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Aug 24, 2007 11:38 AM

The Indian Chinese dilemma

I am so intrigued by the culinary possibilites of Indian Chinese-style cuisine; but I have yet to be impressed by any of the restaurants I've tried (which to this point are: Tangra Masala in Elmhurst, Tangra in Sunnyside, and Royal Indian Oasis in Flushing). There are a few other places of which I am aware but have not yet tried (e.g., Chilli Chicken, Nanking, Talk of the Town in Jackson Heights, a place I passed yesterday on Queens Blvd., Chinese Mirch in Manhattan, etc.), so I hate to judge based on my limited amount of data- yet Tangra Masala is widely considered to be the best of these places, and it seems to me that in many dishes, one finds the worse elements of both cuisines - there is a distinct tendency toward greasy, bland (unless you douse it with the hot sauce and Indian pickle), heavy, and deep-fried food. Once the novelty of the "Indian-Chinese" thing wears off, I find myself thinking that the food is pretty mediocre.

I am in Queens and have access to excellent South Asian food (e.g., Spicy Mina, on a good night) and excellent Chinese food (e.g., Spicy and Tasty); am I best just enjoying these cuisines on their own, or is there some Indian Chinese place that will blow me away?

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  1. This shouldn't be an entirely surprising outcome. For example, British Indian food (bland) and American Chinese food (gloppy, unsubtle) are inherently mediocre at best.

    1. I highly recommend Tangra Wok in Rego Park. The Gobi Manchurian alone is enough to convince you that this is the place you've been looking for! My first introduction to Indian food was the home cooking of a friend from Southern India, so I'm used to (and love!) SPICY. And I've never had anything greasy from Tangra Wok. Very convenient to get to, also---steps away from the 63rd Drive subway stop. Here's a link to a discussion you might have missed:

      1 Reply
      1. re: Anne

        I just tried Tangra Wok last week and wasn't terribly impressed. The chili chicken was fine but a little one-dimensional heat-wise, and the chili-garlic noodles were kind of sweet and made me really really miss Desi Chinese, which used to be on 37th Avenue and 73rd Street--oh man those noodles were good. There's something new in its spot but it's not as good as the old place, which really did get the fusion thing right. I long with you, Bennyt.

      2. I've got the solution for you, bennyt: Chopsticks, just up the block from Tangra Masala. very ungreasy, perfectly fried, sauces not full of cornstarch, and quite nice. the other pakoras should be nice, I'd order a range of the different styles (manchurian, szechuan, chili) in wet or dry. didn't have any of the noodles or rice tho. the restaurant itself is a bit scrubby, but I was very happy with the food, check my review below:

        and the chef/owner will happily spice to your levels, so I suppose if you have ask for calcutta-spicy or something like that, he'll hook you up. very nice guy. I've been to many of the places listed on this board and this is a refreshing change (had a few meals at tangra wok, including a large meal for 10, and really unimpressed). check the place, I'd love to hear your thoughts. and, order a chicken 65 for me!

        6 Replies
        1. re: bigjeff

          Is Chicken 65 specifically an Indian-Chinese dish?

          1. re: Luther

            if you look up the info, the number has all sorts of myths (65 chilis used, invented during 1965, etc. marinated 65 days, etc.) but in essence, it's a spicy fried chicken dish, not sure if it's served dry or wet, but I'm definitely curious. not sure if it's specifically indo-chinese (apparently more related to geographic location) as its supposedly a dish from hyderabad but sounds intriguing enough; yogurt dipped marinated chicken pieces deepfried until the yogurt is essentially fried off, leaving the spices and curry on the chicken? sounds crazy; sounds good.

            1. re: bigjeff

              Sure does. I have take my Kings County corpus up to Queens more often!

          2. re: bigjeff

            FWIW, my experiences between Chopsticks and Tangra Masala were just the opposite. When I lived a few blocks away, I tried them multiple times and found that Chopsticks food was greasier and not as well flavored as Tangra Masala. But that was a few years ago. I've since become friendlier with the people at Tangra Masala, and I've never found their food to be greasy or bland at all, after a few dozen visits. Since I don't get to that area as often, I tend to stick to Tangra Masala to pay my regards, and they do right by me. I do find that it's best not to get any of their dishes on the wet side though... either dry or light gravy.

            1. re: E Eto

              I definitely prefer tangra masala over tangra wok but the last time I went to tangra masala, the food was a bit heavy, and the fritters and pakoras and things we got fried were not tasting very fresh or very well-fried; that place does bangup business and surely their kitchen is humming all night; last time I went to chopsticks there was nobody in the restaurant so I had the chef's undivided attention, so to speak, and the food sang; an empty front room says something else, but here's to hoping its just a lack of publicity. for sure, it's worth another comparison; the chili cauliflower and pakoars are my personal baseline.

              1. re: bigjeff

                Just ate at Tangra Masala tonight after a decent time away. I agree with the "stay with the dry" mantra. I find that if I stick with my favorites, which include the soups, the mo-mo's (I could eat those all day), any dry fish dish and chow mein, its all good. Once I try to veer away, I can be dissapointed.

                Tangra Wok was mediocre when I had lunch there about two months ago. Have not ventured back. Portions were considerable though.

                Never knew Chopsticks existed.

                Also, like many of the popular spots, I try to go on off hours to make sure the kitchen isn't just slapping it out. I try to judge the places more on these visits then when its super busy.