Taste is highly subjective and often influenced by nostalgia and fond childhood memories. For example, my brother loves General Tso’s chicken, the pervasive dish found at most Chinese take-outs in America, but found nowhere in China. Me, I wouldn’t order it unless it was the only thing on the menu at the last restaurant left standing after the apocalypse. That said, to a certain extent, I like similarly battered, fried, and viscous sauce-coated foods at Korean-Chinese restaurants. [Ganpoog sehwoo (깐풍새우, fried shrimp in a spicy soy ginger sauce) is my favorite, but tangsooyook (탕수육, sweet and sour beef) reminds me of eating out when I was a kid. We used to order it a lot because my brother liked it.] It is what is. Chinese fast-food interpreted for another culture. If you don’t expect an authentic gourmet meal, you won’t be disappointed.
This was the case when I went to Chinese Mirch (an Indian-Chinese restaurant in Curry Hill) with Simrit, one of my besties from Parsons. She warned me in advance. “You won’t like it, it’s something Indian people crave because they grew up with it” she said, but I didn’t really understood until a few bites into the meal.
The Crispy Okra ($9) was my favorite of the night. Batter coated okra fried and then dusted with smokey chili powder, what’s not to love? Not exactly Chinese, but still delicious. I’d eat these with a beer and a burger over fries any day.
For my entree, I ordered the Szechuan Chicken ($12.50). The waitress warned me it would be dry, meaning not in a gravy, but it was pretty wet when it came out. The taste was akin to ganpoog sehwoo, previously mentioned above, but in chicken form, less crunchy, and with tons of black pepper. Also, contrary to the name, no Szechuan peppers were detectable throughout, just lots of black pepper and chili powder, comparable to the Szechuan creations in the U.S. prior to the lifting of the Szechuan pepper ban. I expected as much when I ordered the chicken so it wasn’t a surprise, but what was surprising was the lack of Indian influence. I had expected a fusion of Indian and Chinese flavors, but similar to General Tso’s chicken, it was basically bastardized Chinese. Accepting this fact, the chicken wasn’t bad. If it was better fried and sauced less heavily, it would have tasted better.
Simrit ordered the Vegetable Ball Manchurian ($12), doughy diced vegetable orbs fried and drenched in a corn starch thickened cilantro ginger sauce. I can’t say I was a fan of this at all. The initial taste of ginger powder and processed ingredients was something I couldn’t get beyond. The sogginess of the vegetable balls didn’t help either. I think this is a dish you have to have grown up with to appreciate.
Both of our main courses didn’t come with rice, which was very odd, so we ordered the Vegetable Fried Rice ($9) to share between us. Again, it tasted like any Chinese fried rice you would get at most take-outs. It was tasty, but nothing extraordinary.
I think for pseudo-Chinese food, I’ll be taking the Korean-Chinese route next time, but if I ever do go back to Chinese Mirch, I’ll be taking my brother. I think this is more his style. To each his own.
120 Lexington Avenue & 28th Street
New York, NY 10016