Tag Archive for: Chinese

‘Want to go for a Chinese?’ may have lost its cool cachet in the UK, but for a new generation in India the casual dining out choice is definitely Indo-Chinese. You don’t go out to order dal. Manchurian chicken? Bring it on.

There won’t be any chicken on the menu at Bundobust as they launch a quartet of Indo-Chinese specials across their sites in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, available until August 29. The veggie/craft beer formula rightly rules. They’ve done cauli and mushroom Manchurian mash-ups in the past, favouring a sweet-sour sauce that’s a bit chippie-like. 

And they’re not the only Manchester city centre Indian to put the Asian hybrid on the menu. Indian Tiffin Room confirmed its street food credentials by featuring diaspora dishes that originated in the old Chinatown of Kalkota (Calcutta) with influences from far beyond. 

Take Hakka Noodles. To the traditional base of Indo-Chinese spices and soy sauce coated noodles the Bundobust chefs add stir-fried green and red pepper, mushroom and white cabbage. For a fiver it’s a gorgeous combo but begs the question: who were the Hakka? 

It’s tiffin time in Kalkota’s teeming Tiretta Bazaar – the link between Chinese and Indian street food

In the late 18th century these folk emigrated from Northern China. A magnet for their silk and tanning skills was Calcutta, established by the British East India Company as capital of colonial India.

Two areas there vied to be Chinatown for them and other Chinese arrivals – Tangra and Tiretta Bazaar. Only the latter remains today as a food and cultural destination. Its restaurants are testimony to the inevitable fusion that quickly occurred to accommodate the deep-fried, chilli/spicy flavours Indians love. Key elements  soy sauce, vinegar and the Hakkas’ essential Schezwan sauce substituting dried red chillies for Sichuan peppercorns

Nowadays you’ll find this Indo-Chinese cuisine across the Sub-continent. It’s especially popular in my favourite Indian city and great melting pot, Mumbai. In Kolkata, though, the influence goes much further, where’ll you’ll find the likes of Chinese bhel and Schezwan dosa. Any resemblance to authentic Cantonese or Sichuan food is fanciful.

Alongside is a more authentic approach to Chinese regional food, too. Around 1974 India’s first Sichuan restaurant opened up at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai. A different kind of hot.

Chicken Manchurian was invented in Mumbai, by Nelson Wang, the son of Chinese immigrants in Kolkata. And that’s how umami made its entry into Indian cuisine. And made the Wang dynasty!

Indo-Chinese has been a slower burner in the UK, perhaps the flagship being Hakkaland in Harrow-on-the-Hill, but I recall a visit to Asha Khan’s much-missed Darjeeling Express off Carnaby Street, where some sizzling Tangra Prawns were on the menu.

Bundobust’s entry onto the scene is as playful as you’d expect, plugging into their own Gujarati-inspired small plate evolution. 

Gobi Toast (£5.25) is deep-fried pav soldiers crowned with garlic and ginger minced cauliflower crusted with mixed sesame seeds. Served with coconut korma dipping sauce. Salt & Pepper Okra Fries (£5.50), where the Bundo top seller is tossed with peppers, onions, chilli flakes and soy sauce. And from leftfield, Tofoo 65 (£6.75), a Bundo debut for the bean curd, filling pakoras in a sauce rich with Chinese five spice, curry leaf, garlic, ginger, fermented red chilli paste and mustard seeds. 

The sauce is “a Chinese spiced reimagining of the classic Chennai Hotel Buhari 1965 sauce recipe.” More research for me to do, then.

Bundobust has venues in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester Piccadilly and Oxford Road (the Brewery).

It is still hard to credit how much city development has escaped my attention while locked down in my Pennine fastness. Returning gradually to Manchester, I can suddenly feel adrift – and not always in a pleasurable way. Take Circle Square, a brooding behemoth of an apartment complex on the old BBC site off Oxford Road. 

OK, I first crossed its portals on a sullen, drizzly day but didn’t get the vibe promised by Vita Living: “Contemporary apartments and unreal amenities, all neighboured by leafy-green space in the form of the brand-new Symphony Park. Artisan shops, independent bars and restaurants surround Circle Square and make it a true urban oasis for everyone to enjoy.”

On the same day’s trail the ‘tropical garden’ at rival development Kampus looked ominously, bedraggled but the site opposite Canal Street offers a quirky mixed bag of living spaces, while formidable food and drink offerings (Pollen, Cloudwater, Beeswing) are on their way. Similarly, the giant towers of Deansgate Square are being serviced by quality delis (to spare the upmarket residents the trek to the Hulme Asda).

