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Indo-Chinese cuisine, a hearty mashup of Indian and Chinese flavors, traces its roots to Kolkata, one of the easiest Indian cities to get to from mainland China. It has since become popular throughout the country at both street stalls and in restaurants.
Chef K.N.Vinod remembers cooking alongside some Indo-Chinese chefs when he trained in India in the ’70s and ’80s. While he doesn’t serve Indo-Chinese dishes like chili manchurian or hakka noodles regularly at his restaurants, Indique and Bombay Bistro, he loves the genre of cooking because he says the addition of soy sauces brings an umami quality to Indian food. Most dishes also benefit from a heavy dose of aromatics like ginger and garlic.
A handful of local eateries serve Indo-Chinese food and place the dishes in special sections of the menu, making them easy to find. Here’s where to head for a special fusion food that’s rich in history and pleasure:
Bombay Street Food
1413 Park Road NW
Asad Sheikh, owner of this Columbia Heights newcomer, says the Indo-Chinese food at his restaurant is so popular that he plans to add new dishes in the coming months. Try the gobi manchurian featuring a generous heap of cauliflower fried in a thick batter and coated with a red sauce made with ginger, garlic, chilies, tomato, and soy sauce.
Shangri-La Nepalese & Indian Cuisine
7345-A Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda
Managing owner Saurav Timilsima is Nepalese. He says his home country is studded with small noodle shops that serve Indo-Chinese cuisine, particularly hakka noodles. The Han Chinese, who come from the Fujian, Hunan, Sichuan, Jiangxi, Guangxi, and Guangdong regions, brought hakka noodles to India. Try Shangri-La’s shrimp hakka noodles, made with bell pepper, onion, garlic, and soy sauce.
Moh Moh Licious
7414 Georgia Ave. NW, #1
While Moh Moh Licious specializes in its eponymous Nepalese dumplings, the small restaurant from Sujil Dangol also includes Indo-Chinese staples—chicken chili, gobi manchurian, and hot and sour soup—on its small menu.
Jewel of India
10151 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring
Although Jewel of India owner Anand Poojary is from South India—a long way from Kolkata—his restaurant has the region’s most extensive selection of Indo-Chinese preparations. Try the fried rice that uses fragrant basmati rice, chili fish, and hot and sour soup that contains morsels of paneer. Poojary says he has a regular customer who comes in every week for the soup that also includes fresh vegetables, tomato puree, black pepper, soy sauce, and spring onions.
6138 Rose Hill Drive, Alexandria
Nepalese and Indian restaurant Namaste also has a full slate of Indo-Chinese appetizers and entrees. Start with frenched chicken winglets coated in a tangy red sauce known as chicken lollipops and spring rolls before moving on to savory chili paneer with peppers and onions.