Sunday, December 13, 2009

19 High ridge road
Stamford, CT 06905
(203) 977-0400

ChilliChicken is a new restaurant that has opened up in Stamford, CT, at the site of the old Tawa restaurant, only a 20 minute drive through the backroads from Chappaqua. Chilli Chicken serves Indo-Chinese food, and as its name implies, originates from the food served in chinese restaurants in India. Set up by waves of Chinese immigrants of Hakka origin who started migrating to Kolkata from Southeastern China as early as the late eighteenth century, the menus in these restaurants were modified by the tastes of Indian customers (and likey British colonial customers before them). Kolkata still has a substantial population of Chinese immigrants, many of whom were persecuted during the Indo-Chinese war of 1962—I am still haunted by the owner of a Chinese restaurant on Central Park Ave in White Plains who upon learning that I was Indian, emotionally confronted me in the early nineties, about why they were thrown out of Kolkata in the early sixties during the India-China war. Visibly successful in the USA, he gave me the look of faraway bitterness as he recalled those days, noting that they had had no reason to move, till the war started.

The leitmotif for the Chinese restaurant in India, is a garnish bowl full of green chilli pieces soaked in vinegar and a little spoon for scooping out the vinegar to add a bit of zing. And if this isn’t enough, then there would be a green, evenly smooth paste called “chilli sauce that was actually made using papaya and pumpkins. These two condiments are de rigueur for a Chinese restaurant in India, and I was reassured to find the chilli-vinegar at our table in Chilli Chicken.

The food at ChilliChicken is more on the “Indo” side of Indo-Chinese, as is typical of this genre in the US. What I found to be its most welcoming, evolutionary aspect, was the absence of oiliness--the bane of the typical Indian restaurant--and the departure from the “no spice unturned”, mode of cooking that many Americans have unfortunately come to expect from Indian food. We stuck to Indo-Chinese classics-- chicken sweet corn soup that was light and airy; sweet and sour chicken—refreshingly easy on the tongue, unlike equivalents that I have eaten in New Jersey that were fit more for a fire-eater’s convention; slightly soggy Hakka chowmein--really an Indo-Chinese concoction that originated from the Hakka origins of South-Eastern Chinese immigrants. Thrown into this mix were appetizers that gave away the Bengali origins of the chef, “Jhal Muri” a spiced up, flirtatious mixture of puffed rice, with the grains of the rice held together with moist sauces and condiments—in your mouth the dry on the inside moist on the outside grains of puffed rice crumble up with the the spices playing a blitzing game with your tastebuds, not too strong, but like little evanescent explosions of a thousand colors. Washed these down with some “Thums Up”, an Indian cola drink that rose to prominence in the late seventies when Coca Cola was banished from India as part of a wave of nationalizing regulations. Rushing in to fill the void, we had new products such as Thums Up and the less successful Campa Cola, belittled in those days as fallbacks that did not come close to Coke, yet serving the nostalgias of the diaspora today, sitting in small Connecticut shopping centers like us.

As I have mentioned earlier in my posts, Indian food has become popular enough that one expects something beyond the usual for increasingly sophisticated foodies. Sometimes these morph into expensive and pretentious combinations of cuisine that can be forced, or they can be the introduction of a time-tested hybrid, cooked sensibly, and for sensible palates (for really hot food, receive the food into the back-side of the mouth and avoid extensive contact with the tip of your tongue where the density of “heat” sensing tastebuds is highest). Along with Westchester Groceries, Chili Chicken is one of those restaurants that are making the Weschester area increasingly cosmopolitan in its Indian food—give it a try and you will not regret it.


  1. Tokya'r lekha ta darun enjoy korlaam- a rare treat.

  2. Amazing as always

  3. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!