The curious case of Chinese Indian manchow soup

Manchu Soup
Image Credit: Shutterstock

This story begins in the 18th century in Kolkata, India. We are talking about a time when Kolkata was called “Calcutta”; a time when a few English prospered under the East India Company (EIC); a time when the only means of transportation to get around was a horse-drawn carriage. And also a time, when Chinese Hakka traders settled in the city, which was the former capital of India during British rule.

Chinese silk merchants, dentists, carpenters and owners of leather tanneries – these immigrants were able to find a steady income while staying in the bustling city, far from home. They could find delicious meals, but it was not the same as eating a meal in China. They needed a permanent solution, so that’s when they started experimenting with local ingredients and quickly established small-scale restaurants.

This is how Indochinese cuisine was born, from which manchow soup takes its roots.

A combination of the two cuisines, Indo-Chinese or “Indo-Chinese” cuisine offers fried and strongly spiced foods, the basic ingredients being soy sauce and vinegar. However, Indochinese cuisine also has its peculiarity. For example, the famous Schezwan sauce is inspired by the Chinese “Sichuan” style of cooking, which uses dried red chili peppers as a substitute for Sichuan peppercorns.

The cooking style also varies when it comes to Indo-Chinese cuisine. On the one hand, it’s called Manchurian-style cuisine, where the vegetables and meat are bathed and then fried in a soy-based sauce, with native Indian ingredients like ginger, garlic, and green peppers. The addition of onions and peppers is also quite common in Manchu cuisine.

But what exactly is the “Manchurian” style of cooking?

Manchuria

Manchow is the abbreviation of Manchuria, they say …
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Some claim it comes from Manchuria, which is a historical and geographic region that combines Russia and China in Northeast Asia. However, it bears no resemblance to the cuisine of the region, which uses millet, soybeans, peas, corn and broom as the basic ingredients.

The word “Manchu” first appeared in 1975 by Nelson Wang, born to Chinese immigrants in Kolkata. He was a resident cook at the Mumbai Cricket Club of India when he was approached by a customer who asked him to create a new dish that was not on the menu. Baffled by the request, Wang decided to give it a go anyway.

He started by combining the basic ingredients of an Indian dish: ginger, garlic and green peppers. However, when it came to adding spices, he decided to skip the traditional garam masala and add soy sauce and corn flour instead. He then added meat and garnished the dish with spring onions, and the result of all this gave birth to the famous Manchurian Chicken.

With its instant popularity, new dishes were created including manchow soup.

Manchow soup originates from the Meghalaya but is popular in Calcutta

Tangra-Kolkata

Manchow soup is very popular in Tangra, Kolkata (India)
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Manchow is the abbreviation for Manchuria, they say. But this particular soup has a completely different story. Some say that his name took the language of many by qualifying “Manchuria” as “manchu”. However, chow in Indochinese cuisine means noodles, which is why we have chowmein or stir-fried noodles.

When we decode manchow soup, it is not difficult to understand that the hot appetizer is made up of a balanced mix of sweet and spicy flavors. This is his unique selling proposition.

A union of vegetables, the dish is quick to prepare and also to devour. Spring onions, carrots, cabbage, green beans, form the basis of the dish. However, there are no limits to the type of vegetables you can add. Perhaps that is the beauty of the soup. Nothing is ever too much or too little because the key to everything is the sauce.

Sautéed in a generous amount of oil, the vegetables are submerged in a translucent, thick, and heavily spiced brown layer of soy sauce, vinegar, cornstarch, ginger, garlic, green peppers, salt and pepper powder. The best part about drinking the soup is the crunch that comes from the fried noodles placed on top. And the perfect season to sip a spoonful is during the winter, when you need something warm for company.

Today, every other street food stall in North East India is home to manchow soup. Not to mention, the tastiest bowl can be found in the popular Chinatowns of Tiretta Bazaar and Tangra in Kolkata, India.

No one knows the full origin story behind this and manchow soup continues to be a delicious mystery. As far as we know, it could have been done by someone who accidentally fried noodles while making it a steaming bowl and decided to drink the spicy vegetable mixture in water as a soup instead of it. to throw.

But let’s not get carried away, because it is better to savor certain dishes at will rather than to solve puzzles. Do not you think?

Here is a recipe for making manchow soup at home

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Freeda S. Scott