Is Manchurian chicken originated from China? Not quite. It is an Indo-Chinese dish.
This dish was created by the Chinese chef Nelson Wang from Calcutta, India.
Manchurian chicken has similarities to the Chinese sweet and sour pork (Ku lo yuk / 咕噜肉). It is deep-fried chicken doused in a gravy consisting of ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, and ketchup.
This Manchurian chicken recipe has a much thicker sauce than some other recipes, as it delivers a more intense flavor. However, since it is relatively dry, it is still crispy while eating immediately after cooking. Either way, it is your choice to make a drier Manchurian chicken or with more gravy.
How to make Manchurian chicken
It takes only three steps to prepare Manchurian chicken. First, deep-fry the chicken, prepare the Manchurian chicken gravy, and douse the chicken with the gravy.
1. Marinate, then deep-fry the chicken
You can either use chicken breast meat or thigh fillet to prepare Manchurian chicken. I use chicken thigh fillet because it has more flavor and will not become tough even if it is slightly overcooked.
Marinate the chicken
- Cut the chicken into one-inch pieces. The size should not be too small because it will lose its moisture quickly during deep frying. As a result, the meat has already dry when it turns golden.
- Marinate the chicken with some salt and black pepper. I have seen other recipes include ginger, garlic, chili, and soy sauce in the marinade. Although it is OK to do that, it does not seem necessary because the Manchurian chicken gravy has a strong flavor.
- Marinating the chicken for half an hour should be sufficient as the chicken pieces are small.
Prepare a batter
After marinating the chicken for half an hour, add an egg, cornstarch, and regular flour. The egg and flour will form a thick batter to encase the chicken pieces. It creates a crust that protects the chicken from the hot oil’s direct heat during deep-frying and prevents it from getting dry. You can also add a small amount of baking powder to make the crust crispier and light. Please refer to the recipe below for the amount of each ingredient.
Deep-fry the chicken
The most practical method to deep-fry a small batch of food is to use a heavy-bottomed skillet or pan. First, I fill it with half an inch deep of oil, either fresh or used oil, which I previously used to deep-fry other food.
Next, heat the oil. How to know whether the temperature of the oil is suitable for deep-frying? You can use a kitchen thermometer to check the temperature (should be around 180°C/355°F). In practice, it does not need to be very precise. Therefore, you can estimate the temperature by visually inspecting it.
- If the oil is smoking, it means that it is too hot. The surface of the chicken will turn color quickly before the heat penetrates and cooks through the chicken.
- Place a wooden spatula or a pair of chopsticks into the oil. If you see a constant stream of bubbles rising around the wooden spatula/chopsticks, the temperature of the oil is perfect for deep-frying.
- Conversely, if there are only a few bubbles, or not at all, that means the oil is too cold. In this case, the chicken will absorb too much oil, forming a hard and less crispy crust.
Once the meat has turned golden, remove and drain on a paper towel.
- We use the commercial electric deep-fryer in the restaurant to cater to the volume of orders. However, you need plenty of oil to fill up the fryer, making it unsuitable for home use. I have also tried using a smaller electric deep-fryer designed for domestic use, but the cleaning work after deep-frying makes it impractical for a small family.
- One crucial point is to stop the urge to crowd the pan with too many chicken pieces, although we want to finish cooking as quickly as possible. The batter will link the pieces together, which prevents them from cooking evenly. Therefore, it is better to be patient and divide the chicken into two or three batches to deep fry. After all, it only takes about four minutes to deep-fry each batch.
- Since the bottom side of the meat is touching the pan, it is necessary to flip the chicken occasionally to ensure even cooking. This step is unnecessary if you use an electric deep-fryer because the meat is suspended in the deep-fryer basket.
2. Prepare the gravy and vegetables
- The main ingredients for the Manchurian chicken gravy are ginger, garlic, chilies, tomato ketchup, light soy sauce, and vinegar.
- Minced ginger and garlic work well, but most Indian families should have a ginger-garlic paste, which is readily available at any time.
