There are three kinds of Chinese cuisine.
One, the kind that is actually made by the Chinese in China. I don’t know how they make it – I have never been there. But I doubt any Indian will recognise that Chinese for the actual Chinese.
The actual Chinese is served in a million restaurants across Indian Societies. A gaudy neon sign will announe proudly that XYZ restaurant serves Indian, Moghlai and Chinese. And if you’re not in the mood for Chicken Handi and Roti, or Tandoori Chicken, then you will spring for Chinese.
The average Indian family firmly believes that Chinese cuisine consists of Sweet Corn Chicken Soup, Vegetable Hakka Noodles and Chicken Manchurian (gravy). The average Indian student will swear by Chicken 65 and Triple Schezwan (Non-Veg). And both sets of people will take it as a personal affront if you try to convince them that there is no Chinese dish that goes by the name of American Chopsuey.
But still, this is the more refined version of Indian Chinese. True joy is experienced at the tapri, where one can have a bowl of Manchurian soup, one by two, a plate of greasy, delightfully spicy chicken lolipop and Chicken Manchurian – which includes a plate of noodles and gravy. Round this off with a plate of malai kulfi from a neighbouring stall and your meal is quite complete. A paan, perhaps, to round things off.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Chinese. Now if somebody could only explain this to our north-eastern neighbour.