I was editing few pictures on the software to post as soon as possible and then came my little 3 year old. With much enthusiasm he asked “mummum what are you doing?” As usual his father was busy on phone so I just replied “ am busy with work baby, why don’t you ask your father to take you to the park?”. He shot back, “are you posting this recipe today?” I was stunned! did he actually asked that or am just imagining things. So I asked to repeat what he said and he said the same. A visibly confused me could only managed to mumble a weak yes and then came the surprise of my lifetime. The lil one or may be not so lil anymore son ordered “na eita nay ajke tumi kurkur bhaja’r recipe ta lagabe (no. today you will post the crispy dish’s photo). Which definitely meant the American chopsuey recipe that I prepared for lunch last weekend. It was a great hit with the kid and the bowl was finished in no time. I totally understand his loyalty lies with the crispy fried noodles but am happy that he ate his share of vegetables and enjoyed it too. And I got that big smiley face complementing me ‘mummum that’s yummy!”
In Mandarin Chop Suey means assorted pieces, It’s a quick stir-fry of various vegetables and sprouts with some protein. which is said to be invented by the Chinese immigrants in America. American Chop suey though belongs to a slightly different genre of cuisine called Indo-chinese food. Which is the adaptation of Chinese cooking techniques and spices to Indian taste. This is said to be done by the small Chinese community still living in the Tangra and Chinatown area of Kolkata. Living in the city for a long time slowly but surely has amalgamated their culture and cuisine with that of Bengal. Now soy sauce shares its space with cumin and many times tamarind and azinomoto are used to bring in that definite Indo-Chinese flavour. If anything to go by a popular TV show, then this also has taken a toll on their chopstick skills.
But not only food it also has brought in changes in their faith. Now like their Bengali neighbours they are ardent believers of Goddess Kali and celebrate Diwali in a unique temple called Chinese Kali bari in the Tangra area. This temple has some unique characteristic. Though the Mantras and method of puja is typically Hindu but with all the Chinese incense and tall candles it definitely has that distinct Chinese feel to it. But what makes it unique is its bhog (offerings to the God), which is nothing but Noodles, fried rice and vegetarian chili dishes. It’s a long-standing wish of mine to visit this temple and sample the bhog or prasad (offerings to the God) there
Basically Chinese food heavily relies on its freshest produce and its unique style of blanching, stir-frying and steaming. In Indo Chinese the flavours and tastes are more pronounced with a heavy hand use of oil and deep fries with some very common Indian ingredients like tamarind and Paneer (Indian Cottage cheese). We Indians are now so used to it that authentic Chinese seems bland for our tastebuds. Which even had been realized ages ago by all the street side vendors, who at every nooks and crannies of Indian lanes whip up delicious noodles and other indo Chinese dishes like Manchurian and chili to satisfy the Indian tastebuds. It is them who actually have made this cuisine so much popular.
If you ever happen to visit Kolkata do visit one of the small Chinese eateries located at the quaint little lanes of Tangra, which are still run by some of the Chinese families. Or if you are an early riser go straight to the Tiretti bazaar (Chinatown near Chitpore area) market at the wee hours of the morning to sample some of their delicious breakfasts. These make shifts markets only come up and exist for a few hours in the morning and has a unique ambience filled with tongue tickling aroma of Chinese spices and ingredients.
In our family everyone is hooked to this cuisine and not a single month seems complete without a visit to Tangra. Now that my son also has developed a liking for it I prefer to cook our share at home. Its easy once you figure out the balance of tastes, which in my opinion varies from person to person. All you need is a good fanned out pan or a Wok to allow enough space to all the ingredients. You also have to be precise with your knife skills and have to cook the ingredients on a high flame to give it that slightly charred caramelized flavour.
Here is my quick American Chopsuey recipe that my Son ordered to post on Friday but her lazy mamma could only manage to post it now.
(serves 3 as main meal)
Egg noodles: 1 packet (I used Spencer’s)
Vegetables: total 5-6 cups
Carrots: cut in 1” long thick batons
Beans: cut diagonally
Zucchini: thickly sliced diagonally
Mushrooms: skin removed and thickly sliced
Broccoli: separated in small florets
Baby corn: 5-6 pieces cut in long strips
Capsicum: cut in thick long strips
Tomato: sliced in thik wedges
Bean sprouts: 1/3 cup
Onion: 1 big; slice thickly
Garlic: 4-5 fat cloves
Light Soy sauce: 1 tsp
Dark soy sauce: 1 tsp
Vinegar: 11/2 tbsp
Chili sauce: 1 tbsp (or more if you like it hot)
Tomato sauce: 2 tbsp
Corn flour: 1 tbsp
Pepper powder: ½ tsp
Sugar: 11/2 tsp
Oil for deep frying and cooking
Prepare the vegetables as mentioned above.very finely chop the garlic. Keep everything separate.
Bring a big pan of salted water to a rolling boil and then add the noodles. Cook till they are soft but not mushy. Drain and wash under cold water. Mix in a tsp of vegetable oil and keep aside.
Heat enough oil for dep frying. Take out half of that boiled noodles and sprikle 1 tbsp corn flour to it. Shake to coat well. Dep fry in small batches till golden. Keep the heat low. Take out and drain on absorbent paper.
In another big pan heat 1 tsp oil. Add ½ tsp chopped garlic and fry till they turn golden. Add the rest of the noodles. Sprinkle salt and 1 tsp soy sauce. Stir fry till they are glossy and aromatic (approx. 2-3 minutes). Keep aside.
Now in a big wok or kadhai heat 1 tbsp oil. Keep the flame on high and add the chopped garlic. Once it turn brown and the oil becomes aromatic add the onion. Stir for a few seconds just to make them little soft and then add the beans and carrots. Add a pinch of salt and pepper powder. Cook for a minute and then add baby corns, broccoli, mushroom and zucchini. Cook for another minute with continuous stirring. Finally add the capsicum and stir for a few seconds.
Now bring the heat to low and add all the sauces, tomato and sugar. Stir to coat all the veggies well. Once you see oil oozes out from the veggies add 11/4 cup water. Crank the heat up and let it come to a boil. Mix cornflour in 3 tbsp water and add it to the boiling veggies. Stir continuously to avoid forming any lumps. You might like to keep the heat low before adding the cornflour mixture. The veggies would turn glossy now. Adjust the seasoning with more salt, sugar or pepper powder. Finish with the bean sprouts. Mix through.
To srve place one layer of stir fried noodles, sprikle the crispy noodles over it and finaly top it off with ladle full of vegetables.
Serve hot. Enjoy.
A Homemaker’s notes:
You can add any vegetables you like. Cauliflower, cabbage, spinach all work well in this gravy.
You can even add finely sliced chicken pieces or diagonally sliced pieces of sausages.
Many times the chop suey is topped with Indian style scrambled eggs or poached egg.
Please adjust the amount of sauce as per your liking. Its all about balancing all the tastes and do what works best for you.
you can also sprinkle few spoonful of toasted sesame seeds for extra crunch.
Valli's Kids Delight - Warm foods to beat the rain, hosted this month at The Pumpkin Farm.
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