Off lately, I have been very lazy with blogging and especially with GMTs.
Its not that I had nothing Indian to post yesterday. I had plenty to post. It’s just that the whole of yesterday I spent cuddled in the bed with my book.
I recently found out about Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.
I got the book from my friend on Friday, but could only start the book on Tuesday. And that’s why I wasn’t able to post anything yesterday. The book had me hooked and I just could not put it down! Not even for blogging.
Yes, that happens!
If you haven’t read the books, you should now!
Seriously, get it!
Back to the blog.
I have talked about my love for indian chinese before, when I made the cabbage manchurian.
Those of you who did not read the post then, yes, there is a cuisine known as Indian chinese and it is a popular favorite among most Indians.
The intriguing combination of Indian ingredients with Chinese ingredients like soy sauce, ginger, garlic and even ketchup produces dishes that are high in flavor, easy to make and ALWAYS leave you wanting more.
One of the most commonly used cooking techniques in this cuisine is deep-frying. Typically an ingredient such as paneer (firm-textured Indian cottage cheese), chicken, or a vegetable is coated with a cornstarch batter and then deep-fried. Then it is tossed with ingredients such as red or green chilies, soy sauce and vinegar.
The popularity of this food can be found in Antoine Lewis’ (an Indian food writer) recount of an incident that happened to him. A beggar child on the streets of Mumbai he once gave leftover food to, opened the container and told him that he wanted it only if it was Indian-Chinese.
Who said beggars can’t be choosers, clearly were not introduced to Indian chinese cuisine!
In 1778, Yang Tai Chow was the first recorded Chinese to migrate to India for better material prospects. He put down roots in Kolkata, or Calcutta in West Bengal, the then capital of British India and the easiest accessible metropolitan area from China by land.
Over the years, many like him came, mostly Hakkas. Probably that’s why the most famous noodle dish in India is called the Hakka noodles- a dish in which noodles are tossed with garlic, lots of chillies, cabbage, capsicum, carrots, ajinomoto, soya, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and garnished with spring onions. Yum, right?!
By the early part of the 20th century a Chinatown had developed in Kolkata and it thrived and buzzed with enterprise. Chinese served with distinction as dentists, tannery owners, sauce manufacturers, beauticians and shoe shop owners but it was as restaurateurs (thankfully) that the Chinese found their fame and glory in India. (source: Wikipedia)
As all foreign immigrants tend to do, the Chinese assimilated Indian sensibilities and beliefs. Before you knew it ‘Indian Chinese’ had tickled the taste buds of folk in every small town and city across India.
Quick to figure out that Indians love spicy, oily preparations (it’s not my fault that I love fried food- its in my genes for centuries!), the Chinese masala-fied and greased their cuisine and as a result came up with a mouthwatering combination.
Chicken curry was substituted with chili chicken. Pepper chicken reminded people of south Indian style fried chicken. And for the vegetarians there was Gobi Manchurian. Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) turned into Sichuan paneer with Chinese spices.
These days, Indian Chinese food isn’t just served by restaurants big and small, but also by roadside cart owners, highway food stalls and well just about anyone. The migration of Indians abroad has ensured that people in other continents are also now getting familiar with this fiery fusion cuisine.
For today’s GMT (or actually yesterday’s ), I am sharing a lip smacking Indian chinese bread pizza that is great as an appetizer when you have guests over.
Or for dinner, when you want to sit back with some spicy Chinese food.
Made by spreading a mildly hot tomato sauce on bread, and topping with a flavorful chilli chicken preparation, that is then baked to get a crispy crust that oozes of goodness when bit into.
Like all Indian chinese food, you will definitely be coming back for more.
Adapted from Nita Mehta’s Non Vegetarian Snacks Cookbook
For the Tomato Spread:
- 4 flakes garlic, crushed and finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
- 3/4 cup ready made tomato puree
- 2 tbsp tomato sauce ( I used Maggi Hot and Sweet Tomato Chilli Sauce)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1-2 tbsp oil
Chilli Chicken Topping:
- 1 boneless chicken breast (100-150 gm), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/4 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- pinch ajinomoto (optional) (read the note below about ajinomoto)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1-2 tbsp flour
- oil for frying
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 small capsicum, chopped in small pieces
- About 12 slices of bread (you can use naan, pizza dough as well)
- Butter, to spread on bread
- About 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese ( I used a mix of mozzarella and cheddar)
For the tomato spread:
- Heat the oil in a saucepan.
- Reduce the heat and add the garlic. Stir.
- Add the chilli powder, tomato puree and sauce, salt and pepper.
- Let simmer for 2-3 minutes,
- Add oregano. Remove from heat.
For the topping:
- In a bowl, marinate tiny pieces of chicken with chilli powder, soy sauce, salt and pepper and ajinomoto for 1/2 hour.
- Heat oil in a wok/kadhai/skillet. Drain the extra marinade (I did not have to). Sprinkle flour and fry on medium heat till crisp and light brown.
- Preheat oven to 400 F/200 C.
- Butter slices of bread on top and place on baking tray.
- Bake for 5-7 minutes till slightly crisp. Remove tray.
- Mix fried chicken pieces, capsicum, onions in only 1 tbsp tomato spread. Keep aside.
- Spread tomato spread on bread.
- Sprinkle cheese on tomato spread.
- Spread the chilli chicken mixture. Top with a little more cheese, if you like.
- Place tray back in oven. Grill till cheese melts.
- Cut each slice into fours, if serving as appetizers. Serve hot, sprinkled with spring onions on top.
Note: Ajinomoto isn’t something that should be used in cooking regularly. It has a chemical called Monosodium glutamate (MSG) and although it may add flavour to Chinese cooking, it may have harmful long-term effects. Please limit the use of ajinomoto in your cooking. You can avoid it completely in this recipe if you like.