If you have ever stopped yourself from making a Manchurian b’cos it entailed deep-frying the manjoos (‘Gopi Manchuri’, or ‘manjoorian’, or just plain ‘manchuri’ is what you’d hear it being said as, coming from the local ‘Gopis’ and ‘Manjus’ owning and selling ‘China-in-a-cart’ kinda food on the pavements!! If you’d like a more intent description of how these guys sell, you should totally read this), this no-fuss, no-fry, quick-fix, yet delicious recipe should have you running into your kitchen to fix it to go along with your dinner tonight. Throw in some Fried rice like this one, or some simple veg hakka noodles, and you have one of the best ‘made-in-heaven’ marriages in a gourmet’s perfect world. Now, now, I know you’re conjuring in your pretty head, images of a foodies’ heaven, with a multitude of tables, laden and shrieking from the weight of all the good food you are capable of conjuring at such short notice as well, but but but…let’s come back to where you’re seated now shall we? Yes, right there, stay rooted! You will thank me later on, cos if you’re making this for dinner tonight, you cannot afford to get distracted from the recipe, could you? Read on, while I conjure up images of you seated at your dinner table later tonight, polishing off every morsel of the manjoo!
- Cauliflower – 1 no (medium-sized; cut into florets and soaked in hot salt water)
- Ginger – 1″ long piece; finely chopped/minced
- Garlic – 10-12 pods; finely chopped/minced
- Spring Onion Shoots – 10-15 nos (chopped to 1/2″ pieces)
- Soy-sauce – 1 tbsp
- Tomato ketchup – 1 tbsp
- Red pepper sauce (optional) – 1-2 tbsps (as per your taste)
- Hot Water – 1 1/2 cups (omit if making a dry, crispy version)
- Salt – to taste
- Oil – 2-3 tbsps for shallow-frying the florets + 1-2 tbsps for the manchurian
For the coating:
- Maida/All-purpose flour – 5-6 tbsps
- Cornstarch powder – 3-4 tbsps
- Soy-sauce – 2-3 tsps
- Red Chilli powder – 1 tsp (alter to suit your taste)
- Salt – to taste
- Drain the water from the cauliflower florets, and transfer to a clean, dry bowl.
- Add all the ingredients mentioned for the coating – maida, cornstarch powder, soy sauce, red chilli powder, salt to taste, and toss the bowl so all the cauliflower florets are well-coated. Set aside for about 10 minutes to allow the florets to absorb some of that wonderful flavour. Since the florets are damp, the coating ingredients will stick on well, and easily.
- In a non-stick wok, heat the oil.
- Shallow-fry the marinated cauliflower florets till they turn golden brown on the edges and tips.
- Transfer to a clean plate covered with a tissue to absorb any excess oil.
- In the wok, heat some more oil.
- Add the finely chopped ginger and garlic. Saute for half a minute.
- Throw in the cauliflower florets and spring onions, and fry for a minute.
- Lower the flame and add the tomato ketchup, soya sauce, red pepper sauce, more salt to taste (if required).
- Immediately pour in the hot water, and cook this gravy over a low flame for about 3-4 minutes. The cornstarch powder that you added to the florets initially helps thicken the gravy, so your gravy doesn’t really need any other agent to thicken up.
- Bring the gravy to a boil on a low flame, about 3-5 minutes at the most.
- Lastly, add the soya sauce and allow to boil another minute on a low flame, before you remove from flame.
- Serve hot with noodles or rice. I served mine with vegetable hakka noodles, and like I said earlier, it was a marriage made in heaven! Will definitely be posting the veg hakka noodles soon, so watch this space.
The flavours and taste of this no-fry Manchurian are just the same as what it would be if you deep-fried your florets. So don’t you worry about the taste, even one bit. A dry street-food kind of ‘manjoooorian’ could also be made; whatever you fancy. If you wish to make a dry variant, just skip the hot water mentioned for the gravy, and you’re good! And If you wish to make the conventional manchurian, follow the procedure from here. Just replace the baby-corn with choice of vegetable. I’ll take a bet you’ll enjoy it either way you make it – dry or with gravy. Think of me when you’re gorging on your din-din tonight. And don’t forget to send a prayer for those Gopis and Manjus dishing up all that scrummy street-food either. Ask me why…they are thriving b’cos of foodies like you and me, and if we start making street-food right at home, what happens to them when you are giving them a run for their money? So like I said, PRAY. For them.
