Indian Chinese food can be a perplexing cuisine. At its heart, it’s the adaptation of Chinese food for Indian tastes in big cities like Calcutta, Mumbai and Bangalore. But many popular dishes don’t resemble anything like traditional Chinese food.
Then there’s the confusion over the label Hakka Chinese, which this cuisine is sometimes called. Traditional Hakka dishes, like salt-baked chicken, actually have nothing to do with Indian-Chinese fare.
The Hakka are a nomadic group of ethnic Chinese currently located in southern China, but the Hakka people have also migrated all over the world. The best guess is that Chinese restaurant owners in India were of Hakka descent and that’s how their Chinese-Indian fare came to be known as Hakka Chinese.
There are several Indian restaurants in Calgary with small Hakka Chinese sections in their menus, but TakeTomi Village is probably the only one that truly specializes in it.
The menu in the restaurant is massive compared to the one posted online.
There are some basic “sauces” in Indian Chinese food:
- Chili – battered and deep-fried with sweet heat.
- Manchurian – spicy, salty brown sauce.
- Szechuan/Sichuan – spicy red sauce.
Chili chicken ($9.95) is a very popular dish. Moist chicken pieces are battered and fried, with a sauce made with green chilies, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce. TakeTomi’s has a hint of sweetness which is nice.
We also ordered a Hakka mixed vegetable ($9.95) plate. Crisp broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and onion pieces came in a suspiciously familiar bright orange sauce. My brain was ready for some sweet and sour; instead my taste buds got knocked with a spicy, slow heat. When I asked the waitress what “Hakka sauce” was, she said it was their version of “masala.” Huh.
The Manchurian beef ($9.95) was the spiciest of everything we ordered. The sauce was similar to the chili chicken but definitely had more chilies and another spice (coriander seeds?).
Finally, we got a plate of Manchurian vegetarian fried rice ($8.50) which was dry (ie, no sauce). Again, my brain was expecting bland from the pale rice with bits of peas and bean sprouts; instead, I was hit with a lingering spiciness.
At this point, I realized everything we ordered had a red chili pepper next to it on the menu. But I ignored them because I’m so accustomed to those not meaning anything in North American restaurants. So let me warn you that when Taketomi’s menu items have a pepper next to them, it truly means spicy.
The spacious, clean restaurant was busy with Indian families who all seemed to have hot and sour soup, and pakoras on their tables.
Taketomi also has straight Chinese dishes like salt and pepper squid, chow mein and ma po tofu, but definitely try their Indian Chinese dishes for something unique.
TakeTomi Village, 136, 920-36th St. NE, Calgary, (403) 207-8608. Open daily, noon to 7 p.m.