I was a hungry and inquisitive teenager when there was an unexpected eruption of Indian pubs popping open around me; ripe time for new flavors and surroundings. I mean pubs that served Indian food. On the menu was a whole, liberated jumble of deep-fried bread, dosa's (probably with cheese) pizza's (and course with chilli and maybe even paneer) and then chips that had been doused in chilli sauce (I inhale deeply and regretfully at the memory of that tart chilli) and most notably Indo-Chinese Food. All this colorful food whacked sporadically in the middle of a wobbly, red covered table.
I believe this cuisine originates from the Chinese community in Calcutta and is pretty spacious in the big cities of India. Neither Indian, nor Chinese in origin, this variety of food teases with a dance on the tongue and the mind where the routine is actually, oddly familiar but not quite known. Overflowing with flavor and curious modernity, I can see why this type of bite is popular in pubs because it is strong and punchy and ideal with drinks-a-flowing!
Loud and impactful throws of garlic and ginger, cumin and coriander, hot chilli but then wait … 5-spice and soy sauce? Do not worry, the essences collide and then embrace passionately. They're toxicate you into heady state and do not be surprised if you're doding out of the pub afterwards.
Confusing as it is, it's addictive. It's the sort of food that hits the spot when you're famished. Crispy and sweet, spongy and tangy, spicy and … more, more, more … So much, that even though you are suave, polished and worldly now and even though you eat foods of the world that are cooked for you by a super-chef and presented beautifully in Michelin style … you still come home to Indo-Chinese food, now and again. Like when you were 17 and eating Hakka noodles with your friends.
As always, let me know how you go …
- 250g Mushrooms (I used chestnut mushrooms)
- Oil for deep frying
Ingredients for the batter
- 150g of plain flour
- 6 tbsp. corn flour
- 3 cloves garlic, 5g knob of ginger and 1 large red chilli minced together
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp. of Chinese 5 spice powder
- 200ml water
Ingredients for the sauce
- 3 tbsp. soy sauce
- 4 tbsp. tomato ketchup (Groan. I know, but it's necessary in this recipe)
- 1 tbsp. caster sugar
- 1 t tbsp. rice wine vinegar
- 1 large red pepper, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 green chillies, finely chopped
- 4-5 spring episodes, chooped horizontally
- 1 tsp. Chinese 5-spice
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1. Heat some oil, in preparation of letting the mushrooms sizzle and swim in it- and that too too dressed.
2. Wash and chop the mushrooms into bite sized chunks and set aside.
3. To make the batter, combine the ingredients and whisk together, we do not want any lumps but it should be pretty thick.
4. Coat the mushrooms with the batter and drop them, individually into the oil. Do not overcrowd the pan or else they'll stick together – that's not nice. When the mushrooms have achieved a golden brown color, drain them on to kitchen paper to remove the excess oil.
5. To make the sauce, heat 2 tbsp. oil in a pan and then add the garlic, spring onions, green chillies and red pepper and stir-fry until the peppers have softened a little; this should take 3-4 minutes. Then add the soy sauce, ketchup, 5-spice, vinegar, sugar and stir through and bring to a gentle simmer, before mixing in thoroughly the mushrooms. Serve immediately to ensure that the mushrooms stay nice and crispy. Try and share, I know it's hard.