Chicken Manchurian is a very popular Indo-Chinese dish. Crispy fried chicken pieces are tossed in a sweet and savoury sauce and served alongside fried rice or noodles.
WHAT IS CHICKEN MANCHURIAN?
Chicken Manchurian is an Indo-Chinese dish with fried chicken in a hot and sweet dark-red sauce. It’s an entirely restaurant born and propagated dish, and it has all sorts of variations such as Gobi Manchurian, Paneer Manchurian, a dry version, a saucy version, and so on.
Despite its name, Chicken Manchurian is not Chinese, nor does it come from what was historically known as Manchuria, China. Chicken Manchurian was actually invented by Nelson Wang, an Indian restaurateur of Chinese origin. As Wang himself noted, “What is Manchurian? Nothing! I made it up. There is not even a proper cuisine called Manchurian.”
PAKISTANI-STYLE CHICKEN MANCHURIAN VS INDO-CHINESE RESTAURANT STYLE
Having traveled to Pakistan recently, I noticed a clear difference between the Chicken Manchurian there vs here in the U.S.
Pakistani-style Manchurian is wading in red sauce, and the chicken is only slightly crispy with a cornstarch-only batter.
Indo-Pak restaurant Manchurian is almost always crispy (flour is involved) and only lightly coated in sauce. Like Chicken Shashlik and Chicken Jalfrezi, Manchurian here is often accompanied with cubed red and green bell peppers and onions.
INGREDIENTS FOR CHICKEN MANCHURIAN
This recipe has 3 components:
- Chicken (Marinade + Crispy Coating): The chicken gets coated first in an egg mixture, then in a dry coating before being fried.
- Sauce: This is the sauce or gravy that coats the chicken. I love the sauce to chicken ratio of this recipe but I’ve given tips on how to make it even more saucy in the Variations.
- Stir-fry: Though this isn’t a traditional stir-fry, you do lightly brown the garlic, ginger, and green onion before adding the sauce and chicken back in
My marinade is adapted from Kenji’s latest book, The Wok. To develop his chicken coating recipe, he tried out several batters to see which would result in the crispiest chicken.
- Chicken: I prefer chicken thighs because they can withstand overcooking and still remain juicy and tender. But chicken breast will also work well.
- Egg white: Kenji noted that thicker, egg-based marinades provided superior results to thinner ones without egg.
- Soy sauce: You can use gluten-free soy sauce, tamari, and probably even coconut aminos.
- Rice vinegar or white vinegar: Kenji uses wine for the acidic element, which I’ve replaced with vinegar for obvious reasons. I prefer using rice vinegar for Asian dishes for the flavor and because it’s a little less intense. But in this quantity, you can hardly tell the difference
- DRY COATING:
- Cornstarch: Called cornflour in other parts of the world, this adheres to the chicken and makes it crispy.
- All-purpose flour: Unlike cornstarch-only recipes like Cashew Chicken, Chicken Manchurian is tossed in flour to make it extra crispy. I haven’t tried using gluten-free flour in this particular recipe, but I have in past versions and I suppose it would work here as well.
- Red chili powder or cayenne: To add heat to the chicken itself. The chicken alone isn’t too spicy. The sauce takes care of that. But you can always add more spice here too if you like
MANCHURIAN SAUCE INGREDIENTS
Vegetable or Chicken Stock: The first ingredient used to make it extra saucy and to add depth of flavor. I use store-bought vegetable stock, but chicken stock can’t hurt.
Tomato purée or tomato sauce: The second ingredient that adds sauce without making it overtly ketchupy. This is the runny kind that comes in a can or jar, but isn’t thick like tomato paste.
Ketchup: I use Hunt’s Natural or Heinz Organic. (Other awesome recipes that use ketchup: Stovetop Chicken Thighs and Chicken Shashlik.)