What used to be an exotic Chinese appetizer long back is now part of Indian street-food, what with the thela-wallas spewing out batch after batch of fiery-red coloured Manchurian from their mammoth-sized woks, while another guy churns out fried rice from an equally mammoth-sized wok, if not bigger. And 2-3 others, the assistants (sadly mostly child labourers), ensuring they put measured portions of the Fried-rice and Manchurian onto steel plates which have been topped with banana leaves (aaah, the South-Indian touch!) and hand them over, along with spoons and lopsided forks (if you could call them that, cos they’d be so disfigured you couldn’t tell they originally looked like forks!) to the ever-waiting deluge of customers…most of them, koochi-kooing couples passing-by to try and delay going home, or hungry people going back home after work, wanting to grab a quick bite, or some foodies generally hanging around the place cos the thela-walla is famous for his ‘Chenise’ food. Oh yes, I’ve seen atrocious versions for the way ‘Chinese’ is spelt on all these thelas! All this, believe me, will be happening in a kind of luggage auto, modified brilliantly (no, not a DC!) to accommodate everything – the mammoth-sized woks, 2 stoves, ladles, spoons, those lopsided forks, steel plates, big vessels to put in the readied food, oil cans and what not…you get the drift!
Though Baby-corn Manchurian is not so commonly prepared by the thela-wallas, its sibling, Gobi Manchurian out-does itself in each thela! Did you know they add curry leaves, coriander leaves and what not to Indian-ise it?!! They do their bit to prove that Indian cooking cannot happen without curry leaves and coriander leaves. I’ve even seen a tadka being used for Gobi Manchurian at some place!
Read on, for an authentic, healthier, non artificially-coloured version I made at home.
- Baby-corn – 15-20 nos
- Ginger – 1″ long piece; finely chopped
- Garlic – 10-12 pods; finely chopped
- Spring Onion Shoots – 15-20 nos (chopped to 1/2″ pieces)
- Soy-sauce – 1 tbsp
- Chilli sauce – 1-2 tbsps (or as much as you like)
- Oil – 2 tbsps + more for deep-frying
For the coating batter:
- Maida/All-purpose flour – 3/4th cup
- Cornstarch powder – 1/4 cup
- Soy-sauce – 1 tbsp
- Red Chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
- Salt – to taste
- Water – 1 cup or more, to make a thin batter
- Put together the dry ingredients mentioned for the batter. Stir well to ensure everything is mixed in uniformly. Now add 1 cup or more of water to make a thin batter (It shouldn’t be as thick as your pakoda/bajji/fritters batter, but slightly thinner than that. It should just coat the vegetable, not engulf!). Add the soy-sauce, stir well and set aside.
- In the meanwhile, microwave the baby-corns (wholly) for 5-7 minutes on high, till they are near-cooked.
- Take the baby-corns and slit each of them vertically into two, and cut each vertical into half, horizontally. This should give you 4 pieces of 2-3 inches each, from each baby-corn. I chose to cut them this way so they cook sooner. You could even cut rings of the baby-corn and use them. I find that too tedious though. (I hate standing in front of a frying pan, especially during summers. So the more baby-corn pieces there are, the longer I end up spending with the frying pan…not happening!).
- Dip the baby-corn pieces, batch-by-batch in the readied batter, and deep-fry them in batches on a medium flame. Repeat with all the baby-corn pieces. Drain excess oil on a tissue and set aside. (In case the baby-corn pieces get stuck to each other while frying, don’t panic. You could separate them once they cool a little).
- Now, in a wok, heat 2 tbsps oil. Add the finely chopped ginger and garlic. Saute for a min or two.
- Add the spring onions and saute till they wilt a little.
- Now, simmer the flame and add the soy-sauce and chilli sauce. Stir well.
- Immediately add the fried baby-corn pieces and stir-fry for a couple of minutes. Once the baby-corn pieces are well coated with the sauces and ginger, garlic and spring onions, remove from flame.
- Garnish with more spring onion shoots if you wish and serve hot as an appetizer, or along with your choice of Chinese entrée.
Tip: While letting the deep-fried baby-corn coat with the sauces and season with the ginger-garlic-spring onion mixture, you could throw in just 1/2 a tsp of sugar (don’t over do the sugar, else it will taste like honeyed fritters!), to get that glazy, caramelized look. It also lends just a hint of sweetness to the Manchurian, which some people might enjoy. So go ahead and try it if you like.
Posted in Appetizers/Starters, China Town
Tagged appetizers, baby-corn, baby-corn manchurian, chinese, chinese appetizers, chinese manchurian, chinese side dishes, chinese starters, manchurian, starters, vegetarian