If you love Indian or Bengali food, you will love Chicken Manchurian. This aromatic, pepper powered dish was first introduced by Chinese immigrants to coax Bengali locals to come to their restaurants at a time when eating out was not the norm. As a young child growing up in post-war Bangladesh, social occasions typically ranged from casual visits with friends and family to formal weddings. Going out to a Chinese restaurant was a rare and particularly special affair.
I remember that once a year, my grandfather would treat the whole family to lunch at the best Chinese restaurant in town. Dimly lit, with glowing, red silk lanterns, our anticipation was further enhanced by the prospect of eating in a chilled, air conditioned room. While the menu contained many items, we always ordered only our favorite dishes as we did not want to waste the treat (or our grandfather’s money) on an untested dish. This recipe for Manchurian Chicken is particularly special to me, because the fragrance and aroma reminds me of those memories while perfectly capturing that exquisite blend of spicy and savory flavors in every bite.
The recipe begins with small cubes of chicken soaked in a complex marinade of spicy and savory flavors. Two types of pepper are used to give the dish its distinct taste- black pepper for its aromatic, spicy heat and white pepper for an earthy, floral flavor. Corn starch, apple cider vinegar and the ginger in the marinade is the secret to the tender, succulent chicken. The deeply marinated chicken is then fried over high heat until golden brown and set aside.
Because the the entire meal is cooked quickly – it is important to have all ingredients at hand. Minced garlic and ginger are first stir-fried till fragrant, then the onions and peppers are added and cooked over very high heat. Within minutes the ingredients for the sauce are added, ending with the addition of a corn starch slurry to thicken the gravy. Finally, the fried cubes of chicken are added to the sauce. A drizzle of sesame oil and fresh chopped coriander completes the dish.
While Chicken Manchurian is often served with fried rice, it is remarkably versatile – and makes a great protein option for salads or sandwich fillings. I prefer eating Chicken Manchurian over steaming white rice as it serves as a perfect complement to showcase its bold flavors.
- 1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs cubed, into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 egg large
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp black pepper, coarsely ground
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp water
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 3 tbsp ginger minced
- 2 tbsp chilli sauce or ketchup
- 1 med red onion thickly sliced
- 1 green pepper thickly sliced
- 1 jalapeno peppers sliced, optional
- 2 cups chicken broth (very hot) or two cups water dissolved with 1 chicken bouillion cube
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 4 tbsp soy sauce regular
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 shallot coarsely sliced
- 2 springs coriander leaves minced
Marinate the Chicken
- Mix the chicken and all other ingredients listed in the marinade section except the oil. Set aside for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.
- Pour the oil into a cast iron skillet and heat on high heat for several minutes. Once the oil is very hot, fry the chicken (use a splatter guard), a few pieces at a time until golden brown. Place the fried chicken pieces on a paper towel. Note: Use a long handled spoon to fry the chicken and a splatter shield as the oil may splatter.
- Make the corn starch slurry: In a small bowl, stir the corn starch with one tablespoon water until the mixture has a creamy consistency and no lumps. Set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic and ginger. Fry until just fragrant and transparent about 20 seconds.
- Add the red onion, green pepper and jalapeno peppers and fry for about 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken broth, black pepper, white pepper, soy sauce, chili sauce and apple cider vinegar. Cook for about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the corn starch slurry and stir into the sauce- let the sauce thicken - about 2 minutes, then add the honey and sesame oil. After about 1 minute, add the fried chicken and sliced shallots. Stir.
- Serve immediately over hot rice. Garnish with coriander leaves.