- Chili garlic sauce: Adds heat, tang, and subtle sweet complexity, basically all the flavors we want in Manchurian. To lean more into South Asian flavors, I’ve tested with South Asian brands such as Mitchell’s or Maggi Hot & Sweet. But feel free to use Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce, Sriracha, or your favorite chili sauce (start with 1 tbsp so that it doesn’t get too spicy). Because of the tang this sauce adds, I find adding vinegar in the sauce unnecessary.
- Sugar: I use raw cane but white or turbinado sugar work. Naturally, the other sauces you use may vary the amount you need, specifically the chili garlic sauce. Whether you use tomato purée (which doesn’t contain added sugar) or tomato sauce (which sometimes does) may also cause a slight variation.
- Red chili flakes: Add extra heat and compensate if your chili garlic sauce isn’t the spicy kind.
- White pepper or black pepper: I prefer using white pepper for Asian dishes, but black pepper will work equally well.
- Cornstarch: To thicken the batter. Most chinese recipes will have you make a separate cornstarch slurry, which allows you to cook the sauce before thickening it. I skip making a separate cornstarch slurry because you’re only simmering the sauce for a couple minutes (and because I’ll cut steps wherever I can).
- Garlic & ginger: Usually, I either run these through a food processor or use a mortar & pestle to crush them. In this case, you want to use a knife or food processor to finely chop so the garlic doesn’t become mushy and the ginger doesn’t become stringy.
- Green onions: Also called scallions, and sometimes spring onions. I like to chop the white and light green parts very finely. Sometimes I’ll just throw them in the food processor with the garlic and ginger. Slice the deep green parts and keep for garnish.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH CHICKEN MANCHURIAN
- Restaurants usually serve the dry version of Chicken Manchurian as an appetizer. As a main dish, you can serve with plain basmati rice, fried rice, or any type of noodles such as Chow Mein.
- For an Indo-Chinese feast, a great menu may involve a soup, a contrasting main dish like Cashew Chicken or Mongolian Beef, rice, Recipe Tin’s Chow Mein, and Pakistan Eat’s Desi-Style fried shrimp.
- 1 bowl
- 1 wooden spoon
- 1 Spatula
- 1 cauldron
- 50 g boneless chicken cut in cubes
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 large dice green bell pepper
- 2 green onions sliced
- white sesame seeds for garnish
For The Marination
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- ½ tsp` salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup cornflour
- 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
For The Sauce
- ½ cup tomato ketchup
- ¼ cup Chili Garlic Ketchup
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 chicken stock cube
- 2 cups water
- salt to taste
- Marinate the chicken with all the marination ingredients and leave for at least 30 minutes.50 g boneless chicken cut in cubes, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp vinegar, ½ tsp` salt, 1 tsp white pepper, 1 egg, ¼ cup cornflour, 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
- Heat oil for deep frying and drop in the chicken pieces with a spoon. Fry on medium heat till thoroughly cooked. Remove on a paper towel.2 tbsp oil
- Make the sauce in a bowl and put aside.½ cup tomato ketchup, ¼ cup Chili Garlic Ketchup, 1 tbsp vinegar, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 chicken stock cube, 2 cups water, salt to taste
- Heat oil in a pan and saute garlic for 1 minute. Add the bell pepper and fry on high heat for 2 minutes only.1 tsp ginger garlic paste, 1 large dice green bell pepper
- Then pour in the sauce and wait for it to bubble
- Prepare a cornflour slurry and gradually add it to the sauce on medium heat. Stop when you reach your desired consistency. Remember the sauce will continue to thicken while cooking.¼ cup cornflour
- Add the spring onions and fried chicken. Give a good toss and let simmer for 2 minutes.2 green onions sliced, 50 g boneless chicken cut in cubes
- Turn off heat and put the gravy in your serving dish.
- Garnish with spring onion and sesame sides2 green onions sliced, white sesame seeds for garnish
- Serve with fried rice or noodles.1 tbsp toasted sesame oil