11 November 2007
Steamed vegetable manchurian in gravy
I have written about Indo-Chinese food earlier on, in this space. One episode of Vir Sanghvi's A Matter of Taste was dedicated to this cuisine [he calls it Sino-Ludhianavi cuisine], its origins in India and its evolution. While the taste is absolutely lip smacking and addictive, it can be very high in fat content. The ingredients are fried on a high heat and to keep them from burning, large quantities of oil are used, which is why you see the rich gloss on the noodles and rice served.
One of my early favourites during my introduction to Indo-Chinese food was the vegetable manchurian. The manchurian balls are made using finely minced vegetables, coated with corn flour mixed with spices and deep fried till golden brown. These crispy balls can then either be coated with a mix of sauted ginger - garlic bits to make a dry cocktail snack. These balls can be floated in a spicy tangy sauce to serve as a main course dish with rice or noodles. Bits of minced meat, fish or chicken can be used as a base to make the balls to suit the meat-lover's palate.
I'm alright with eating the fried manchurian in places like Dynasty (my favourite Indo-Chinese eating joint near my place), but since I hate deep frying at home, plus because I think deep frying is the most non-creative way of cooking - i decided to try the steaming method.
In the deep fried method, the main veggies used are cabbage and carrots, which are relatively dry compared to gourds, which is why I used a portion of watery gourd to give the volume and lightness while steaming, going by the logic that using very dry vegetables in the balls would lead to tough bouncy balls after steaming.
My logic did work this time and post steaming the manchurian turned out light and well cooked inside, and they increased in size by 50% - without any addition of baking soda or powder whatsoever.
After soaking them in the sauce, they became even more succulent and flavourful on absorbing all the flavours from the sauce.
So when in mood for healthy Indo-Chinese, I would surely go for this dish with a plate of plain noodles or lightly spiced rice and greens.
You can even wilt a bunch of your favourite greens to make a heartier sauce. This can be thinned out to a soup like consistency too - a dumpling soup kinda.
Steamed vegetable manchurian
For the manchurian balls
1 loosely packed cup grated bottle gourd or zucchini
2 medium carrots, finely grated
2 cups finely grated or minced cabbage
Upto 1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp finely minced / grated ginger
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp black pepper powder
1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients, except flour.
Add flour gradually, while kneading, without using any water. The salt will drain out the water in the gourd. Add upto one cup flour until you get a soft pliable, non sticky dough.
2. Place 4-5 cups of water in the steamer, bring to a boil.
3. Make small balls - about over an inch diameter and arrange them on the oiled perforated vessel to be kept in the steamer. You could also use a bamboo steamer or idli maker.
4. Steam for 10-12 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the balls comes out clean.
While the balls are steaming, you can get the sauce ready.
2 fresh green / red chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
4-5 flakes of garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp oil
1 green bell pepper or carrot, cut into strips
1 medium red onion, finely sliced
1 cup chopped spring onion greens
1-2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp wheat flour dissolved in one cup water
1 cup water or vegetable stock
Directions to make sauce
1. In a large wok, heat a tbsp of vegetable oil. On high heat, saute the chillies, ginger and garlic for a few seconds.
2. Add the bell pepper, onions and half the spring onion greens, rapidly stir on high heat for 1-2 minutes, till somewhat cooked yet crunchy.
3. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper, stir well.
4. Pour into the wok the wheat flour-water mixture. Let this come to a boil and thicken.
5. Adjust the thickness of the sauce to your liking, using the remaining one cup water or stock.
6. Garnish with remaining spring onion greens, put in the steamed balls. Let this come to a simmer. Let the balls soak in the sauce for around 15 minutes before serving hot with rice or noodles.
We loved this dish. Steaming really did not take away anything from the dish, in fact we had more pleasure in eating knowing that our dinner was a whole bunch of healthy steamed and sauteed veggies.
Try it out and it is sure to surprise you, that something so healthy can be so yum :)
What you can serve this with-
Chinese style Cucumber Salad
Ginger Sesame Hakka Noodles