Indian Chinese cuisine at Spice Kitchen

Indian and Thai food are familiar but when I read from the menu that The Spice Kitchen also serves Indian Chinese cuisine, I’m rather puzzled.

A range of  North Indian gravies and Indian Chinese dishes
served at The Spice Kitchen
My friend, Muru Kumar, warns me not to jump to the wrong conclusion that Indian Chinese is a fusion of Indian and Chinese food because it’s a cuisine that exists in India.  The team of chefs in The Spice Kitchen, hand-picked from Kolkata (Calcutta), are serving an Indian Chinese menu of dishes believed to have originated from mainly Hakka Chinese who settled in Kolkata over a century ago.  They are also skilled in preparing traditional Indian and Thai cuisines. 

For the uninitiated the menu may look intimidating, so while Muru helped to place the order for our group, I study its large pages.  It has sections clearly marked for Chinese or Indian Seafood, Meats and Vegetables, Tandoor as well as Rice, Bread and Desserts and I spot items marked, “All-time-favourite” and flower icons for Chef’s recommendations.

Chef Vinod Rai with some of his
recommendations at The Spice Kitchen
I learnt that depending on taste, we can even ask for the degree of spiciness when the order is placed – non spicy, mild, spicy or very spicy.  I put down the menu to look around the restaurant, I notice that the majority of diners are non-Indian.  As Muru tells us about the mix of Indian Chinese and Indian appetizers, mains and dessert he ordered, I’m privately reminding myself to pace myself so that I have enough space to savour all this!

Indian Chinese

When the Chinese in India could not find the ingredients to cook their food, they modified their recipes with Indian spices and created a cuisine now known as Indian Chinese.  Kolkata even has their own little Chinatown and The Spice Kitchen may be the only restaurant here that serves the unique flavours of Indian Chinese cuisine that emerged from a Chinese community there.

Gobi Manchurian, cauliflower florest coated in a
delicious batter blend
We start with everyone’s favourite, Gobi Manchurian (RM14.99), cauliflower florets coated in a delicious blend of garlic, ginger, chopped onions, green chillies, and garnished with coriander leaves.  As I sink my teeth into this popular appetizer, I can understand why diners keep coming back for more.  

This is the vegetarian version of Chicken Manchurian (RM15.99), a dish that did not originate from Manchuria but was in fact, created by Chinese restaurants in India!

Chef Vinod Rai served us the appetizers and until he spoke English with a heavy Indian accent, we thought he looked deceptively like Chinese.  With more than 30 years culinary experience in preparing Indian, Chinese (Hakka) and Indian Chinese cuisine, Chef Vinod (whose grandmother was Chinese!) has wide working experience with restaurants in India and Singapore before coming to JB.

Szechuan hot & sour soup 
The Chinese influence is obvious in the menu’s list of soups like Sweet Corn Soup, Manchow (Manchurian) Soup and Szechuan Hot & Sour Soup.  I savour Hot & Sour (RM8.99), a comforting broth filled with sliced chicken, mushrooms and vegetables that tastes slightly tangy and peppery.  

Another popular Indian Chinese appetizer is Chicken Lollipop (RM15.99), well-marinated little drumettes that I picked up with my fingers and chomped on in quite an unladylike way!

Chilli Eggplant is quite a zinger!
Rice & Breads

Mixed Fried Rice (RM12.99), made with long-grain basmati rice, stir-fried with chicken, seafood and egg, not only looks good but tastes good too.  With each spoonful of the fragrant fried rice, we can’t help thinking that the chef must have perfected his skills in turning out Chinese fried rice!

From its name we know, Chili Eggplant (RM12.99) is spicy but the crispy battered chunks of eggplant cooked in chillie and soya sauce, tastes just right with rice.  Meanwhile, Vegetable Korma (RM12.99), mixed vegetable in a mild creamy sauce, reminds us of a lontong taste.

Chicken Tikka
A portion of Hydrabadi Mutton Briyani (RM24.99) comes with a side of lamb gravy and plain raita and it’s amazing how much rice was packed into this deep serving bowl.  Even after passing it around to share, there was still more rice left inside the bowl!

There is no better way to eat Indian bread than with my fingers, so I rolled up my sleeves to dig into the Garlic Naan (RM5.99).  Soaked in gravies like Pagla Lamb Bhuna (RM23.99), a popular lamb dish in Kolkata, Palak Paneer (RM15.99), cubes of cottage cheese in rich spinach gravy, and Chicken Butter Masala (RM17.99), Chicken Tikka morsels cooked in rich tomato gravy, I savour the variety of flavours with the fluffy naan.

Dining Cultures

Mango Kulfi
One of the pleasures of eating with fingers must be the lingering fragrance of spices on my fingertips even after washing.   Still floating on a spice high, I settle down to enjoy the refreshing taste of Mango Kulfi (RM9.99), Indian ice-cream made with fresh cow’s milk, fresh mango and a hint of saffron.

It’s a pleasure to learn that The Spice Kitchen is one of the specialty restaurants in the Dining Cultures Group which also operates The Marco Polo Kitchen, Bob’s Kitchen and the recently opened, Indian Kitchen in Medini Hub, Nusajaya.  As I sit back to enjoy the company, I’m delighted with my experience with Indian Chinese cuisine and from the wide menu choices, I know there’s more quality food and authentic cuisines to enjoy in my next visit to The Spice Kitchen!

The Spice Kitchen (No Pork & Lard)
Wisma S P Setia, S3-0120 Jalan Indah 15
Taman Bukit Indah, 81200 Johor Baru
Tel: 07 – 237 3311; Fax: 07 – 241 3158

Daily 11.30am to 11pm

Drive along the Iskandar Coastal Highway and filter left at Taman Perling to exit to the route towards Taman Bukit Indah.  At the traffic lights before Tesco Hypermarket, turn left and turn right at the first set of traffic lights.  Turn right again at the first set of traffic lights into Jalan Indah 15. The Spice Kitchen in the corner ground floor unit of Wisma S P Setia, is to your left.

Unique Indian Chinese cuisine as well as Indian and Thai cuisine

Gobi Manchurian, Chili Eggplant, Chicken Tikka, Pagla Lamb Bhuna, Hydrabadi Lamb Briyani, Mixed Fried Rice and many more including Kulfi, Indian ice-cream!

Corkage RM30/bottle, service charge and GST applies

Contemporary specialty restaurant

High chair
Kids’ menu
No Smoking
No Pets
Credit card facilities

Common toilets for the building, located 30 meters away

Attentive English-speaking staff

Go give it a try

A version of this was published in The New Straits Times, Life & Times on 28 Dec 2015

No comments:

Post a Comment