- As for chilies, I use the store-bought chili sauce. You can use chili powder, chili flakes, or chopped fresh green chilies, or a combination of these. You can adjust the level of heat accordingly.
- Tomato ketchup and light soy sauce are almost indispensable in this recipe. You can add some dark soy sauce to make the color darker.
- Vinegar is optional, but it is an excellent addition to the gravy. Make sure to add some sugar to balance the acidity of the vinegar. We use plum sauce instead of vinegar to prepare the sweet and sour pork in Chinese cooking. I guess vinegar (and the green chilies for spiciness) are the main differences between the Chinese version and the Manchurian Chicken gravy.
I prefer to pre-mix these ingredients rather than adding them to the wok since stir-frying is a quick and continuous process.
The common vegetables for Manchurian chicken are bell pepper, onions, and scallion. I have also seen some recipes that include carrot slices.
The choice of vegetables is another significant difference between Manchurian chicken and Chinese sweet and sour pork/chicken, in which pineapple and cucumber are popular vegetables in the recipe.
Cut the bell pepper and onions into large pieces, about the size of the chicken. However, you can cut the onion much smaller if you intend to saute and sweat it along with the ginger and garlic longer.
Cut the scallion into small rings and separate the green from the white section. Sprinkle the green rings right before serving to garnish the dish, while the white section can be sauteed with ginger and garlic. Since I use onion in the recipe, the white section becomes unnecessary, and therefore I will reserve it for another recipe.
3. Doused the chicken with the gravy
After sauteing the ginger and garlic, and stir-frying the vegetables, add the seasonings we have mixed into the wok to form the gravy. Return the deep-fried chicken to the wok and douse the meat with the gravy and vegetables. Do not stir-fry the chicken for too long at this stage. If you do this, the chicken will no longer be crispy when served.
Of course, this is my interpretation of the Manchurian chicken, which might be influenced by traditional Chinese cooking, which is quite dry. If you prefer it to be saucier, add more water while preparing the gravy and thicken it with some cornstarch slurry. You should do a taste test to decide whether you need to add more salt and other seasonings since there is more gravy now. Of course, the chicken will be less crispy when drenching in a large amount of gravy.
Now it is your turn to try it at home. Most of the ingredients are pretty common in the standard kitchen pantry, and it is a quick and easy recipe. Enjoy!
Other recipe related to Manchurian chicken
Sweet and sour pork is a traditional Chinese cuisine with a universal appeal. The pork pieces are doused in a thick, spoon-coating sauce with a constant pull between sweet and sour. It shares some similarities to the Manchurian chicken.
This Vietnamese-inspired pan-fried lemongrass chicken chop will guarantee to be a total crowd-pleaser. The almost universal appeal of the aroma of lemongrass will surely welcome by everyone in your family.
For the chicken (A)
- 500g chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/4 tsp of black pepper
For the batter (B)
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 1/8 tsp of baking powder
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- 1.5 capsicum (mix of red, green, yellow) cut into bite-sized pieces (about 150g)
- 2 medium-sized onions, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 150g)
- 2 stalks of spring onions, finely sliced into rings, garnishing
- 4 tbsp water
- Cut the chicken into one-inch pieces.
- Marinate the chicken with salt and black pepper for half an hour.
- Add an egg, cornstarch, regular flour, and baking powder to the chicken. Mix well.
- Heat about half an inch deep of oil in a pan.
- Deep-fry the chicken in small batches. Flip the chicken occasionally to ensure even cooking. Once the meat has turned golden, remove and drain on a paper towel.
- Saute the ginger and garlic with oil until aromatic.
- Add the onion and bell peppers, and stir fry for half a minute.
- Add the sauce (D) and some water if you want more saucy.
- Return the deep-fried chicken to the wok and douse the meat with the gravy and vegetables.
- Garnish with scallion and serve
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 527Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 275mgSodium: 1600mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 2gSugar: 12gProtein: 44g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 7/10/2021