Circle Square’s own newly opened food hall is its most striking feature. Hello Oriental, an architecturally swirling three-floor, subterranean complex. boasts an Asian inspired bakery and café, a Vietnamese restaurant, a whole gallimaufry of East Asian street food options and a supermarket stocking an Instagrammable selection of packaged foodstuffs and colourful snacks hitherto available online. I suspect the small plate dining opportunities will prove more of a draw than the basement shop.

Strangely sterile the physical shop. Hardly anything on the shelves that counts as fresh. For that I’ll still be making my way down to ramshackle old Chinatown. We all have our favourite stores there. Mine is the Hang Won Hong on the corner of George Street and Booth Street. Chinese ingredients apart, it offers enough Thai and Korean staples to fuel my store cupboard. 

For my Chinese recipe needs I usually turn to Fuchsia Dunlop, for Korean Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo, for Japanese home cooking and ramen Ivan Orkin. Online for pan-Asian I’ve recently discovered mycookinghut.com/, an acclaimed blog by Leemei Tan-Boisgillot.

Here are a couple of her recipes, which feature in her latest cookbook, due out in June.

Korean Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup


1 tbsp sesame seeds; 15g dried wakame; 500g mussels, scrubbed and debearded; 1 tbsp sunflower oil; 1 onion, sliced; 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped; 1cm piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped; 4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked, drained and cut into thin strips; 1 tbsp Korean red pepper powder or cayenne pepper; chicken stock ¼ Chinese cabbage, core removed and cut into bite-sized pieces; 1 tbsp light soy sauce; 1 tbsp chilli oil; 300g raw, peeled large king prawns, tails left on, deveined; 400g squid, scored with a crisscross pattern and cut into bite-sized pieces; 500g cooked fresh fine egg noodles or 350g dried fine egg noodles; 2 spring onions, finely chopped.


Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat, then add the sesame seeds and dry-fry for a few minutes until the seeds begin to pop.Tip onto a plate and leave to one side.

Soak the dried wakame in a small bowl in warm water for about 10 minutes until it rehydrates. Drain, rinse and leave to one side.

Tap any mussels that are only partly opened and discard any that don’t shut. Put the mussels in a saucepan over a high heat and steam for 3–4 minutes, or until the shells open. Discard any that don’t open fully. There is no need to add any additional liquid to the pan, as the mussels will release their own liquid to steam in. Remove the mussels from their shells and leave to one side.

Heat the sunflower oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 2–3 minutes until soft and translucent, then add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the shiitake mushrooms and Korean red pepper powder and cook, stirring continuously, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add the chicken stock.

Return the pan to the heat and bring the stock to the boil. Add the Chinese cabbage and cook for 3–4 minutes until tender. Add the soy sauce and chilli oil and then add the prawns and squid. Bring to the boil for a few seconds, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 5–6 minutes, or until the prawns turn pink and are cooked through and the squid is tender. Three minutes before the end of cooking, add the mussels to heat through.

Divide the hot, cooked noodles into deep soup bowls, then spoon the prawns, squid, cabbage and mussels into the bowls.

Bring the chicken stock to a vigorous boil. Add the spring onions and prepared wakame to the bowls, then ladle in the piping hot stock. Sprinkle over the toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Sichuan Mapo Tofu

This is a famous Sichuan dish that comes with a story. It is said that during the Qing dynasty, a restaurant on the outskirts of Chengdu was well known for a delicious, very spicy tofu dish, which was made by the restaurateur’s wife. She had pockmarks on her face, and as a result was called Mapo – ma means ‘pockmark’ and po means ‘elderly woman’, and her signature dish was called Mapo Dou Fu.


300g soft silken tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes; 1 tbsp sunflower oil; 1 cm piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped; 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped; 200g beef or pork mince; 2 tbsp chilli bean paste; 1 tbsp light soy sauce; 1 tsp granulated sugar; 1 tsp ground toasted Sichuan pepper; 1 tsp cornflour; 2 spring onions, roughly chopped. Serve with 400g cooked egg noodles


Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, then remove from the heat. Carefully tip the tofu into the water and leave to one side.

Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes until fragrant but not coloured. Add the mince, break up the lumps and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until starting to brown. Add the chilli bean paste, soy sauce, sugar, ground Sichuan pepper and 200ml water, stir to combine and slowly bring to the boil.

