Indian-Chinese food doesn’t have the same following in the U.S. as it does in India, or even London, but it should. The hallmark of the fusion fare is Chinese ingredients cooked with Indian spices, and the result is match made in heaven, as the flavors of the cuisines of the two countries are a natural complement of each other. The style of cooking originated in India at the end of the nineteenth century when the Hakka-speaking Chinese immigrated to the Indian city of Kolkata. Now, Indo-Chinese dishes are served as street food all over southeast Asia. Here in D.C., we now have a new and exciting opportunity to sample Indo-Chinese food, at the recently opened Indochen in Alexandria.
At Indochen, the menu is all about the small plates. Order liberally and be prepared to order multiple plates of your favorites. We got two orders of the vegetable Manchurian. The dish consists of veggie dumplings made of cauliflower and carrots and onions, molded into spheres and fried, then soaked in a sweet and savory Manchurian sauce which is a blend of soy sauce, red chili sauce, and garlic. Hearty, fragrant and savory these nuggets are dense and comforting.
The sesame tofu was just as divine; cubes of tofu are fried and drenched in a shiny soy sauce infused sauce, then sprinkled with scallions and sesame seeds. Melon chaat, where blocks of watermelon are drizzled in a yogurt and dusted with chaat masala, a spice blend consisting of coriander, cumin, mango powder, black rock salt, and black pepper, provides the ultimate contrast of cool and refreshing and earthy and heady all at once.
Sauteed beech and button mushrooms are a needed addition to any meal at Indochen; the dish strikes just the right balance of chewy and garlicky. And then the kale chaat, an Indian staple, with crunchy fried kale, tamarind chutney and whipped yogurt is always a win.
For the larger plates, the chop suey is a must if you want the full Indo-Chinese experience. Crispy noodles are tossed with veggies, soy sauce, Indian chilies and topped with a poached egg. The fried rice also has a unique edge to it with the infusion of Indian spices and ingredients like ginger, peas and chilies. Many of the other entrees are more purely Indian; hopefully the restaurant will add more fusion dishes in the coming months.
The desserts options are more classic Indian, and include sweet Indian dumplings called gulab jamun, milky ras malai, spongy malai cake and melon pudding. Cocktails are fun; the indian mule is made with mango vodka, lime and ginger beer, and the wine list even includes a couple of Indian wines.
The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sundays, and has both indoor and outdoor seating.