India and is a uniquely South Asian phenomenon. The cuisine is drastically different from the usual Cantonese Chinese cuisine available elsewhere. Towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century, Hakka-speaking Chinese immigrated to the eastern Indian city of Kolkata and from there started the history of Indian Chinese, or simply “Chinese food”.

Why is Chinese food so famous in India?

With all its rice and gravy-based dishes, Chinese food is the ideal combination of foreign yet familiar flavors for Indians. So, for many, eating Chinese food taps into the nostalgia of growing up in India at a time when dining out was very different from the way it is today.

Is Indian Chinese food authentic?

Indian Chinese food is a reinterpretation or spin-off or twist of the authentic cuisine from Sichuan, China, in that it's soaked in Indian flavors, spices and herbs. It is a fusion of two cultures and a proud testament to Indian hospitality!

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