Ever since India and China have engaged in a clash on the icy heights of the cold desert in Ladakh, the rising tide of patriotism has decreed that all things Chinese should be boycotted. Surely though, this ban doesn’t apply to delicacies that are Chinese only in name.
To be honest, most of what we relish in this land under the garb of Chinese is, in reality, Indian interpretation of a cuisine that is non-existent in China — be it gobhi manchurian or chilli paneer. There are different regional variations also — Gujju, Punju and Madrasi. The Bengalis claim that Kolkata China Town has more ‘authentic’ fare. However, we think that while this might have been true once upon a time, it can’t be true today. The Chinese can’t stay without their pork, beef and other exotic meats, but most Indians eschew these.
Also, the favourite cooking medium of those who dwell behind the Great Wall is lard and no vegetarian preparation could be called shakaahari! Why then, you might ask, are we drooling over this vegetarian recipe from Schezwan?
For one, it is a spicy Indian mixed vegetable and we cook it, not with Chinese vegetables and spices, but with what our palate is used to. The only connection it has with East Asia is the soya and chilli sauces. Interestingly, in most renderings, it is tomato sauce and vinegar that overpower the soya sauce or divert us from its absence. Another alluring feature is that this recipe helps us brilliantly utilise whatever is left over in the fridge or on the kitchen shelves. That odd carrot, the lone tomato, half a head of cabbage, a bit of cauliflower/broccoli, a quarter of sweet bell pepper or capsicum. Lastly, it offers wonderful scope for improvisation. You can enrich it with beans, sweet baby corn or even a bit of paneer. It can be served as a dry stir fry or converted into a dish with gravy to be enjoyed with steamed rice. So, why wait? Bid goodbye to winter with this ‘some like it hot’ preparation, that’s more Indian than Chinese.
Heat oil in a shallow, broad pan and add the onions. When these turn translucent, add ginger-garlic paste and stir fry briskly for a minute. Then put in all the vegetables and stir fry on high for 45 seconds. Reduce the flame to medium and add tomato puree and all the sauces along with the vinegar. If using corn flour, mix it with 1/4 cup of water and stir into the vegetables cooking in the pan. Stir well and reduce the heat to low. Add salt and sugar and cook covered for 3-4 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle pounded black peppercorns and enjoy!
‘Indian’ Veg Schezwan
- Cauliflower/broccoli 1/2 small head (broken into small florets, blanched in boiling water for a minute)
- French beans 6-8
- (stringed and cut into 2-3 inch pieces)
- Peas (shelled) 1/4 cup
- Carrots 1
- (medium-sized, scraped, washed and cut into thin discs )
- Mushrooms 1/4 cup
- (wiped clean and sliced fine)
- Tomato 1
- (medium-sized, chopped and pureed)
- Corn kernels 1/4 cup
- Paneer (cut into cubes) 50 g
- Onion 1
- (medium-sized, peeled and sliced)
- Ginger-garlic paste 1 tsp
- Soya sauce 1 tsp
- Vinegar 1 tsp
- Chilli sauce 1 tsp
- Tomato sauce 1 tsp
- Corn flour (optional) 1 tbsp
- Black peppercorns 1 tsp
- (coarsely and freshly ground)
- Sugar (optional) 1 tsp
- Sesame oil 2 tbsp
- Salt to taste
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