India Sweet House on Pico celebrates its 34th anniversary on Aug. 27.
It's much the same now as it was then — founder Jagdish (Jack) Chiller is on hand almost every day, offering the same sweets and snacks. But recently, something new was added — Indo-Chinese food. This was the idea of Chiller's nephew, Sahil (Sam) Chaudhary, a new face in the shop.
"I have a lot of young customers coming in. They need something different," he says.
The three new dishes, introduced this summer, are listed on a sign taped to the wall menu. They are fried rice, chili paneer and Manchurian. The recipes are Chaudhary's. Educated at hotel schools in India, Australia and the United States, he moved here from New Jersey a few months ago.
Why Chinese? India and China have a common border and share some ingredients, he said.
Today, China is India's largest trading partner, but the culinary influence began long ago when Chinese migrants settled in India, chiefly around Calcutta (now Kolkata). Chinese food prepared with an Indian touch is immensely popular all over the country and on every level, from street stalls to restaurants in five-star hotels.
Chicken Manchurian, in a brown sauce with garlic, ginger and soy sauce, is a classic. Because its food is vegetarian, India Sweet House makes Manchurian with vegetables, including cauliflower, cabbage, carrots and bell peppers. These are formed into balls held together with flour and cornstarch and served in a bowl of dark broth seasoned with soy sauce.
The mix includes enough jalapeños to make this one spicy dish. Try it spooned over the fried rice, which is vegetarian-style, without meat or eggs but with assorted vegetables. Basmati rice makes it light and flaky.
Chili paneer — cubes of Indian cheese smothered with bell pepper and onion — is slightly sweet as well as spicy, with ground dried chiles from India. If you want to torque it up even more, a shaker of hot, red chili powder is on each table. What you won't find is a bottle of soy sauce.
The condiment bar holds chopped cilantro, onion, green chiles and tamarind and mint chutneys, but these are meant to go with Indian food.
For a beverage? Hot tea, of course. And afterward, get a sweet from the display in the counter.
India Sweet House, 5992 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 934-5193.