Dinner at Chinese Mirch – NYC
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
aw, poo. That’s disappointing. I walked by this on Sunday and it looked interesting. The have a nice looking interior… too bad the food doesn’t match the decor.
@Danny – Well, the okra was really tasty. Try that if you ever get a chance.
The similarities between Chinese and Korean never cease to amaze me (this is why Korean was really easy to learn I guess). Sweet and sour pork is 糖醋里雞 or ‘tang cu li ji.’ Just another one of those things I felt I had to point out.
The real test of a pseudo-Chinese/Korean type place is the jjajyangmyun, probably not going back though right?
@Nicholas – Chinese Mirch is an Indian-Chinese restaurant. No jjajangmyun there. Hyodonggak on 35th is the best in Manhattan for Korean-Chinese.
Egg Foo Young is something I try out (after the hot and sour soup) at any take out Chinese place to gauge its worthiness. General Tso’s is basically the same anywhere, so you really can’t go wrong with it, sort of like chicken parm at a diner.
@theBro – Beef Noodle Soup is my indicator of worthiness. It has to be spicy with lots of pickled greens, tender meat, and sticky beef tendon.
lets explain all in one word… nasty!!! they are definitely making fun of the cuisine, staff with nasty attitude, really bad food… dont even wanna write about them any more…
@cindy – I don’t think they have any malice towards Chinese food. They just prefer it a certain way.
As an Indian who grew up eating the Indian version of chinese food, I have to say the food at Chinese Mirch isn’t a blend of indian and chinese food but is a version of what passes for chinese food in many indian restaurants! By that standard, it’s very very good. The veg manchurian isn’t chinese at all – it was the creation of a chinese chef in in a mumbai chinese restaurant! You definitely have to have grown up with to truly appreciate this dish! Eating here definitely brought back wonderful memories!
@Anthea – I completely agree with you. That was my conclusion in the post. After eating the food, I understood it was not fusion. It’s completely an Indian version of what is considered Chinese food.