A Tale of Two Nations

Can’t decide whether you like Indian or Chinese food best? Steph Siegle heads to Wimbledon Park’s Dalchini and discovers you can have the best of both worlds

Have you ever had a craving for Chinese food while your dining companion is veering towards Indian, knowing one of you will have to concede defeat at some point? Say farewell to compromise and try Dalchini’s Indo-Chinese fusion menu.

Located opposite Wimbledon Park station, Dalchini has been a fixture in the neighbourhood for nearly 17 years. Owner Alston Norman Wood worked there when it first opened in 2000 so when he saw it was up for sale last year, he jumped at the chance to buy it. Now, the restaurant is a real family affair – Alston works with his wife, son, daughter and son-inlaw, presenting a tight-knit unit for this neighbourhood favourite.

The restaurant’s USP of marrying Chinese cooking techniques with Indian flavours remains at its heart. Emulating the style of Chinese cuisine you would typically find in India, this type of gastronomy dates back to when the Hakka Chinese settled in Kolkata, India, in the late 18th century, and their cuisine was adapted to suit Indian taste buds, and has evolved ever since. Alston mentions the restaurant’s Spicy Chicken Lollipops are an example of this evolution – and they’re so popular with customers it’s one dish he can never take off the menu.

Confident we couldn’t go wrong with a dish that appeals to the majority of customers, we selected them as a starter, and I’m pleased to say the customers are right. These lollipops are tender chicken covered in a crunchy batter, seasoned with enough spice to provide a moderately fiery kick but not overwhelmingly so.

A dish of ginger chicken followed, alongside fresh spinach and mushroom Manchurian-style, accompanied by cumin rice, which complemented the fresh ingredients of the main dishes nicely. Alston recommended we try pomfret (a flat fish that lives in waters off South Asia’s coast) in black bean sauce, one of the day’s specials. This was the first time either my guest or I had tried the fish and we found the buttery taste of its tender flesh flavoursome.

Non-meat eaters will find Dalchini’s menu packed with vegetarian options and, to reflect the restaurant’s Indian heritage, you won’t find beef or pork on the menu. If you like your food fiery, plenty of dishes on the menu are bestowed with the three-chilli symbol; Alston revealed the restaurant gets through four kilos of green chillies every week. Finding room for dessert was tricky after such a feast, but fortunately the dessert menu is one of light dishes; think fresh tropical fruit such as pineapple, mango, lychees, rambutan and refreshing ice creams.

The days of having to decide between Indian and Chinese cuisine on the same day are behind us – Dalchini’s excellent fusion of the two leads us down the path of gastronomic harmony.

Dalchini, 147 Arthur Road, Wimbledon Park, SW19 8AB. www.dalchini147.co.uk

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