Carefully drain the tofu and add it to the wok. Gently push the ingredients around the wok until the tofu pieces are coated with the sauce. Do not stir as it may break up the delicate tofu. Let it simmer for 3–5 minutes until heated through.

Meanwhile, combine the cornflour with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Slowly pour the cornflour mixture into the wok or pan and gently fold through. Sprinkle over the spring onions and serve immediately with noodles.

• Both recipes are fromThe Asian Home Kitchen by Leemei Tan-Boisgillot, to be published by Nourish in hardback, price £20, on June 14, 2022. Leemai is a recipe writer, food stylist

Chinatowns, I’ve done a few. From London’s Gerrard Street main drag to the more atmospheric San Francisco neighbourhood to Manchester’s own compact quarter. I’m an astrological dragon, so the Dragon Parades are for me; less so the waddling Lion Dances that come out of the woodwork during Chinese New Year.

This year’s animal is the Tiger, roaring into the limelight from February 1. In Manchester the focal point of celebration is an arty sculpture in St Ann’s Square, made from wood and recycled materials, that’s more Tiggerish than tigerish but hey we don’t want to scare the kids. For full details of the city’s Year of the Tiger schedule visit this link. (alas, due to Covid precautions, the customary parade and fireworks finale will not be taking place on the closing Sunday, February 6)

The beautiful tiger installation for St Ann’s Square, Manchester

Contrary as ever I chose Leeds, which lacks a designated Chinatown, for my advance  gustatory celebration and, to coin a phrase, the fortune cookie favours the brave. Wen’s was just splendid, earning its Tiger stripes with a flourish.

The interior is not dramatically changed from its 30 year spell as Hansa, serving Gujarati veggie food cooked by a groundbreaking female team. When inspirational founder Hansa Dhabi finally retired from the restaurant, Wen’s added their own distinctive stamp in 2019.

I could have been forgiven for thinking it was the Year of the Horse as the first thing I spotted on entering the cosy North Street restaurant was a Western saddle propped in a corner. Chao Wen, front-of-house, confessed it was a whim buy on a trip to a Manchester emporium. It signalled no equine purpose in this keen bodybuilder’s life, he assured me. Whatever, it alerted me to a distinct shift from the regular ‘go for a Chinese’ template. 

Witness the soundtrack of loungecore piano treatments of Christmas carols. Well, have you ever tackled a jellyfish salad to the tinkling strains of In The Bleak Midwinter? And who would have thought a selection of Mother Wen’s homemade fried dumplings would have brought such tidings of comfort and joy? She cooks in the basement with her husband. The two of them, both from Shandong, once ran a small restaurant in Beijing. What they certainly bring to their Leeds venture is the same no-short-cuts search for authenticity, even if the Chinese menu does roam regionally with Sichuan to the fore. Hence my Kung Po Chicken (£10.60), startlingly well balanced despite the considerable quantity of dried chillis and citrussy sharp sichuan peppercorns involved with the generous portions of marinated cubed chicken and peanuts. I’ve cooked the dish myself but never got near this quality. Thanks to Steve Nuttall of Wayward Wines and Anja Madvani of Leeds Confidential for that particular recommendation.

Wen’s was bigged up too, I discovered from a framed cutting on the wall, by Observer critic Jay Rayner in September 2020. He was rightly effusive about the house ‘dumplings in gossamer skins’. He’s aware how many Chinese restaurants buy them in. Wen’s menu offers five varieties, ranging from £5.80 to £6.90 for a half dozen – minced chicken, spicy minced beef, minced pork, king prawn and mixed seasonal greens. I had a selection (doubling up on the beef) and they were remarkably juicy inside the lightest of dough casings, their bases crisply crusted. Next time I’m heading straight for Mrs Wen’s hand-pulled noodles Dan Dan style. Think minced pork and oodles of chilli oil.

As for that marinated jellyfish with shredded Chinese leaf (£7.90) which kicked off proceedings, I chose it out of curiosity, expecting yet another Chinese riff on texture (think pig’s ears, rooster combs and chicken feet). It was a delightful surprise, dried strands rehydrated and delicately dressed in chilli oil, soy sauce, sichuan peppercorns and garlic, I suspect. Tigers are fine in their place; why can’t there be a Year of the Jellyfish?

Wen’s Chinese, 72-74 North Street, Leeds LS2 7PN. 01132444408.