India’s Favorite : Indo-Chinese

Indian-Chinese food stems from Kolkata, India in the late 1700s, a time when Chinese immigrants were largely blacksmiths, tannery workers, traders, and also street food vendors. Their spicy, tangy and sweet flavours appealed to the masses and soon spread across the nation. Soon enough, however, the authentic Chinese food presented by Chinese immigrants evolved into what is now commonly known as the Indo-Chinese cuisine, one that bears familiarity with Chinese cuisine more in name than in flavour. Indo-Chinese has its own flavours of Schezwan sauce where Chinese peppercorns used in Sichuan sauce are replaced with Indian dry red chillies to cater to the Indian palate. Indo-Chinese is laden with the basics of Indian cuisine — garlic, ginger, garam masala and green chilies — but what makes it exciting to people in India is the ability to experiment with the Chinese use of chilli, tomatoes and sauce, to create new combinations of dishes, and to put a personal spin on a foreign flavour. Indo-Chinese, although almost entirely an Indian creation is regarded as “exotic” and is hence served in many fine dining restaurants. At the same time, Indo-Chinese is the comfort food of countless Indians. Renditions of Indo-Chinese can be found in almost every street food vendor’s stall, and momos are the go-to meal for many college students, a testament to it’s reassuring familiarity.

On the other hand, amid political tensions and violence at the India-China border, the Indian government ordered a ban on several Chinese mobile applications. This led politicians to demand a boycott of all Chinese goods including Indo-Chinese food. While some protested and ridiculed politicians suggesting that it was an impossible task to separate Indo-Chinese from India, some protested for the sake of Chinese-Indians who owned restaurants or businesses, and others passionately agreed to close their doors to all Chinese goods. Furthermore, the coronavirus has massively impacted the restaurant Industry and those of Chinese Origin living in India have faced widespread discrimination and xenophobia. Indo-Chinese and the food-identity associated with it has come to represent the assimilative ability of Indian culture, and the creativity of Indians, but also the journey of Chinese-Indians, their resilience, and adaptivity.

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