Every road in Bengaluru has 4 places … and a pothole. A startup, an ‘Iyengar’s Bakery’, a dosa joint and a Gobi Manchurian stall. The logic is really simple — the employee of the startup goes to the dosa joint for breakfast, the bakery for tea and the Gobi stall for snacks. The pothole is simply a conversation point for the journey from office to food.
And of this three food havens, the third one is the most distinct.
Fact - Manchuria is a place in China.
Fact - Gobi Manchurian is Indian.
Fact - Gobi was brought to India by the British! (Whaaaaaaat!)
Gobi Manchurian is the oddball of Bengaluru’s street food and everyone makes it their own way and to the customer preferences. Crispy or soft. Spicy or not. Gravy or dry. Half-plate or full-plate. With rice or without. Toothpick or fork. The choices are truly mind-boggling. Gobi Manchurian has been the centerpiece for many college dates, families lazy to cook, and adult weekend sessions. It’s hard to imagine that this widely loved delicacy started only a few decades only.
In the ’90s, Chinese cuisine slowly started making its way into the fast food carts. The carts tried everything they could to localize these international delicacies. Replacing meats and expensive ingredients with locally sourced vegetables and other substitutes, the fast food carts drastically cut down the cost of food. The addition of vegetables also gave it the health-conscious excuse; today we might know that it’s the most healthy snack, but c’mon, this was the 90’s, a time when dentists gave sugar-rich lollipops. Within these Indo-Chinese food carts, what stood out was a fan favorite — Gobi Manchurian.
Bengaluru’s love affair with Gobi Manchurian doesn’t seem like it’s a short-term fling.
One such cart is Kumar’s Hot Hot Chinese Food in Malleshwaram. One of the oldest areas of the city, Kumar started his famous street joint more than 20 years ago. His auto, which serves as the makeshift kitchen has been parked at the same place for 5 Olympic cycles. 2 decades later, his first customers now get their families.The cart owner has seen more college kids graduate than individual colleges over the time. The years might have changed, but Kumar’s menu has been a constant — Gobi Manchurian, Mushroom Manchurian, Gobi Chilly and Paneer Manchurian. At 5 PM Kumar drives his auto to the designated spot and spends 30 minutes preparing the stall. By 5:20 PM his regulars surround him like wildlife around a lake, and by 9:30 PM he’s all out of stock.
According to Indian culinary tales, the legendary Manchurian sauce was invented generations ago by Chinese immigrants living in a tiny community in Kolkata. Gobi Manchurian is cauliflower florets cooked in this sauce. The ever-so aromatic sauce is deeply rooted in Chinese cuisine within India and the piquant flavors are well enjoyed by the Indian palate. In fact, the Manchurian sauce has become so quintessential to the Indo-Chinese cuisine that when you say eat Chinese food in India it is automatically assumed that you want something soaked in Manchurian sauce.
Bengaluru’s love affair with Gobi Manchurian doesn’t seem like it’s a short-term fling. Judging by the ever increasing size of the supply & demand for this dish, it’s safe to say the relationship is stronger than ever before. Whether you’re an adult, a teen, a child or a pensioner in Bengaluru, chances are you’re already in love with this dish and you have your own favorite Gobi Manchurian place which you claim, “Serves the best Gobi Manchurian in town bro!”