What is the one dish that is always the most popular choice when you visit a Chinese restaurant in India or order online from your favourite takeout place? A Manchurian, be it its vegetarian version or the non-vegetarian form, is likely to be the answer. A recent article in the New York Times (NYT), terming Chicken Manchurian the “stalwart of Pakistani Chinese cooking”, has sent Indian Twitter into a meltdown, with many users schooling the publication on the origins of the dish.
Introducing the reader in the West to Chicken Manchurian, Pakistani-origin writer Zainab Shah has shared the recipe of the dish that was hugely popular at a restaurant in Lahore in the late 1990s.
“A stalwart of Pakistani Chinese cooking, chicken Manchurian is immensely popular at Chinese restaurants across South Asia,” she writes in NYT Cooking, describing the mouth-watering details of the taste and texture of the dish.
Bollywood actor Ranvir Shorey was among those who came to stake claim to the Indian-origins of Chicken Manchurian. “They can’t fact-check a chicken dish, and they’re trying to protect democracy,” he tweeted.
Many other users pointed out that Chicken Manchurian was invented by Nelson Wang, a Chinese immigrant in Kolkata who later moved to Mumbai.
Nelson Wang hails from Chinatown, Kolkata, by the way. He moved to Mumbai in 1974.
I thought the cricket-and-chicken-manchurian connection was well known. https://t.co/GB5PyilZlF pic.twitter.com/HIP4L9O4zr
— Abhishek Mukherjee (@ovshake42) March 27, 2023
Pakistanis and Indians fighting in the replies meanwhile Chinese watching them like: https://t.co/7dW4JpKa3B pic.twitter.com/1EVzt2UTB9
— K. (@RotiKholDeyo) March 27, 2023
Nelson Wang ,son of Chinese immigrant ,born in Kolkata is the father of chicken Manchurian https://t.co/IUaMcYaGHY pic.twitter.com/DSROzh7n5F
— Subham. (@subhsays) March 27, 2023
NYT article ignores the contribution of a whole community of Hakka Chinese in India who have popularized the dish. https://t.co/JRg2nsiHR8
— Aadil Brar (@aadilbrar) March 27, 2023
“Historically the @nytimes was first published in Lahore in the Mughal era. Why should they be ashamed of their history?” a Twitter user wrote sarcastically.
Popular food show host and food writer Kunal Vijayarkar had said in an article in News18, “I stake claim and proclaim, Chicken Manchurian is as Indian as pakoras can be.”
Narrating the story of the origins of the beloved dish, Vijayarkar said Wang opened a small eatery, China Town, in Mumbai’s Kemps Corner. He was also catering food at the Cricket Club of India.
“That is where, on the insistence of a club member who wanted something spicy and different, Nelson decided to toss chicken pakoras in a red sauce with onions, green chillies and garlic, and poured some vinegar and soya sauce to create what can be the most memorable, eternal and beloved Indian Chinese dish ever,” Vijayarkar writes.
Manchurian is one of the most ordered dishes at any average Chinese restaurant in India. The deep-fried dish, served crunchy, juicy and with the right mix of sauces, comes in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions in the country, with Gobi (cauliflower) Manchurian and Chicken Manchurian being the clear winners in terms of popularity.