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Eating My Way Around the World

Passport & Plate - Home Away From Home - Chicken Manchurian

India | Wednesday, 12 March 2014 | 2 photos

Boneless Chicken – 500g
Garam Masala – 1¼ teaspoon
Turmeric (ground) – 1 teaspoon
Cardamom Pods – 2 teaspoons
Coriander Seeds – 1 teaspoon
Garlic Salt – 1 teaspoon
Black Pepper (ground) – 1 teaspoon
Corn Flour – ¼ teaspoon
Ginger Paste – 1 teaspoon
Garlic Paste – 1 teaspoon
Green Chili – 2
Onion – 2
Soy Sauce – 2 tablespoons
Tomato Sauce – 3 tablespoons
Coconut – 1
Rice – 2 cups


How to prepare this recipe
1. Open the coconut, draining the juice into a glass (it will be used later).
2. Cut out the flesh of the coconut and dice it up into tiny pieces.
3. Mix up the diced-up coconut flesh with the rice and cook it in a rice cooker, substituting some of the water with the coconut juice.
4. Mix the following into a paste: garam masala (¾ tspn), ground turmeric (½ tspn), garlic salt (½ tspn), ground black pepper (½ tspn), corn flour (¼ tspn), ginger paste (1 tspn), oil (3 tspn).
5. Cut up the chicken into small pieces and marinate with the paste.
6. Leave the chicken aside, or in the fridge, for 15 minutes.
7. Cut up the 2 onions and the 2 green chilies into medium sized pieces
8. Heat up a saucepan, and add in the cardamom pods and coriander seeds. Leave for about 1 minute.
9. Add in the onion and chilies along with a dash of oil, a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar.
10. Leave on the heat for about a minute, constantly stirring to avoid burning
11. Empty the saucepan’s ingredients into a bowl.
12. Sear the marinated chicken pieces.
13. Add back into the saucepan the onion, cardamom pods and coriander seeds.
14. Add in soy sauce (2 tbspn), tomato sauce (3 tbspn), garam masala (½ tspn), ground turmeric (½ tspn), garlic salt (½ tspn), ground black pepper (½ tspn) and garlic paste (1 tspn).
15. Leave on the heat for another 2 minutes.
16. Put a lid on the pan, turn the heat off and leave for 3 minutes.
17. Serve the chicken manchurian with the coconut rice.


The story behind this recipe

I learnt this recipe at a home-stay on the Kerala backwaters, from the mother of the owner, or ‘moushi’ (aunty) as I called her. I had already visited the Golden Triangle by this time, and was enjoying the relaxation after two weeks of fast-paced hustle and bustle! It was a beautiful juxtaposition, and I loved every minute of India, both the North and the South.
This was around 3 weeks into my 5-week trip to India and I had just experienced my first time away from family for Christmas and New Years. I was having the time of my life, being immersed in such a rich and foreign culture, but was slightly missing the taste of South-East Asian and Western food. Never would I have guessed, that at a homestay on the beautiful backwaters, there would be soy sauce and tomato sauce added into a dish. Chicken Manchurian tastes neither South-East Asian nor Western, but at that moment, it was just so home-ly and comforting to see ingredients that I knew.
What was even more fascinating was the mixing of these familiar ingredients with exotic spices, creating a wonderful flavour that was completely new to me! The saltiness of the soy sauce seemed to oppose the sourness of the tomato sauce, but a bang was added with the different spices, and the chicken was bursting with flavour. When all the sauce seemed to be very overwhelming, it was balanced out with the coconut rice with its refreshing aroma and taste.
What was also special about this dish, was the way we ate it. We sat on a round table, with a large bowls of chicken manchurian and coconut rice in the middle, for all to share. I found that India had a very familial culture and was very much based on the community as a whole. I met local women who formed microfinance groups to loan money for their own businesses, to support their husbands, children and extended family. I loved the sense of intimacy in Indian culture and how things were always shared: money, clothes, companionship, smiles, and food around a table.

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