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HomeNews ReportsDear NYT, Chicken Manchurian is as much Pakistani as Gobhi Manchurian is Chinese

Dear NYT, Chicken Manchurian is as much Pakistani as Gobhi Manchurian is Chinese

While the NYT peddles disinformation that Chicken Manchurian has its origins in Pakistan, it is worth noting that as per historical documents, the cuisine was first developed in the 1700s by an Indian-Chinese chef, Nelson Wang, who was born in Calcutta.

The New York Times, one of the enduring symbols of the global left ecosystem, has a perverse fascination with stripping India of its legacy and, at times, falsely attributing it to other countries. Any revered customs, ancient knowledge and wisdom, or even indigenously prepared delicacy native to India that is worth celebrating gets denuded of its Indian connection and portrayed as a heritage from South Asia.

But in some cases, they are falsely ascribed to an altogether different country. Recently, the American daily published an article on the Indian delicacy ‘Chicken Manchurian’, a spicy, combustive dish that is usually made of Chicken but also done with cauliflower and paneer and is universally available at any restaurant serving Chinese food in India, was described as a ‘stalwart of Pakistani Chinese cooking’ in the New York Times Cooking, a subscription-based cooking guide service by the NYT. 

Source: Twitter

The article was authored by one Ms Zainab Shah, a Pakistani by origin, which also explains her penchant for distorting facts and falsely claiming the origins of Chicken Manchurian to Pakistan. 

Many social media users were quick to admonish the American daily for not checking facts before going ahead and publishing the report.

A Twitter user responded to the New York Times saying that the dish was invented by a man named Nelson Wang, who was born in Calcutta, erstwhile Kolkata.

Actor Ranvir Shorey expressed his disdain for The New York Times, suggesting that while they cannot fact-check the origins of Chicken Manchurian, they proclaim to uphold democracy.

The origins of Chicken Manchurian

Contrary to what the New York Times and the Pakistani author would have us believe, the origins of the Chicken Manchurian date back to the 1700s—the times when the idea of Pakistan or the Two Nation Theory was not even conceived. Indian Chinese cuisine first originated in Kolkata in the 1700s when the Hakka Chinese, who were facing oppression, settled in the city. To satisfy their longing for home-cooked meals, these Chinese traders and immigrants began selling noodles, rice, dumplings, and dim sums as street food to their community in places like Tiretta Bazaar. 

Even today, Tiretta Bazaar, also known as Old Chinatown, remains a popular spot for a delicious breakfast at 5 in the morning. The place serves a variety of homemade steaming hot dumplings, siu mai, fish ball soup, rice, sesame seed sweet balls, coconut balls, breaded pork chops, stuffed steamed bread, and dim sums and other Indo-Chinese food.

Critically, as we delve into the history of Indian Chinese food, it is important to circle back to our initial topic—the origins of Chicken Manchurian. The story begins with Nelson Wang, the son of Chinese immigrants in Kolkata. After moving to Bombay, Nelson started his career as an assistant cook in a Chinese restaurant and quickly rose through the ranks. Eventually, he opened his own restaurant in Kemps Corner called China Town and secured a Chinese catering contract at the Cricket Club of India.

It was at the Cricket Club of India where Nelson’s creativity was put to the test. A club member requested something spicy and different, and Nelson decided to toss chicken pakoras in a red sauce with onions, green chillies, and garlic. He added vinegar and soya sauce to create what is now known as the most memorable, unforgettable, and beloved Indian Chinese dish – Chicken Manchurian.

It is intriguing that while New York Times often brands everything related to India as ‘South Asian’, aimed at downplaying its rich cultural history and civilisational ingenuity, it chose to highlight a manifestly Indian-origin dish as Pakistani, overlooking the basic need to verify facts before their publication. In essence, anything that shows India in a positive light gets either generalised with a ‘South Asian’ reference or gets attributed to an altogether different country and civilisation.

India boasts a rich and diverse Chinese culinary tradition that has deep roots in its history and culture. Several Chinese cuisines have been modified to make them compatible with Indian taste buds and provide them with distinctly Indian flavour. Chicken Manchurian is also one such cuisine that is a fusion of Indian and Chinese cookery. To attribute its origins to Pakistan is like calling Gobi Manchurian and Chinese Bhel native Chinese cuisines.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Amit Kelkar
Amit Kelkar
a Pune based IT professional with keen interest in politics

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