Cauliflower Chilly or Idli Chilly
If you have had Indian Chinese, you will devour this dish! Indian Chinese food is a mash up of Chinese way of cooking but to suit the Indian palate of spicy, saucy foods. It was developed over a century, by the Chinese community in Kolkata. It has always been very popular in Bombay, and growing up we loved Indo-Chinese foods, from Chop-suey, to Manchurian, to the Indian style fried rice. Because of the close proximity of China to India, and the inter-mingling of cultures, this mish-mash of Indo-Chinese food is a true depiction of cross-cultural foods. The Indo-Chinese food tends to put sugar in the dishes to balance out the spicy chilies, and the chili sauce that is put in the various dishes.
Bombay has plenty of Indo-Chinese restaurants, right from low end to high end restaurants. The low end – hole in the wall kind of restaurants are honestly some of the BEST Indo-chinese food that I have ever eaten in my life! My friends and I would drive to these places for late dinners. These places would be open into the wee hours of the night till 2am, entertaining the club goers and party people, who would eat a second dinner at these joints. Bandra Bandstand has a few Indo-Chinese Restaurants. Growing up China Garden used to be our favorite! It was a really nice looking, beautifully decorated restaurant, located on the Town Side, not in the Suburbs of Bombay. I remember going there on 8-8-88, I was 11 years old! Haha. I just revealed my age! As you all know 8-8-88 is an auspicious date per the Chinese Calendar, and it comes once every century. I vividly remember the meal, sitting with my parents, my brother and another family I think! I will have to ask my dad, because he is the one with the elephant memory!
Some of my favorite dishes from the Indo-Chinese Cuisine that I like to have are :
Paneer Chilly : this is a dry-ish dish, not very saucy, and can be made with paneer, meat, tofu, cauliflower, and make it your own! I made an Idli version here which is just fantastic!
Paneer or Vegetable Manchurian : They are balls of vegetables like carrots, scallion, garlic, ginger, green chillies, and cabbage, mixed with cornstarch to bind them, fried and made into balls. They reside in a brown sauce made with similar ingredients, and soya sauce and vinegar included, to make a saucy dish, that is best eaten with some Chinese Fried Rice. You can make a paneer or tofu version, or a cauliflower version, or a meat version or a mushroom version. It all tastes so good!
Schezwan dishes: They use Paneer, Tofu, Meat, Cauliflower etc, along with Indian dried red chilies and a lot of ginger and garlic to create a beautiful red colored sauce that forms the base of this dish.
Idli Chilly has been made in restaurants before and using the same concept of making paneer chilly, I made this idli chilly dish! I have a good friend who makes really awesome paneer chilly. Whenever we have been invited to her house for dinner, she makes paneer chilly for me, and chicken chilly for Raj. Only when Raj visits other people’s home, does he get a meal with meat in it, especially anything Indian related like Indo-Chinese or Butter Chicken or some Indian meat dish, because I do not cook meat at all, and he cannot prepare meats in any elaborate way, other than grilling meats for his tacos with some seasoning. So coming back to the Paneer Chilly, she makes it really well, and we do enjoy it a lot. So I had asked her for a rough recipe of ingredients she puts in her dish. Using the information of the rough ingredients, and also knowledge of how my mom would make Indo-Chinese dishes at home, I make the Idli Chilly.
The process does not take time, once you have already steamed the idlis in advance, and they are ready to be fried, and then covered in the sauce. I bought store bought Idli batter to make things easier for me. I know how to make idlis at home, but it is just additional work in addition to all that we have been doing in this pandemic! So store bought idli batter, and quick steamed idlis was the way to go with this dish.
*For the idli frying batter:*
The batter is really easy to make. You are simply adding it all in a medium sized bowl, adding the idlis and letting it soak up the mixture, while you get the oil ready to fry. Once you are ready to fry your idli pieces, firstly make sure that you have a plate ready with a paper towel to drain off the excess oil on the side. The oil should reach a frying temperature of 350 degrees F. Slowly add a few pieces at a time, If you add more pieces into the hot oil. It will bring the temperature of the oil down and you do not want that to happen. Once fried, the chilly sauce is quite simple to make.
Keep all the ingredients ready. The sauce is made in a short time. You make the sauce in a bowl and keep it ready. You do not want to overcook the bell pepper and onions, you want them to have a bite to it. So cooking for a minute, before adding in the idlis and the sauce is ideal. Once you add in the idlis and the sauce, simply saute it all together for 3 minutes or so. And that is it! Your dish is ready! We ate it with some hot jasmine rice, but you could eat it as is, as an appetizer, or with noodles as well! Carbs on Carbs!! Bring it ON!! LOL.
My family loves this dish and I make it as a special treat, atleast once a month. I hope you get a chance to make it too. If you do please do not forget to tag #thejamlab on Instagram and/or leave a comment on this blog post.