In the early nineties as a child, I vividly remember having Manchurian for the first time at my Aunty Anju's house in New Delhi. Yummy balls of deliciousness that tasted very Chinese, yet had all the signatures flavors of India seeping through them. 'What was this dish and where had it come from?', I thought.
Manchurian is a popular Indo-Chinese dish found in restaurants and street vendors across India. The origin of the dish is believed to be invented by Nelson Wang, a third-generation Chinese who was born in Calcutta. Wang was a chef at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai where he created Chicken Manchurian - fried balls of diced chicken in a thick sauce of ginger, garlic, green chillies, soy sauce and cornstarch. Since then, multiple variations of the dish have been created over the years and with India being predominantly vegetarian, veggie manchurian was soon on menus across the country.
Traditional manchurian is made with flour, but this version uses bread, making it a cheat's way but equally as delicious.
For this recipe, you first make the manchurian balls, then deep frying them and lastly making the sauce.
To make the manchurian, you will need bread and an assortment of veggies. The recipe is quite changeable to suit whichever vegetables you may have in the fridge of freezer. You need to ensure the combination of vegetables doesn't excrete too much moisture which can lead to soggy manchurian balls. You can switch out certain veggies such as peas for sweetcorn, but cabbage is a must for that Asian flavor and crunch!
Firstly, place the bread in the food processor and blitz until it becomes breadcrumbs. White bread works the best for this, although you can use brown. Try to avoid seeded breads as they will become too dry when forming the balls. Then chop up the rest of the veggies very finely. Grate the garlic and ginger and these along with the salt, pepper, paprika, red chili powder and soy sauce to a large bowl. If you do not like too much chili, you can omit the red chili powder. You now need to get your handy dirty and mush the ingredients together, squeezing the mixture so the veggies excrete moisture and a dough can form. Then add the cornstarch and mix until you can form a round dough ball.
Next, fill your pan with whichever vegetable oil you wish to fry in and set on medium heat. I use sunflower oil. As the oil heats for frying, you want to start to create the manchurian balls. For this, lubricate your hands with a little cooking oil and start to create the balls around 1 inch in size. Once complete, fry the balls for a few minutes, turning occasionally, in batches. Once they turn golden brown, place them onto a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain any excess oil. Repeat until all of the balls are fried and ready, then set aside.
Next, you will make the sauce. For this you need prepare the ingredients. Finely chop an onion, chili and garlic, grate the ginger and cut the spring onion in 1cm pieces. For the green pepper, cut into 1 inch squares. Mix the cornstarch and water together until homogenous. (You may need to mix this again by the time you use it.) Set the gas on medium high and add olive oil to the pan. Once hot, add the onion, chili, garlic and ginger to the pan. Cook until fragrant and the onion is translucent, around 4 minutes. Next add the green pepper and fry for a couple of minutes.
Now its time to add the ketchup, Sriracha or chili sauce of your choice, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper and water to prevent the ingredients from burning. Let this cook on the heat until it bubbles and becomes glossy. This should take a couple of minutes at most. Once glossy, stir the cornstarch and water mixture again and add to the sauce, stirring as you do. Continue to stir until homogenous and the sauce has become thick. Now add the spring onions.
The sauce is now complete and time to mix the manchurian balls with the sauce. Do this carefully as you do not want the balls to break. Coat them gently in the sauce until every inch of the ball is covered. To serve, add sesame seeds and some more spring onion on top and eat with rice or noodles, or on its own!
I hope you enjoy this as much as I do! This has become a staple in my house now and is such a good dish for when you need some comfort food. Do let me know if you try this.
Easy Veg Manchurian
Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 15 minutes Yield: 2 Origin: India Author: Anika Pannu
5 slices of bread
2 cups grated cabbage
1/2 cup grated carrots
2 tablespoons finely chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
2 tablespoons peas
3 tablespoons finely chopped mushrooms
1 inch grated ginger
2 cloves grated garlic
2 chilies finely chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch
sunflower oil for frying
1 teaspoon cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
4 teaspoons olive oil
3 cloves of finely chopped garlic
1 inch grated ginger
1 chili finely chopped
1 red onion finely chopped
2 spring onions chopped, reserve some for garnish
1/2 green pepper cut into cubes
1 tablespoon vinegar
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Sriracha or chili sauce of choice
4 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1. In a food processor, add the bread and blitz until it becomes breadcrumbs. Set aside.
2. Prepare the vegetables by finely chopping the red and green pepper, mushrooms and chillies.
3. Grate the carrots, cabbage, garlic and ginger.
4. Place these into the same bowl as the breadcrumbs and add the salt, pepper, red chili powder and paprika.
5. Begin to mix all of these ingredients by hand, squeezing the mixture to excrete the juices from the vegetables, forming a rough dough.
6. Add the cornstarch, and continue squeezing the mixture until everything has blended well, then create a round ball.
7. In the meantime, heat the sunflower oil on medium heat for deep frying.
8. To make the manchurian balls, lubricate your hands with oil and start to make 1 inch balls.
9. Once completed, deep fry the balls in batches, turning occasionally until golden brown from the outside.
10. Once cooked, drain off the excess oil by placing the balls onto kitchen paper. Repeat until all manchurian balls are cooked.
11. To start with the sauce, prepare the ingredients by grating the ginger and finely chopping the onion, garlic and chili. Cut the spring onions into 1cm pieces. Cut the green pepper into 1 inch cubes.
12. Add 4 teaspoons of olive oil to a shallow frying pan set on medium high heat.
13. Once heated, add the onions, garlic, ginger and chili and sauté until fragrant and translucent, around 4 minutes
14. Add the green peppers and fry for a couple of minutes.
15. Then add the ketchup, soy sauce, Sriracha, vinegar, water, salt and pepper to the pan. Cook this for a few minutes until it bubbles and becomes glossy.
16. Mix the cornstarch and water until homogenous and add to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until the sauce becomes thick.
17. Add in the spring onions, reserving some for garnish.
18. Carefully add the manchurian in, coating each ball in the sauce.
19. Serve with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and spring onions and enjoy with rice, noodles or on its own.