Flavour bomb incoming! For the ultimate Vegetable Manchurian, I toss crispy vegetable dumplings in a hot and garlicky Indo-Chinese sauce. It’s fiery, loaded with flavour and gives your favourite Asian restaurant a run for its’ money.
Manchurian is a dish made up of vegetables or protein. The core ingredient is coated in a batter of cornflour (cornstarch) after which it is ready to deep fry. Once crispy, we coat it in a spicy sauce. Sauce ingredients vary from recipe to recipe, but it will usually contain soy sauce, chilli and vinegar. Delicious!
Strictly speaking, the Indo-Chinese take on Manchurian has an ambiguous history. It’s an Indian interpretation of Chinese food, possibly taking some direction from India’s Chinese community. The Chinese immigrant community in India began centuries ago, and many settlers lay down new roots around the ports of Kolkata and Madras. The vibrant and flavoursome cooking of India’s Chinese communities has carved a place in all our appetites.
Aside from nomenclature, it most likely has very little connection to Manchuria, the region of modern Northeastern China and its’ cuisine.
Manchurian, and most Indo-Chinese food for that matter, has a bit of a cult following in the Indian community. The ever-growing appetite for umami-rich Chinese-style food cooked to suit the Indian palate is prolific. Walk into many Indian-owned restaurants and you’ll likely spot an Indo-Chinese dish; from Chilli Paneer and Hakka Noodles, to Schezwan Rice (an Indian interpretation of Sichuan) and this Vegetable Manchurian. I love Hakka Noodle Dosas. They are collision of Indo-Chinese and South Indian flavours.
Indo-Chinese food is fast food – often street food. It’s packed with flavour and usually swimming in rich, crimson-tinted sauces. Peppers, onions, garlic and ginger feature heavily, as do chillies. Lots of chillies.
Honestly, anything! Just make sure it’s chopped very finely. French beans, corn, broccoli and Brussel’s sprouts are all great options. If using vegetables with a high water content such as courgette, make sure its squeezed of excess water before adding it to the mixture.
This Manchurian recipe works well with: Cauliflower, paneer mushrooms, tofu, baby corn and potatoes. You’ll first want to create a light batter of cornflour (cornstarch), plain flour and baking powder mixed with ice-cold water. Coat the ingredients well and then deep fry.
The mixture was possibly overworked and released too much water. Add an additional tablespoon of cornflour and stir well to combine. Try to fry again and if it breaks again, add another tablespoon of cornflour. Don’t add too much cornflour. Even though it might make them easier to roll, they will ultimately be very heavy and chewy once fried.
The ingredients keep the kofta lovely and light, therefore producing a Manchurian that isn’t too heavy.
Not using this recipe. The vegetable mixture is far too runny to hold its’ shape. They will become puddles in the oven unless far more flour is added. A characteristic of good Vegetable Manchurian is kofta that contain more vegetables than flour. As a result, baked kofta, although lower in fat, are far more heavy to eat in comparison to their fried counterpart.
Yes, simply add more water and cornflour slurry to make a saucier Manchurian. Check the seasoning before serving – you may need to add more salt.
Totally. Once fried and cooled, the kofta freeze really well. Pack them in an airtight container and freeze for up to 6 months. To reheat, arrange the kofta on a baking tray and bake in a preheated oven from frozen at 200°C/400°F for 8-10 minutes.
Indeed, you can also freeze the sauce for reheating later. Just keep it in a separate container from the kofta and let it cool first. Pack it in an airtight container and freeze for up to 6 months. Allow the sauce to defrost at room temperature and then microwave or reheat in a pan until piping hot. Combine the kofta and sauce immediately before serving.
Time needed: 1 hour.
How to make Indo-Chinese Vegetable Manchurian
In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, spring onions, ginger, fresh coriander and salt. Add the plain flour, cornflour, baking soda and baking powder. Mix with clean hands, squeezing the mixture to encourage the veggies to release their natural water. Once the mixture reaches a soft, dropping consistency, stop mixing and allow to sit at room temperature while the oil heats up.
Heat enough oil in a deep wok or pan to deep fry the kofta (the oil will need to be about 3 inches deep). Once the oil reaches 175°C/350°F, it is ready.
Use a small amount of cold oil to grease your hands. Take a small portion of the vegetable mixture in your hand (a little less than a tablespoon is perfect). Gently roll into a ball between your greased palms – the oil should stop it from sticking too much. You may not get a perfect sphere as this batter is quite soft but this is fine. Don’t be tempted to add too much flour.
Once a ball is formed, carefully slide it into the hot oil. Repeat this for the remaining portions of batter. Try not to overcrowd the pan as this will reduce the temperature of the oil and the kofta may become soggy. Work in small batches. I fried my kofta in 3 batches.
Fry the kofta for 3-4 minutes per batch. They should be golden brown on the outside and cooked all the way through. If you find they brown too quickly and remain raw in the centre, reduce the heat and wait for the oil to cool before continuing. Drain the fried kofta on a plate lined with a kitchen towel – this will help absorb excess oil. Set aside.
Heat a large wok or pan until smoking hot. Add the oil and garlic. Saute the garlic for 5-10 seconds and then add the tomato puree. Cook for 15 seconds, stirring all the time. Next, add in the onions, peppers and chillies. Toss to combine everything well.
After a minute, add the soy sauce, vinegar, white pepper, MSG (if using), sugar and salt. Stir fry for another minute and then add the water.
Once the water comes to the boil, add the cornflour and water mixture. Stir well until the sauce thickens and develops a glossy, translucent sheen.
Add the cooked vegetable kofta to the sauce and toss well to coat. Garnish with chopped spring onions and serve immediately.
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