Once upon a time, there existed Chicken Manchurian and it made its way to India. To satiate the vegetarian craving here, a chef decided to toss flour-coated cauliflower florets in Manchurian sauce. Hence, happened the birth of the invincible Gobi Manchurian, a dish that all vegetarians would swear by.
That is not it, the Indian masalas found their way to many other Chinese dishes. On the other end, Indian dishes were dropped in Chinese sauces, one gobi in the Manchurian sauce at a time. To the horror of many, Delhi takes pride in serving momos with mayonnaise and hello, where is the clear soup? If that is not enough, a skewer is pierced through the heart of momo and grilled over live charcoal before tossing it in tandoori sauce.
Chilli dhokla, dhokla Manchurian, Manchurian idli, chilli dosa, Chinese chaat, tandoori momo, paneer momo, paneer fried rice, and whatnot. This brings us to a point where the line between authentic dish and its adapted vision blurs—or does it fade altogether? Many lifetimes ago, when all of us would go to office or for shopping, there used to be these small corner stalls serving their version of Chinese dishes, like those browned noodles being sauteed in glugs of oil.
We don’t know how Chinese connoisseurs would react to that fusion and mix-n-match of cuisines.
The movie Ship of Theseus had left us with an existential question that if parts of an old ship are fitted in new ships, does it remain the same ship or do we have multiple new ships. The Chinese dishes must be facing the same existential crisis when they are tossed in a kadhai or roasted in a tandoor. Are they authentic Indian or authentic Chinese dishes?
At a time when there is a rising chorus against Chinese products, Union Minister Ramdas Athawle led the clarion call against Chinese dishes being served in Indian restaurants.
"Restaurants selling Chinese food should be banned. I appeal to people to boycott Chinese food," Athawale said at a press conference. No one is sure how that is going to play a role in the ongoing tensions between India and China on the border.
Meanwhile, there have been calls by trading bodies to resident welfare associations to boycott Chinese goods.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), an organisation which claims to represent 7 crore traders and 40,000 trade associations has launched a campaign saying that import of Chinese goods must be boycotted and imports should reduce by $13 billion by end of next year. It also urged Bollywood actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar to cricketers like Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar to not endorse Chinese products. But the question remains whether it is feasible.
Currently, India imports goods worth $70 billion from China annually.
The onslaught of Indians on food isn't new. In fact, in 2012, a khap panchayat leader in Haryana had blamed chowmein for rapes. in 2017, a BJP lawmaker from Jammu had called for ban on "killer momos". People had gone ahead with burning of momo effigies. As people are protesting against Chinese products, chances are effigies of gobi manchurian and noodles might also be burnt.
The more important question here is where do we draw the line between Indian and Chinese dishes? Are we going to slash the Chinese dishes off the name just looking at their names? In that case, how do we tell our vegetarian brethren that their favourite Gobi Manchurian is no more acceptable?
To break the hearts further, even our favourite snack time food Maggi will have to go. Maggy is an instant noodle, and noodle, my dears, is Chinese again. Also, no more tomato ketchup for a pop of flavour with the favourite samosas.
Time to have some instant Dhokla please, because apparently, proof of nationalism is found on our plates.